Star Trek Canon Database

Displaying 1 to 8 of 8 records.

Database started: 1999-07-27
Page generated: 2014-12-19

Page 1

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

PICARD VO: Captain's log, Stardate 43539.1. We have moved into orbit around Bre'el Four to investigate a potentially catastrophic threat to the population from a descending asteroidal moon ...

...

PICARD: How long before impact...

DATA: Twenty-nine hours... projected somewhere on the western continent. It would destroy an area eight hundred kilometers in radius.

SCIENTIST: That damage would be insignificant, Captain, compared to the seismic repercussions ... massive landquakes, and tsunami...

GARIN: The force would raise a cloud of dust around the planet, leading to a significant temperature reduction. We could be looking at our own ice age.

...

PICARD: Commander La Forge, is there any way the Enterprise might be able to coax this satellite back where it belongs?

GEORDI: We'd need to apply a delta-vee of at least four kilometers per second. Even with warp power to the tractor beam, it would mean exceeding recommended impulse engine output by at least forty-seven percent. It'd be like an ant pushing a tricycle ... a slim chance at best.

...

GEORDI: The moon will hit its perigee in ten hours ... we match its trajectory ... increase emitter coolant rate so we can apply continuous warp-equivalent power nine to the tractor beam. We can keep pushing it for nearly seven hours and I think that might do it... but there's a problem.

DATA: The Enterprise will be dangerously close to the atmosphere.

Power: it would take warp nine power for seven full hours to accelerate Bre'el Four's asteroidal moon by 4 km/s. Of course, this has no meaning if we don't know the mass of the moon, but we do have enough information at our disposal to rectify this omission:

Image


The radius of curvature in the above scene indicates a lower limit of roughly 2.5 km for the diameter of the moon, since it is clearly behind the Enterprise in the shot. This could be the actual diameter of the moon or a very conservative lower limit, depending on how close the Enterprise is.

Image


The radius of curvature on Geordi's display is in agreement with the lower limit derived from the previous screenshot. Both shots indicate a diameter of roughly 2.5 km, and in this case, Geordi's display shows a plane cutting through the longitudinal axis of the ship. We know the ship was pointed directly toward the centre of the moon, therefore we don't have to worry about varying depths invalidating the figures.

The mass of the moon, given a ferrous composition, would therefore be roughly 6.5E13 kg. We also know that the moon's kinetic energy is such that it would destroy everything on the surface within a radius of 800 km, so we can use the devastation area formula in "Hazards Due to Comets and Asteroids" by T. Gehrels to estimate roughly 1 million megaton yield for the impact. This would suggest that the object's velocity is roughly 11.4 km/s.

Image


The moon originally orbited the planet at roughly 30,000 km distance (centre to centre) as seen above, so it would have had to be moving at roughly 3.7 km/s in order to balance out the 0.44 m/s² gravitational acceleration of the planet. After dropping to a 500 kilometre altitude orbit and exchanging gravitational potential energy for kinetic energy, the moon would have accelerated by 9.4 km/s, to 13.1 km/s.

This is surprisingly close to the 11.4 km/s figure derived from the rough 800 km devastation area estimate (did the writers actually do their homework on this one?), so the numbers can be used with reasonable confidence (at least, to within an order of magnitude as usual). Since the moon's mass is somewhere below 1E14 kg, it would take less than 8E20 joules to accelerate it by 4 km/s.

Since it would have taken an estimated 7 hours of warp 9 power to accomplish this feat, we can conclude that warp 9 power must be somewhere below 3E16 watts, or 30,000 TW. This is prodigious power to be sure, but it's nowhere near the fantastic estimates being bandied about the Net by certain pseudoscientific Trekkies (especially the types that sleep with the TM under their pillows, but don't bother to pay attention to canon episodes like this one).

Note that this figure may be a huge overestimate. Ted Collins points out that the screenplay does not delve into what happens after they turn off that warp field, and Q solves the problem by using his power to shove it back into its proper orbit. But if the moon was accelerated while its effective mass was artificially reduced due to the warp field, it should have slowed down once its mass returned to normal. If Geordi knew about this and compensated for it in his estimates, then the original figure stands. However, if his theories were incorrect or badly applied, then these figures are much too high, and serve only to show that the true power must be orders of magnitude below this.

The possibility that Geordi's theories are incorrect or badly applied should not be discounted out of hand, given the fact that all Federation technology is just two centuries of polishing on Vulcan gifts, and the fact that every attempt to generate something genuinely new (eg- transwarp or soliton wave propulsion) has been a dismal failure).

Note: screenshots courtesy of Wayne Poe.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

PICARD VO: Captain's log, Stardate 43539.1. We have moved into orbit around Bre'el Four to investigate a potentially catastrophic threat to the population from a descending asteroidal moon ...

...

PICARD: How long before impact...

DATA: Twenty-nine hours... projected somewhere on the western continent. It would destroy an area eight hundred kilometers in radius.

SCIENTIST: That damage would be insignificant, Captain, compared to the seismic repercussions ... massive landquakes, and tsunami...

GARIN: The force would raise a cloud of dust around the planet, leading to a significant temperature reduction. We could be looking at our own ice age.

...

PICARD: Commander La Forge, is there any way the Enterprise might be able to coax this satellite back where it belongs?

GEORDI: We'd need to apply a delta-vee of at least four kilometers per second. Even with warp power to the tractor beam, it would mean exceeding recommended impulse engine output by at least forty-seven percent. It'd be like an ant pushing a tricycle ... a slim chance at best.

...

GEORDI: The moon will hit its perigee in ten hours ... we match its trajectory ... increase emitter coolant rate so we can apply continuous warp-equivalent power nine to the tractor beam. We can keep pushing it for nearly seven hours and I think that might do it... but there's a problem.

DATA: The Enterprise will be dangerously close to the atmosphere.

Propulsion: the moon is roughly 15,000 times more massive than the Enterprise itself. If its impulse engines (even with warp power assistance) can only accelerate the moon by 4 km/s in 7 hours, then they can accelerate the Enterprise itself at roughly 15,000 times that rate. This works out to roughly 2400 m/s².

Also note that the mass of an Imperial SSD is likely in the same order of magnitude as this moon. This means that, according to Geordi Laforge, it would be like "an ant pushing a tricycle" for a Galaxy class starship to try to tractor an SSD (assuming the SSD was passively allowing it to do so). Moreover, Geordi also establishes that it would take seven hours of warp nine power output to accelerate such a massive object by 4 km/s, yet the Executor was able to accelerate from its position on the far side of the Endor moon to come sweeping around in front (a trip of some 10,000 km at the least) in less than one minute to attack the Rebel fleet.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

Q: I haven't the vaguest idea what you're talking about... and I have a much more serious problem ... I am no longer a member of the continuum. My superiors have decided to punish me.

PICARD: And punish us as well, it seems...

Q: They said I've spread too much chaos through the universe and they have stripped me of all my powers.

...

Q: What must I do to convince you people...

WORF: Die.

Q: Very clever, Worf. Eat any good books lately?

Misc: this passage has no technical ramifications, but I had to include it because it may be the funniest single line ever uttered in TNG: "Eat any good books lately?" After all this time, it still makes me laugh.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

GEORDI: We can't change the gravitational constant of the universe but if we wrap a low level warp field around that moon, we could reduce its gravitational constant, make it lighter so we can push it.

Realism: conservation of energy dictates that the permanent acceleration of an object cannot possibly be accomplished without inputting the requisite quantity of energy. There is no way to push that moon back into a stable orbit without having to pay the piper sooner or later, and no amount of technobabble can change that fact. There are two possible solutions:

  1. The warp field's own power requirements made up for the difference, so that it wasn't really any easier for the ship's power generator but it split the load up among the warp nacelles, impulse drive, and tractor beam rather than putting it all onto the impulse engines.
  2. The warp field solution was illusory. As soon as they turned the warp field off, the moon's mass would return to normal and its velocity would drop accordingly, to a value commensurate with its true kinetic energy. If this is the case, then the power levels calculated here are actually gross overestimates.
Obviously, the writers never thought of this problem, but it's the job of the fans to paper over the writers' foolish mistakes, right? :)

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

DATA: Although I do not require sustenance, I occasionally ingest a semi-organic nutrient suspension in a silicon-based liquid medium.

Q: Is it good?

DATA: It would be more accurate to say it is "good for me" as it lubricates my bio-functions.

Computers and Androids: the Federation's most advanced android is actually a type of cyborg. His biological components even require a form of sustenance. It seems that they are unable to create a totally inorganic android.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

RIKER: A lifeform?

PICARD: Mister Worf, attempt to make contact...

WORF: Receiving a signal, sir... on speaker...

(jibberish)

RIKER: Computer, analysis of signal.

COMPUTER: Signal patterns indicate intelligence. Unable to derive necessary referants to establish translation matrix.

GUINAN: Calamarain.

Misc: the Universal Translator fails to interpret the Calamarain language.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

SCREENPLAY: a computer graphic shows the field extending from the ship and embracing the moon... only it doesn't quite get it all...

PICARD: Engineering, is that the forward limit?

DATA: Yes, Captain... we are unable to encompass the entire moon...

...

Q: The two parts of the moon will have different inertial densities...

GEORDI: I can adjust the field symmetry to compensate...

...

DATA: Inertial mass of the moon has decreased to approximately two-point-five million metric tons...

GEORDI: It's working. We can move it. Firing impulse engines ...

Propulsion: the warp field cannot be extended around a moon which is only a few kilometres wide.

TNG Season 3, Ep# 61: "Deja Q"

GEORDI: Captain, the impact of the blast is pushing us into the upper atmosphere...

DATA: Hull temperature rising... two thousand degrees... two thousand five hundred degrees.

GEORDI: Moving to full impulse power... we've gotta get out of here...

WORF: Calamarain are resuming attack ... they've overpowered the shields... hull penetration... deck thirty-six... Engineering...

RIKER: Geordi, can you direct any more power to the shields... ?

GEORDI: We need all the power we have to get out of the atmosphere, Commander.

(The calamarain attack Q in engineering)

GEORDI (to an underling) : Try activating the structural integrity field.

(Data tries to save Q, gets zapped)

GEORDI: It's not working. Structural field harmonics on manual.

RIKER: Hull temperature falling, Geordi ... we're in the clear ...

Propulsion: even at "full impulse power", it takes them so long to get out of the atmosphere that they can utter five lines of dialogue before they're in the clear. So much for the Trekkie nonsense about impulse engines pushing starships to relativistic speed with no discernible delay.

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