Star Trek Canon Database

Displaying 1 to 7 of 7 records.

Database started: 1999-07-27
Page generated: 2020-07-08

Page 1

TNG Season 7, Ep# 162: "Inheritance"

JULIANA: Captain, our situation has worsened since my  husband and I first contacted you. The molten core of our planet is not just cooling -- it's begun to solidify.

PRAN: Our gravitational field has been affected -- seismic activity has increased by a factor of three.

Realism: solidification is an exothermic process. As the core solidifies, it will release heat that will slow the rate of cooling. Since that process will take eons to occur (due to the sheer quantity of mass involved), there is no reason for this melodramatic play-acting. If the core's just starting to solidify, they will all be long dead before it has any significant effects.

TNG Season 7, Ep# 162: "Inheritance"

GEORDI: These pockets in the magma layer -- how close are they to the molten region of the core?

JULIANA: A few kilometers, why?

GEORDI: You think that's close enough to try ferro-plasmic infusion?

DATA: The procedure would involve using our ship's phasers to drill down through the planet's surface and into the pockets -- where we would set up a series of plasma infusion units.

GEORDI: We'd trigger the units by firing a modulated energy burst down through the shafts.

JULIANA: I see ... injecting sufficient plasma directly into the core should trigger a chain reaction, and that will reliquify the magma.

Realism: "a chain reaction?" What a joke! What sort of "chain reaction" can occur in the core of a planet? Combustion? There's no free oxygen down there, and any volatiles would have reacted billions of years ago. Nuclear fusion or fission? It's not as if a planet's core is made of hydrogen, or uranium. Hydrogen is too light to settle in the core and uranium is too rare. The planet's core is most likely composed of iron (like our own planet's core), which has the most stable nucleus in the universe.

TNG Season 7, Ep# 162: "Inheritance"

DATA: It should be possible to stabilize the core temperature at ninety-three percent of normal.

PRAN: If it works, the core would remain molten for centuries.

Realism: Pran is an idiot, and so is Data. Even if they do nothing, the core should still remain molten for centuries.

Let's say the core of the planet is 4000 km wide, and let's say it's almost entirely iron. The incredible pressure from above would increase its density well beyond the normal value, so that it approaches 9,000 or 10,000 kg/m³. If we assume 9000 kg/m³, this means the mass of the core would be roughly 3E23 kg (that's just 1/20 of the mass of Earth, so I'd say I'm being very conservative). Let's say it's already cooled to the freezing temperature. The latent heat of fusion is roughly 300 kJ/kg, so the core would have to release nearly 1E29 joules of energy before it can solidify.

There's no way for the planet to get rid of this much energy in a short time. Irrespective of temperature gradients inside the planet iself, we know that it is a system with only a few ways to dump heat. The rate of core energy loss cannot possibly exceed the planet's overall rate of energy loss, and the planet's overall rate of energy loss is controlled by its surface temperature. If it has inhabitable surface conditions, we can assume average surface temperatures of 300K and radiative heat emission of less than 500 W/m² even if we assume perfect blackbody radiation. In other words, the planet sheds heat at a rate of less than 3E17 W (assuming Earth-like size).

How long would it take for the core to shed enough energy to completely solidify, even if we go with the wildly generous assumptions that it's already at freezing temperature, the planet is a perfect black-body radiator, and there's no energy input from a radiogenic heating or an external source like ... oh, say, a Sun? It would take more than ten thousand years. I reiterate: Data and Pran are idiots. They make it sound as if the core will solidify by next week if they don't do something, when in reality, they will have all turned to dust long before the core turns into a solid.

TNG Season 7, Ep# 162: "Inheritance"

GEORDI: I've configured the phasers to create the most highly focused particle beam possible.


JULIANA: The mantle is less resistant than I thought it would be.

DATA: We are within two kilometers of the magma pocket.

JULIANA: Another five seconds should do it. We've broken through.


DATA: The drilling process has raised the temperature inside the magma pocket by almost three hundred degrees C. It will be several hours before it cools enough for us to enter.


SCREENPLAY: (after beaming down into the now-cool pocket) the shaft they drilled from the surface is suggested by a hole about seven feet in diameter in the pocket's ceiling.

Naval Weapons: after the phasers were modified for "the most highly focused particle beam possible", they were capable of drilling a 7 foot wide (roughly 2 metre wide) hole at a rate of only 2 km in 5 seconds.

The math is grade-school simple: that's about 1250 m³/s. According to Trekkie ground combat dogma, that means the entire phaser array of the USS Enterprise is less than twice as powerful as a hand phaser.

In case you're interested, whenever a Star Destroyer vapourizes 40 metre wide asteroids with a 1/15-second turbolaser bolt in TESB, the vapourization rate works out to more than 500,000 m³/s, or 400 times greater than the rate at which the Enterprise drilled through rock in this episode. And that's from just one of a Star Destroyer's two hundred guns. It's not even one of their heavy guns!

TNG Season 7, Ep# 162: "Inheritance"

JULIANA: But... how do you know the same thing won't happen? Creating a stable positronic matrix is very tricky -- your Father lost several prototypes before Lore.

DATA: I was not aware that he created any androids before my brother.

JULIANA: There were three of them... they were like children to us... losing them was very painful. When Noonian decided to try again, I was very much against it. I didn't think we had the right to bring a life into the world that had so little chance of surviving.

Computers and Androids: Data's positronic brain was very difficult to construct, even for his brilliant maverick inventor. It seems that the process is still so flaky that multiple attempts must be made in order to produce a reliable model. His success rate was 2 of 5, which is not exactly a stellar yield.

Obviously, you won't see any eight year old Federation boys cobbling together androids from junkyard parts in their spare time.

TNG Season 7, Ep# 162: "Inheritance"

(they are drilling another hole when the ship begins to shake)

GEORDI: We're getting feedback pulses along the particle beam.

JULIANA: We must have hit a pocket of magnesite ore -- I'll try to adjust the phaser harmonics to compensate.

RIKER: We're going to have to terminate the beam if this keeps up.

DATA: If we do, we will have to begin a new shaft at another suitable location.

JULIANA: There is no other suitable location -- give me a few more seconds.

GEORDI: Doctor, it's going to take longer than that to match the resonant.

(Juliana manages to find the right frequency)

GEORDI: You did it.

JULIANA: It was just luck ... I hit the right frequency.

Naval Weapons: confirmation that even the large shipboard phaser banks of the USS Enterprise are strongly affected by material composition. The presence of "magnesite ore" actually causes feedback along the beam which threatens the ship. If not for dumb luck (and a generous dose of the usual Star Trek writers' frequency-obsession), they would have had to stop firing.

It never occurred to me to look it up, but it occurred to Neil Carr, who contributes the following:

"Something tickled the back of my head, so I went back to the old geology textbooks...there it was. Magnesite is MgCO<SUB>3</SUB>, Magnesium Carbonate, not particularly dense (around 3 g/cm³), no really special properties other than effervescence in acid...also not particularly rare."

Interesting information; low-density magnesium carbonate can cause feedback along a phaser beam which can threaten the safety of a Galaxy class starship!

TNG Season 7, Ep# 162: "Inheritance"

GEORDI: Basically, she's a Soong-type android -- except everything about her is designed to fool you into thinking she's human.

BEVERLY: She's got tear ducts, sweat glands -- even veins and capillaries underneath her skin.

RIKER: Why does the scanner read her as a human?

BEVERLY: There's a feedback processor that's designed to send out a false bio-signal.

Sensors: their medical instruments can be easily fooled by a simple transmitter.

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