Sunday, November 15, 2015


Many of the technologies we have to day were "predicted" by the Star Trek T.V. series such as hand-held communication devices and doors that open on their own. It's easy to see why so many scientists and science-lovers enjoyed the series. The physics and gadgets of the Star Trek series are mostly correct with only minor deviations from our laws and limits excluding things such as the Warp drive. These things were easily forgiven however, because they made for a great story and was necessary to advance the plot. The Warp drive itself has become quite famous and NASA has actually begun research on such a thing, the theoretical warp drive being named the "Alcubierre drive."

The Warp drive allows the crew and the ship to travel at many times the speed of light in order to travel from system to system in reasonable amounts of time, and it is one of the only hypothetical faster-than-light technologies that involves a travel time rather than instantly jumping from system to system. There are mentions of "warp factors" in the movies and T.V. shows and according to the Star Trek Technical Manuals, the warp factors are converted to multiples of c with the cubic function v = w3c. According to this equation, Warp Factor 1 would be c, or the speed of light. However, 
Warp Factor 2 would be 8 times the speed of light, Warp Factor 3 would be 27 times the speed of light and
so on. The warp core, which is the central part of the warp drive, is often known as the "gravimetric field 
displacement manifold," and is powered by matter-antimatter annihilation, meaning when matter and
antimatter come into contact, they annihilate and release enormous amounts of energy. So yes, it's very 
complicated and highly theoretical, but it makes sense. Sort of.

The warp drive is perhaps the most crucial part of the Star Trek series itself, making any and all travel 
between solar systems possible. How they solved the need for an infinite amount of Work at the speed of 
light is beyond me, but apparently they figured it out. Just to use an example of it's necessity for the plot; 
Spock would never be a part of the Enterprise crew because he was from the planet Vulcan, which was 16
light years away from Earth. The Voyager probe, traveling at 17 kilometers a second, will take roughly
73,775 years to reach Proxima Centauri, which is the closest star to Earth at 4.24 ly. So the warp drive is
clearly necessary for any alien species to be a member of Starfleet. 

The second and perhaps the only invention in the Star Trek universe that even comes close to the level of
necessity that the warp drive has is the inertial dampers. What are the inertial dampers, you might ask? 
The inertial dampers keep everyone alive every time the ship accelerates. What happens when you get in 
a car and slam on the gas? You're shoved backwards into the seat. Now imagine that sensation at several
times the speed of light. Now you know why the inertial dampers are necessary. Without the inertial
dampers, everyone in the ship would simply appear as a bloody smear on whatever wall is in front of them
provided the ship didn't simply tear itself apart immediately as the warp drive was engaged.

The inertial dampers function on the idea of inertia negation, which is a hypothetical process of causing 
physical objects with mass to act as if they had lower mass or had no mass at all. Obviously there is no 
way to change the mass of an object to zero and even if you could, the object would no longer exist.
This is the big middle finger to the law of conversation of mass. So yeah. That's how that works, or
doesn't work. 

In conclusion, Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. - Spock2015

1 comment:

  1. Good post. I want to point out, though, that the series may be inconsistent in how it portrays the warp drive, which relates to the need for the inertial dampers. The warp drive doesn't propel the Enterprise through space at faster than the speed of light. Instead, it shrinks space in front of the Enterprise and expands it behind. So it's actually space that is moving faster than light, which relativity doesn't prohibit. It's not clear to me in this case whether the crew would feel much acceleration since they are not moving very fast relative to their own local space.