Star Trek Tech Discussion

Moved here from StarTrek

Sometimes I wonder if this kind of refactoring is useful or not. To me, it is - I prefer small pages to long ones (I hate too much scrolling).

Actually, the page as it is now needs to be properly factored into a bunch of pages with adequate titles. -- DeleteMe

On StarTrek, they have space travel, laser weapons, WarpDrive and intergalactic videoconferencing, but apparently, Commander Data (the android) still uses a manual computer console. Why? Isn't that a huge comms bottleneck? After all, even PDAs like the PalmPilot can do IR beaming today.


One reason:
  1. Data is trying to emulate human behaviour in every thing he does. Thus, he will almost always use the human interface to the ship's computers. However, Data is capable of interfacing directly to the computer if need be (but in order to emulate humans, he won't do it unless he has to).
  2. Point one below is also true, but the adaptor does exist.

Three reasons:
  1. Data's brain is non-standard & needs an adaptor.
  2. Data's activity at a console is his user interface to his operators. See PairProgramming.
  3. How do you know he's not also feeding the console a command stream?

And furthermore, what's on that console is fixed-geometry touch panels, really just flat versions of the old rocker-switches and radio-buttons Sulu etc. used to use. That always puzzled me: set course such and such Mr Sulu. <click> <clickety-click>. Is he setting up the heading in binary, or what?

In some episodes of StarTrekTheNextGeneration, they have shown flat panels being reconfigured. Presumably, the navigation panel is already optimum for its job.

Who says it's a bottleneck? Even Data requires a little bit of time to cogitate, and punching a keypad may be plenty fast. Considering this, in the distant future, they elide PrematureOptimization and just get along. What I'd really like to know, however, is why tricorders use teeny tiny displays, and why all the huge wall displays look exactly the same no matter what is happening....

It comes down to StarTrek future history 101: Y2K screws up big time. A 4.5 on the YtwokUpdate scale. The resulting distressed world degenerates into a nuclear war. A lone genius named ZephramCochrane? invents a WarpDrive at just the moment when a Vulcan scout ship is touring the solar system. The Vulcans agree to federate with these weirdo earthmen so long as they learn to dig the Vulcan PrimeDirective. Of course it takes them a few years, but the last thing the Vulcans want is for the earthers to throw in with the Klingons ...

So all our IT savvy was lost and earth computers fried during Y2K and WW3. Check out the eighth ST movie to get an idea of the result. As for Vulcans, they don't need or use many computers; they can calculate warp geometry in their heads while simultaneously playing 57 different games of 3-D chess. 20th century IT becomes a lost art and earth engineers are having too much fun playing with the fundamental forces of the universe in new and exciting ways to re-engineer a PC. The simple fact is that if we had had a warp-drive 50 years ago we never would have focused on all this IT. So all those TOS consoles are just what they look like: TTL logic.

Now by the time TNG rolls around, a lot of IT has been recovered, and a lot has been replaced by better alien equivalents. Tactile feedback using holographic deflectors means that each workstation is intimately customized to its user's activities and preferences. The external appearance of a workstation is just a summary for the benefit of the casual observer - for CaptainHornHair and other managers. -- PeterMerel

The display panels are programmable, but people are discouraged from changing the visual configuration due to PointyHairedBosses: Worf, in a DeepSpaceNine? episode, berated an engineer on the Defiant, for programming one of the engine room consoles with more efficient, but non-standard controls. "I need to be immediately effective when I come to the secondary bridge and take over" was the gist of Worf's criticism.

What, you mean the console doesn't sense who is using it and reconfigure itself to their preferred settings? We have cars that do that! I though these guys were supposed to be advanced.

...and BillGates has a house that does it. (Music and wall displays change based on the preferences of those present; detected by wearing an electronic pin.) I've often thought that StarTrek writers fell short in terms of creative an appropriate use of the technologies they dream up.

One reason: People in the 24th Century have a lower tackiness threshold...


Amazing. If the people imaginative and energetic enough to come up with that sort of post-hoc justification for a TV show had devoted their energies to something useful we might have had WarpDrive fifty years ago. -- KeithBraithwaite (who GaveUpOnTelevision years ago, and StarTrek years before that.)

Or, perhaps the reason science advances as much as it does, is because of all the dreaming that ScienceFiction evokes! -- LexSpoon

I confess StarTrek is a source of UserStories for the StoneSociety, so perhaps I think about it a little too much. -- PeterMerel

(discussion moved to VideoAddiction)

StarTrek also sometimes reveals the phenomenon of WorkplacePets.
Moved from StoneSociety, discussing about something called dessert rations or whatever

And those are rationed because?

Spending 11 quadrillion dollars just to synthesize yummy matter just to eat, including the research fees? That's the real-money value of such a transaction. You think they just ablate a strontium ion for the baryons?

Um, they have nanotech. Replicators just push the atoms into more convenient molecules; they don't convert energy into matter.

I suspect the giant EnforcedWelfareParadise? system that ParadiseEarth uses in the StarTrek universe either is a big StoneSociety, or is a ton of dumb rules laws & regulations that accidentally add up to one. Given humanity's track record for simplifying their rule sets, gosh I wonder which one it could be ;-)

Sorry, but both of you are wrong. It is a conversion of energy to matter; if you read the technical materials on the various starships, you'll find that replicator technology is a proper subset of transporter technology. As such, they convert matter to energy when "dematerializing" something, and store this energy in a central cache (usually by reforming solid matter in some storage tank), and convert energy back into matter.

Bzzt. The transporter reconfigures stock materials into foods. This is why it never tastes quite right. Check your tech manuals again, ensign. Feeding everyone off of the output of the warp core would be:
On Dilithium Crystals:

Most of the energy requirements on a starship come from the matter/antimatter fusion reactor. The natural reaction rate appears highly unstable and to prevent the otherwise inevitable nuclear explosion, dilithium crystals are used to modulate the rate.

The phrase 'dilithium crystal' implies a crystalline structure, analogous to the ionic bonding present in metal/non-metal compounds like sodium carbonate, but instead of sodium and carbonate ions, there are 'dilithium' ions. Unfortunately, there is no such element as dilithium. Two obvious possibilities then present themselves. Firstly, dilithium could be an as yet undiscovered element. It is impossible to argue this either way. Second, dilithium may be related to lithium, a known element; possibly a dimer. Lithium is a metal and metal ion dimers have yet to be found. Instead, metals in solid form are exist as ions, separated and surrounded by a sea of delocalized electrons. Nevertheless, metals do have a crystalline structure arising from misalignments between adjacent planes of ions. The size of these crystals can be altered by environmental factors, for example heat. In Star Trek, frequent reference is made to dilithium mining or dilithium deposits, which implies that it is naturally present. Potentially, high temperature and pressure found under a planet's surface may be favourable for the sort of crystallization process referred to above if other, as yet indeterminate, conditions are met. However, it is unclear how such a structure could modulate the rate of a matter/antimatter reaction.

Another suggestion could be that dilithium crystals are composed of lithium and antilithium ions. This may create a structure that could modulate the rate of matter/antimatter explosions. Unfortunately, it is difficult to envisage conditions occurring naturally to support the creation of such an alloy.

<ahem> Um, methinks somebody needs to take this Star Trek stuff a little less seriously. Eh?

How many of Arthur C. Clarke's predictions have come true, and how many are yet to come? I've heard that the "yellow grid" of the holodeck has proven to be viable in real life. I'm quite sure we will eventually have something like dilithium crystals.

''Just to elaborate... according to the Tech Manuals - the Dilithium Crystal is supposed to be porous to anti-matter. The crystal is supposed to create a lattice which allows the particles of matter to react with particles of anti-matter, and then the alignment of the crystal is supposed to direct the energies from that reaction out in to the Power Transfer Conduits. Yes I know its all bollocks, but that's the supposed theory anyway. (Ortega)

Star Trek is only a TV show.

And your point is ... ??

Worse than that, the science in ST has always been pretty bad, as it was never a priority of the writers. Spending a lot of time and energy after the fact to try and work around the bloopers just seems like a waste of time.

Well, we programmers, who spend lots of time working around bugs in other people's code anyway, hardly even notice...

And who says that just because its a TV show it can't be right?

Yeah, the science is pretty bad - because tachyon particles, trans-phasic warp coils, inverting the polarity of the ship's hull while at warp speed, and intertial dampening units for galaxy class starships were all well researched and documented in the early 1900's.

So you're saying that sentient beings devolving back into earlier evolutionary forms is well established and documented, right? Methinks Charles Darwin would like to have a word or two with you. Or hey, how about that big WHOOSH in space when they go to warp speed, because nobody decades after Sputnik knew that sound doesn't carry in space.

Star Trek's sins against science are numerous and egregious. There simply is no excuse. Check out to see how a science fiction show could do science right, if it cared to.

I'm saying nitpicking the science of futuristic sci-fi is silly. I'm also saying that things like quantum teleportation would have been ridiculed. . . until we found out they really do exist. The big whoosh? perhaps it's not sound carried through air, but a big bass wave caused by the warp field. . . it' SCI-FI!

That doesn't mean that discussion (particularly including nitpicking) is off-limits! The only newsgroup I ever created,, is dedicated to such things, and it was a wildly popular suggestion when I came up with the idea during the great (infamous) SF-LOVERS newsgroup split, and has been popular ever since. (The trekkers have some parallel thing separate from SF in general, but I never followed it.)

10-4. Make it so! Personally I'd rather reference Babylon5, but on this page, that's probably heresy

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