Debate #2: Lord Edam

March 10, 2002 (my second rebuttal, part 1/3):

TNG Shields: "Relics"

Edam, you seem to be determined to make this debate balloon to enormous size by repeating every idea several times. We both know that with your light workload and relative lack of personal obligations you can easily use this tactic to outlast me, but this is a debate, not a newsgroup or a discussion board, and victory here is decided on the basis of logic, not endurance. I will trust that our readers are smart enough to distinguish between a repeated point and a new point when they see one, so I will try to answer each point only once.

My Generosity

It makes another point, as well. The one everyone happily skips over when they comment on it. Your claims of generosity here are meaningless [you go on to harp on the word "generous" 16 times]

Red herring. The subject is Trek shield strength, not "is Mike Wong being generous enough." If you cannot show that Trek shield strength should be higher than I gave it credit for, then you have no argument. You're trying to turn a debate about the limits of Treknology into a debate about whether the word "generous" should appear in one sentence on my shield page. I refuse to be drawn off-topic into one of your wild goose chases, Edam. It's the numbers that matter, and my numbers are better than yours.

If you don't include all the energy the shields actually endured you are not going to get a decent estimate for shield endurance, and certainly not a "generous upper limit" [you go on to harp on the phrase "generous upper limit" 9 times]

Actually, the phrase "generous upper limit" does not appear anywhere on my shield page, Edam. Go find another strawman, because you've apparently loved this one to death. Oh no ... (looking around with dismay), you've left bits of straw and jism everywhere ... oh, the humanity!

Upper and Lower Limits

You have forgotten the meaning of "upper limit" in your haste to show how nice you can be.
...
Upper limit - the figure which is not likely to be surpassed. Obviously, if we take the largest shields we can find that are still useful ... [you go on to repeat this theme more than a dozen times]

You obviously have no idea what a legitimate upper limit is. An upper limit is the maximum figure you can generate from a given set of assumptions and/or observations. It is not a ridiculously exaggerated or distorted set of assumptions and/or observations.

You also have no idea what a lower limit is; on your page, you claim that my figures are "LOWER LIMITS, as these are figures we know for a fact the ship can withstand". However, that is a purely nonsensical characterization; if they were lower limits, it would be impossible to reduce them further without altering the scenario, and that is absolutely untrue, as I shall show in a moment. They are upper limits, since it is impossible to increase them without altering the scenario (changing the target from the ship to the shield bubble). We can argue all day about whether we should do that, but each assumption will generate its own set of upper and lower limits (and remember: my original ship area estimate was so generous that it would only make a 20% difference either way).

I see I must spell this out for you: once we decide how big the target is, regardless of whether we think the target should be the ship or the shield bubble, the upper limit is 100% of the energy that hits the target, and the lower limit is 0%. Yes, that's right: zero. Remember:

  1. Shields do not block 100% of incident energy. Why do you think ships start taking damage before shields fail in every Star Trek combat incident from TOS through TNG, DS9, and Voyager? Why do you think the E-D's hull heated up to thousands of degrees in "Arsenal of Freedom" and even higher, to 7000K in "Descent Part 2" even though the shields were still up? 100% of incident radiation is the upper limit, not the lower limit.

  2. Given the "safe" 7000K figure from "Descent", the ship's hull can somehow produce a radiative heat flux of more than 130 MW/m², presumably using active radiators. This is more than five times the incident stellar radiation intensity in "Relics", Edam. This means that the the hull can easily achieve thermal equilibrium with the star, so the shields don't need to absorb any EM radiation at all! Even if we use the much lower figure of 4000K, the hull can still radiate 14.5 MW/m², which is easily enough to achieve thermal equilibrium with the star (remember that its radiating area is at least twice its profile area).

In other words, you lose, Edam. Even if we were to accept every single one of your assumptions, the best you could possibly do is increase the upper limit by 20%. You could not possibly hope to call it a "lower limit", nor could you possibly justify your ridiculous figures which are five times too big. Yet again, you use a red herring (your bizarre attempt to alter the meaning of limits) to evade the point, which is that my numbers are far better than yours.

Your Lies

Actually, it's quite nice you should mention this specific scene. It's the same one that shows us the shields. you know, the shields you claim should be hull hugging but aren't. It also indicates the ship was flying "side-on" to the star, rather than rotated to show the minimal aspect.

Thanks for proving that you've been lying all along. You had screenshots of "Relics" the whole time, yet you based your "correct surface area" upon a screenshot from "Silicon Avatar"! And don't give me this "upper limit" nonsense; you referred to this as the "correct surface area" on your page and continued to defend it in your last post even though you knew full well that it was not the correct surface area! I see I was far too naïve in assuming that you were being honest, albeit misguided and ignorant. It turns out that you have been deliberately witholding evidence, fabricating information, and distorting the facts!

By the way, now that you have finally provided the relevant screenshot, we can see from the first picture that the shield bubble is far smaller than your wildly exaggerated 470,000 m² figure, and much closer to mine. Thanks for providing the evidence I needed. By the way, the second picture shows no bubble at all, and the ship is clearly facing at an angle somewhere between a side-view and a tail-view. Thanks again.

Shield Profile vs Hull Profile

And inefficiency that should still be considered when trying to decide how much energy the shields actually endured.

Obsessing over my 20% "mistake" in order to distract readers from your own gigantic 470% deception, eh? I see now that I made a tactical error in letting you make an issue out of this, since I gave you an opening to make a mountain out of a molehill. You're obviously trying to goad me into a time-consuming, exhausting debate over the minor points in order to distract from your mammoth 470% mistake (actually, an outright lie since you've had pictures of the real "Relics" shield bubble all along), and I'm not going to fall for it. Efficiency is based on what you want to measure, and we obviously disagree on what we're measuring, but frankly, I have neither the time or inclination to debate every minor nitpick with you. The main point remains: my original area estimate was so generous that even if we change the target from the ship to the shield as you insist, my upper limit is still off by only 20%, while yours is off by a whopping 470%.

[Claims of shots which would have missed the ship being absorbed by the shield] It happened for a couple of the Defiant shots against the Lakota in Paradise Lost, it happened when the S-8472 ship shot Voyager in Scorpion.

Outright lies, obviously hoping I haven't seen the episodes in question. I've seen "Paradise Lost", and the blocked shots were heading right for the ship. See Wayne Poe's video clip of Star Trek missed shots. The Defiant turned sideways, and the phaser bank aimed off the ship fired into space, while the phaser bank aimed toward the ship fired directly at it. Also note that the shield bubble is very close to saucer on top and bottom, which means that in this case, it could not have been an ellipsoid surrounding the entire vessel (remember that the primary hull extends well below the bottom of the saucer). This indicates that a bubble shield can be contoured to follow the ship's hull much more closely than the classic ellipsoid shape. No off-angle blocked shots here. And what about the accompanying screenshot from "Scorpion"? Doesn't look like a shot that would have missed to me! Looks a lot more like you're just lying again.

Hull-Huggers vs Bubbles (sounds like a damned Care Bears wrestling match)

Preface: Now that you have revealed the "Relics" screenshot that you've been hiding all along in order to cover up the fact that you were lying about its size, I concede that it was a bubble during at least part of "Relics". However, even if we assume it was a bubble the whole time, it was a small bubble, which is far closer to my figure than yours. No wonder you didn't reveal it before! You're counting on the fact that the Star Wars side of this debate hasn't taped every Star Trek episode, which is not exactly a forthright way to debate. In any case, my 78,000 m² figure is still far better than your 470,000 m² deception.

However, I still disagree with your claim that there were no hull-huggers before "A Call to Arms", and that a design change was required in order to make them available. I'm not going to get into most of your long-winded arguments on this subject since it is technically a red herring to our discussion which is specific to "Relics", but I just find that overarching claim too audacious to ignore:

The opening scene of Star Trek: The Motion Picture where the klingon cruisers are attacked by the cloud's lightening weapons stick out as a particularly marvellous example of "those shields aren't hull hugging"

Wrong. There's no visible shield in that scene at all. The enveloping lightning effect is V'ger's weapon, not the Klingon ship's shields. ST6 clearly showed "hull-hugger" shields, and since the Klingon digitization sequence showed no defensive bubble to protect against V'ger's enveloping lightning effect, ST:TMP did too. They could make bubble shields, but they could also make hull huggers ... with the same equipment.

[Re: the fact that they used both in DS9] We know from DS9 that they had altered their shields to counter the threat from Dominion weapons.

Wrong again. If the appearance of "hull huggers" had something to do with the Dominion "phased-poleron" weapon, then why was DS9 itself still using a big bubble shield in "Call to Arms"? It seemed to have no problem blocking Dominion fire, so don't give me this nonsense about how the appearance of hull huggers was a phased-poleron countermeasure.

Could they do it during TNG? If we had an example of them doing just that, yes they could (and yet, despite many request to support the claim with an actual example no one has managed it - if they can do it why do we never see it?).

False dilemma. There is very little combat in TNG, and no fleet combat whatsoever. In my previous post I already provided a possible reason for them to start using hull huggers in DS9 even if we accept your claims about shields blocking energy passing through their periphery, and you chose to ignore it.

So what evidence do you present for your claim that they were incapable of doing it in TNG?

The fact we never see it happen. There is no evidence for it. Every single time we see shields they are extended beyond the ship. The smallest shield configuration we see is still larger than your "generous upper limit"

Unfalsifiable claim and burden of proof fallacy. Of course you don't see hull-hugging shields, because hull-huggers are not visible by definition! But we know they can use both in TOS, and they can use both in DS9. Therefore, the onus is on you to show that they can't make them in the intervening series, not on me to satisfy your ridiculous demand for visual evidence of an invisible phenomenon.

Beside the fact that, in examples when it would be beneficial to use hull hugging shields (Arsenal of Freedom, Clues, Symbiosis, Descent, Relics) they still stick with the bubble type?

Nonsense. In "Arsenal of Freedom", they were redirecting air around the ship. That obviously requires a teardrop shape, as any imbecile remotely familiar with aerodynamics can tell you. In "Clues", they were trying to keep the Paxan cloud away from the ship, so they obviously had no reason to bring the shield in closer. In "Symbiosis", "Descent", and "Relics", the visible portion of the shield looks like retransmission from what appears to be radiation with a roughly normal incident vector (which would otherwise strike the ship directly), and does not imply or require full absorption over the entire shield bubble area. The "flare effect" diminishes much too quickly toward the top and bottom of the shield for it to be absorbing energy over a full one half of its surface area.

TNG(up to A Call To Arms) - no examples of hull-hugging shields, even in examples where such a thing would conserve shield energy
A Call To Arms - shield changes to counter Dominion thread.
Post A Call to Arms - shields that are both bubble and hull hugging, depending on the example.

These descriptions rely upon numerous questionable assumptions. In TNG, a hull-hugging shield would only conserve shield energy if the bubble shield is not a vector phenomenon despite the appearance of being one, and it would not be visible even if it were present. In "A Call to Arms", you repeat your assumption that the appearance of "hull huggers" was a countermeasure against Dominion weapons even though DS9 still used a bubble shield in that episode. For episodes after "A Call to Arms", you concede that they can obviously switch back and forth at will, without showing that they could not do so before. There is no dialogue whatsoever describing these major changes, and hull huggers are no more visible after "A Call to Arms" than they were before. We only know a ship has "hull huggers" when it appears not to have any shields at all.

Oh, by the way: if no Federation ships had hull-hugging shields before "A Call to Arms", then how do you explain the Defiant's invisibly small shield perimeter in this clip? (Divx 4+ codec required) It's from "The Die is Cast", it contains interesting revelations on propulsion and targeting and optimum weapons range, and "The Die is Cast" takes place more than two years before "A Call to Arms", remember? We never see any hint of a shield bubble, some shots just barely miss the ship without hitting a shield, and some of them rock the ship by flame-bursting against a shield which appears to extend no further than the hull. That's exactly the same effect that we see when Federation shields block Dominion weapons in "A Call to Arms" and later. And don't try to pretend their shields were down; they're called out at 80%, which means that not only are they up, but they're interacting with the Dominion weapons, otherwise they wouldn't have dropped 20% from combat.

Flares

[Trying to explain away 15% drop in shield strength from contact with a flare] 15% of 23% isn't a lot of the total shield power (plus, we don't see this happening on screen, so we don't know if this is just one flare or a combination of all those that have struck before.

Evade, evade, evade. What makes you think he expressed the 15% drop in terms of the existing shield strength instead of the total? That would be an absolutely ridiculous way to report shield strength, since it would be impossible to know what he meant without remembering what the previous figure was. Multiple shield strength reports would make the situation even worse; everyone would need to perform compound multiplication on all the shield strength reports since the first one! Face it, there is no conceivable reason for anyone to report shield strength in such an asinine manner, even in the Federation. When he reported it was down by 15%, it dropped by 15% of nominal value, not 15% of whatever it was the last time he reported it.

Oviously (from Data's statement) it primarily included hits from flares - that's what was doing the most of the damage to the shields

Still trying to use solar flares as an escape clause, eh? You have no evidence whatsoever that it was taking repeated direct hits from solar flares, Edam. What are the odds of the ship being hit repeatedly by random flares? Since we can predict them today, why couldn't the crew of the Enterprise, and why couldn't they fire maneuvering thrusters to avoid them in time?

Besides, solar flares are powerful, but they're also diffuse. The most monstrous flares and CMEs from our own Sun (which is more than twice as powerful as the star in "Relics") can unleash a billion megatons of energy, but it's spread over an area of some fifty billion square kilometres! A miniscule starship in orbit (<100,000 m²) would receive less than 2 kilotons (8 TJ) from such a blast, which is what the E-D was supposedly absorbing every 3½ seconds in "Relics" anyway! You can not evade "Relics" by using flares as your precious "escape clause", Edam.

Unless ... you're willing to concede that Federation shields are feeble when it comes to contact with stellar plasma, and you're not going to concede that, are you Edam? Not because it's false, (any objective Trek fan knows it's true, and in fact, it was a Trekkie who first pointed it out to me many years ago), but because you know what turbolasers are, and what it would mean for the Star Wars vs Star Trek debate. Caught on the horns of a dilemma, eh?


Recap

Your post was huge and painfully repetitive, but it only made 5 real points, which were:

  1. You say I shouldn't have used the word "generous" in one sentence on my shield page. That's a ridiculous red herring nitpick, and it's also a pretty big concession from your original position, which was that my figure was a "mistake" and that your figure was the "correct surface area". Most of your post revolves around the word "generous".
  2. You say your figure is an upper limit while mine is a lower limit. That's another big about-face from your original position, which was that your figure was "correct" while mine was a "mistake". It's also a massive distortion of the true meaning of limits, since the lower limit is actually zero.
  3. You say we should use the shield profile instead of my generous hull profile. I say "who cares?" My hull profile was so generous that it's only 20% below the bubble profile anyway. I would have liked to talk about this issue a bit more since I feel there is room for argument (particularly on the common Trekkie fanboy assumption that shields are a scalar rather than vector phenomenon), but that would only give you more room to divert attention towards the 20% molehill and away from your 470% mountain.
  4. You say that TNG ships are the only ships in the Trek timeline which can't make both bubble and hull-hugger shields. I couldn't help but argue with a few of your points on that issue because I do feel you're wrong (and there's the little matter of that video clip from "The Die is Cast"), but as it turns out, the whole question is moot since one of your two "Relics" screenshots shows a bubble, albeit one far closer to my area figure than yours. You obviously revealed the "Relics" screenshots when you figured the proof of its bubble shape was more important than the pain of admitting that you've been lying about its size for the past 1½ years. But again, I say "who cares?" You're focusing on the 20% difference in order to distract readers from your own massive 470% exaggeration (which turns out to have been an outright lie the entire time).
  5. You say that "Relics" can be explained away by the flares, but that requires the groundless assumption that they were being hit repeatedly, not to mention your weak evasion of the 15% drop. Besides, solar flares are not intense enough to make such a big difference anyway, even if the ship was repeatedly engulfed in them. Unless, of course, you are willing to fully concede part 2/3 of this debate ...

In the end, the whole point of all this (your effort to show that I've seriously underestimated Trek shields) is a failure. Even if every one of your assumptions is correct, you can only increase the upper limit by a measly 20%, which is insignificant given the accuracy limitations of sci-fi observations. Your own figure, on the other hand, is not only hugely exaggerated by a factor of roughly 5 times, but it turns to have been an outright lie all along.

Go to Part 2/3


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