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Agreed. Also this would apply to reverse engineering, which I plan a case study on at some point. Galactica 1978 Colonials could not capture the Enterprise and immediately have warp-driven starships. In fact, it seems the entire ship must be built around the warp drive for the warp bubble thing to work correctly, hence all the similar designs.

It would not be a matter of reversing the polarity of the wiring, and instawarp. :)

Or hyperdrive or jump vortex generators.

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Some information on fusion engines and antimatter production in real life

 

It strikes me that Star Trek fans (and fans of other universes as well) often fail to appreciate just how mind bogglingly, jaw droppingly powerful and advanced their favorite franchise is in their fervor to make it superior not just artistically but technologically than any other. I thought that way too. Articles like this help me realize that even were Star Trek* to fall in last place in the not that important in the grand sense but most important in the hearts of most fans category of ship to ship combat, they are still harnessing energies that are so far beyond the reckoning of modern Earth that they make us seem as primitive to them as cavemen are to us.

 

Take for instance the amount of antimatter suggested as being necessary to ignite a fusion drive that could make an Earth - Jupiter run in four months: 1.16 grams. Doesn't sound like a lot does it? That's like around one of those little cubes you use to balance a scale in science class. Surely its no big deal.

 

What if I were to tell you that the sum total of all antimatter produced on planet Earth to date by artificial means is 10 nanograms. That's right, 10 billionths of what we need to get to Jupiter in *only* four months.

 

I think even our most conservative, pessimistic, miserly figures for Star Trek would put the Enterprise at using a few tons of antimatter in a 5 year mission, if not in a few hours of heavy combat and maneuver.

 

When you look at it that way, Trek is awe inspiring in the science and economics implied by the very existence of the Enterprise. There's a benefit to looking at the science in science fiction with a critical eye, it gives you a real appreciation for "the little guy" and just how much he laughs at what we call science and our meager gross planetary energy output.

 

*And I'm not saying they are in last place, just begging your indulgence for a second.

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Cheaper drones, cheaper bombs

 

I've mentioned a few times that as scifi fans, we love our big numbers and our big bangs and perhaps overly so. Ironically enough, the US military, once the biggest proponent of big bangs, is thinker smaller and smaller. To kill or maim just one or two people, the military is increasingly trying to get away from using larger diameter bombs designed for wider scale destruction and trying to get more, shall we say, intimate. Enter a drone designed to drop a retrofitted gps guided mortar.

 

So how does this apply to specific franchises?

 

Well for one, if we assume a reasonable degree of competency on the part of military planners in scifi universes, they will genuinely try to use the most appropriate tool for the job. So if your AT-AT can rattle a rebel bunker with its guns, this might not be the most appropriate level of firepower for tackling infantry. Especially when your Dark Lord wants prisoners to interrogate. When you're fighting an insurgency that can hide on any podunk planet in the galaxy and there are in excess of two hundred billion stars to comb through, there is value in not reducing every last example of rebel scum to a rapidly expanding cloud of vapor with a slight reddish tint to it. Secondly, I don't know how much fuel it costs an AT-AT to rattle a bunker in a mountain but I'm sure turning battlefields into hellish landscapes of superheated snow to kill a few dozen infantrymen with artillery that can't harm you when you need prisoners and are sending in the Stormtroopers to secure the base and any intelligence assets and nascent Jedi that might be found, is not considered an effective use of His Majesty's fuel.

 

To use a real world example, when NATO went into Iraq, just because they could use tactical nuclear weapons, didn't mean that there weren't a whole host of political, cultural, tactical and strategic considerations that made all but the most stark raving mad feel they weren't appropriate. Similarly, prior to the shooting starting, Geonosis was a Republic member world. Presumably, though we know they had ordinance that could bring down starships that could be delivered by LAATs and SPHA-Ts, this ordinance wasn't turned on the Separatist armies. That they didn't leads us to conclude that there were some combination of political, cultural, tactical and strategic reasons for not glassing the entire plateau. Indeed, both armies seemed to be equipped from the beginning to be maximally lethal to each other's military units while causing the least amount of collateral damage possible.

 

For Star Trek, the first thing that comes to mind is the TOS movies. They imply what I consider to be a truly fascinating method of fighting a battle but also one, that when you think about it, makes a certain amount of sense. Instead of going for maximum bang, they fight with very precise weapons in a very deliberate way: cutting power lines, disabling shield generators, blowing apart engines and weapon systems but otherwise, leaving the surrounding areas largely intact. I would say it was an example of Federation pacifism but lacking Khan's twin advantages of surprise and access to detailed intelligence on where vital systems are located, Chang lobbed quite a few torpedoes without much effect at the Enterprise and Excelsior. So the Klingons don't seem to have a much different approach. Both seem to have decided that the most effective way to fight a battle is with extremely precise weapons.

 

And why not? The reality is that any competently designed space craft is going to be very hard to kill through brute force. They're going to be very well hardened against radiation and with damage control measures to mitigate the effects of decompression from hull breaches or internal explosions. While Trek ships vary wildly in terms of cosmetics, almost every time a Starfleet officer beams aboard an alien ship of comparable technology level, they are able to identify important systems right away, with or without the aide of a tricorder and its often the same for alien boarding parties. So there's apparently only so many ways to skin a cat, its going to be fairly obvious on sensors what the weapon systems are, where they are and the same for propulsion, shields etc. So why waste joules trying to cause massive structural damage when you can just shoot out the weapons arrays?

 

Given that several hundred gigajoules can penetrate the shields of a ship 20 times the size of the NX-class with its terrajoule phase cannons, how many joules you have in your salvo doesn't seem to be as important as how you use them. So any joule more than is needed to pierce the shields, pierce the hull and cut through any especially well hardened systems is a waste of fuel.

 

Some of the best thought out space battles in science fiction that I've found were in the book "Through Struggle, the Stars." In it, while ships occasionally explode in combat for one reason or another, its not the most common way that battles are decided. Its actually quite varied. In one instance a ship was so thoroughly eviscerated by kinetics, the ship was almost fully decompressed. Most others involve cooling systems being damaged and the crew baking in their own waste heat. What they all have in common though is that its not critical structural failure that destroys the ships, I don't think any of the ships ever actually were torn apart structurally except obviously for the ones that blew up, they took damage to a critical system that cost them the battle. Whether it was losing maneuvering thrusters and being unable to evade an oncoming storm of kinetics that would finish off the crew and vital systems, or losing main power.

 

So in a round about way, the idea is that the best weapon is the one that kills cleanly, economically and reliably not necessarily the one that makes the biggest bang. Were it the most firepower that always wins or there other reasons why you might not bring out your meanest, loudest toys, nukes would have been used in war more than just twice in 60 years.

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It also stands to reason that in battles that may take place at ranges of tens of thousands of kilometers or more, you might want to use a lightspeed weapon so the target takes the hit as quickly as possible, minimizing return fire.

 

And if computer targeting is accurate enough to easily hit targets at such ranges, then you probably also want to use a weapon that can't be shot down with point-defense fire, so again you want a beam.

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Agreed. I'm watching Andromeda now. They seem to have very long ranges, perhaps light-minutes. But they almost exclusively fire missiles, which are almost invariably shot down.

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This really doesn't have as much to do with getting to point A from Point B or supplies or numbers as it does how military vehicles are often designed. I made a comment in another thread about how designs and combat tactics are often not based on what an outside observer would consider perfection. This is based on a true story.

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