The Borg, Kinetic Energy, and Holodecks

Worf slicing up a Borg drone
[Editor's note: Worf killing a Borg drone with a knife late in STFC, well after many drones have been killed by physical attacks and they've already "adapted" to everything else]

This page is a good example of Mr. Anderson refusing to apply principles consistently to different things. The first thing to note about the Borg drone's alleged anti-kinetic impact shields is that, if they exist, they should stop bullets. Anderson realizes that these shields have not been used to stop fists or knives in the past, but insists that:

"there is no evidence in support of the Warsie conjecture that bullets, arrows, or spears would kill Borg drones."

[Editor's note: there is an obvious "burden of proof" fallacy here; since we've seen bullets, knives, and even elbows or gun butts disable or kill Borg drones, the burden of proof is on him to prove that they can adapt to physical attacks]

This leads, inevitably, to the question of what the shields will and will not stop, and why the Borg bothered to install shields if they will not stop bullets, fists, knives, or bulkheads. Anderson never addresses these concerns, except to say that:

"In theory, then, this selective KE shield operates somewhat less effectively than the holodeck's safety protocols . . . it will stop some obviously-damaging KE attacks such as bullets, but does not affect a drone's ability to interact with its environment. It will also likely be overwhelmed by large, fast objects, such as a flying bulkhead or (for non-Trek examples) speeding planes, trains, and automobiles."

There are far more important concerns with Anderson's page, however. Anderson spends a great deal of time trying to get us to accept that Starfleet personnel are familiar with firearms. He uses numerous examples from TOS, which is somewhat amusing because they are from a completely different era, but he also brings up several good examples of TNG and DS9 era officers that indicates that they would have known about traditional (chemically propelled) firearms. Anderson then explains that, if Starfleet officers knew about firearms, and they understood Borg capabilities, then they should have been able to put two and two together in order to use firearms against the Borg.

"Third, Starfleet has had the opportunity to study Borg technology at length. Besides the debris of the Borg cube from "Best of Both Worlds, Pt. II"[TNG], and the technology Crusher removed from Captain Picard, there was the chance to study operational drone technology in "I, Borg"[TNG]. In that episode, Geordi and the crew had opportunity to scan, poke, and prod a drone that had been separated from the collective. We know from the episode that Borg information processing routines and Borg sensor information was studied, but it stands to reason that more than just those specific technological applications were scanned. The numerous Borg corpses and technology of [i]First Contact[/i] could also be studied when the Enterprise-E returned to the 24th Century. And, though this example is Voyager-specific, they even got to study a more advanced drone in "Drone"[VOY]. They also brought a cargo bay full of Borg debris aboard from the destruction of a Borg scout ship in "Dark Frontier"[VOY], and we saw a few moments of the study of that material. Finally, Seven of Nine's parents spent a long time studying the Borg at close range, even bringing drones aboard their small ship for extended study ("Dark Frontier"[VOY]).

Over and above all of this, of course, there is the fact that former drones are a part of Starfleet. Not only was Picard a drone named Locutus for awhile, but Voyager also carries the former drone Seven of Nine, who has told us volumes about the Borg and their technology. Further, there is the fact that Janeway, Tuvok, and Torres were assimilated in "Unimatrix Zero"[VOY] (though they were able to maintain individuality as a result of technobabble), and later recovered, and Chakotay was assimilated briefly with Borg technology in "Unity"[VOY]. As observed in First Contact and the Voyager Borg episodes, this has provided the officers with detailed information on the Borg Collective.

Warsies claim, of course, that Starfleet officers are all stupid, and that no one ever thought of trying to shoot the Borg with bullets. I suppose it is possible that no one ever tried to bring a gun to a disruptor fight (Borg drones, after all, are frequently armed with disruptor attachments, as observed in "Descent"[TNG], "Drone"[VOY], and "Scorpion"[VOY])."

This seems superficially reasonable. Starfleet seems familiar with Borg capabilities in combat, but has never been seen to use projectile weapons against the Borg. It should have done so during some of the Borg encounters with the UFP prior to ST:FC. Thus, the Borg can be assumed to be using shields that are effective against kinetic impacts. This is another of Anderson's double standards. Let's apply this fairly to all tactics and weapons involved. Starfleet did know about Borg capabilities. They also knew about the holodeck. Therefore, Starfleet should have used holograms to attack Borg drones prior to ST:FC. Anderson himself admits that such a holographic assault had never been done before against a Borg drone. "Picard's holographic bullets were nothing more than 'smoke and mirrors', backed up by a forcefield. It was not an attack with a projectile weapon firing bullets with kinetic energy . . . it was a crafty forcefield attack that the Borg had obviously never encountered before, and had therefore not adapted to."

This begs the question of why Starfleet had never launched such an attack against the Borg. Starfleet officers are obviously familiar with the use of the holodeck, and with holographic weapons—even more so than they are with conventional firearms. Starfleet personnel are very familiar with Borg capabilities, as is revealed by Anderson himself. Anderson also dismisses the possibility that Starfleet officers are stupid, but they must have been. Otherwise they should have used holographic weapons against the Borg, in earlier encounters. Granted, holodecks cannot be everywhere at once, but Barclay demonstrated in "Nth Degree" [TNG] that all computer controls, including those of the starship, can easily be re-routed to the holodeck, with other controls locked out to the point where they cannot be regained from anywhere else on the ship. All that Starfleet personnel would have needed to do during a Borg attack is evacuate everyone except for the bridge crew, and move them to the holodeck. Granted, they would have a greatly diminished ability to repair damage and respond to problems elsewhere, but the goal is to prevent the ship from being overrun by Borg drones in the unfortunate eventuality that it is boarded by the Borg. Additionally, such a modifications might be performed to a ship before battle, so that if it was boarded, the bridge crew could move to the holodeck and regain control of the ship from there, protected by their holographic weapons. Thus we see that Starfleet officers must be stupid for not trying such tactics, prior to ST:FC, or that Mr. Anderson's line of reasoning must be incorrect. Or they could install holographic projectors around critical areas like the bridge and engineering. This would be the best solution, but for the potential expense involved and the refitting operations that would almost certainly have to take place in stardock.

There are, of course, other contradictions within this page. For example,

"Finally, there's the issue of logic. As seen in "Encounter at Farpoint"[TNG], the walls of the holodeck are usually just covered up with a projection of light. Data throws a rock and hits the wall, causing the image to digitize and wobble. While the resilience of the holodeck walls to bullets is unknown, it would not make sense for this to be tested by allowing real bullets to go flying through the air whenever the safeties are turned off. The thesis that "safeties off" = "inanimate holographic objects turn to matter" simply doesn't make sense. "

This is another example of when Anderson fails to apply things equally to different things. Re-examine the above statement. The rock disrupted the holodeck's walls, demonstrating that a physical impact to the walls will cause distortion of the image. Anderson uses this to conclude that bullets must not be used by the holodeck because, if they were, they would disrupt the walls. Unfortunately, the rock was also a part of the holodeck. It is unreasonable to assume that the removal of the holodeck safeties, objects that are merely holographic projections become real. Since in "Encounter at Farpoint" [TNG], the holodeck safeties were on, it can be assumed that the rock is real, in which case bullets on the holodeck must also be real when the safeties are "off," or the rock was merely a projection, in which case the bullets on the holodeck would also be holographic projections. If the rock was a holographic projection, then this demonstrates that the walls of the holodeck can be disrupted by other holographic projections and precludes Anderson's logic that the bullets must have been projections to avoid disrupting the projections on the walls of the holodeck. If the rock was real, then the bullets should also have been real.

Finally, note how Anderson's own link specifically states that:

"Arguments of this form assume that since something has not been proven false, it is therefore true. Conversely, such an argument may assume that since something has not been proven true, it is therefore false."

The existence of Borg drone kinetic shielding has clearly not been proven, as it has never been seen in operation and the ability here attributed to them is based solely on conjecture. It can be argued that its existence has not been disproved, either, but to assume that it exists based on the evidence that we have is fallacious, according to Anderson's own link [Editor's note: RSA's amusing penchant for linking to sources which actually disprove his point is well-known]. Moreover, the fact that Borg drones have been hit with some variety of objects in the past and have never been seen to block any of the blows using shields would tend to indicate that the Borg shields are ineffective, even if they do exist.

[Editor's note: Later on, RSA tries to deal with the reaction force problem by saying this: "Projecting a graviton-based spatial distortion need not result in force rebound to the shield projector when an impact occurs"; using gravitons as a "Get Out of Jail Free" card? This is completely wrong and laughably ignorant of high-school level physics; action/reaction equality does apply to gravitational forces, and have ever since the famous apple fell on Newton's head. He tries to defend his claim with the following: "This is demonstrated in "Naked Now"[TNG], when Wesley's desktop tractor emitter was turned into a shield which easily repulsed the hefty assistant engineer . . . the emitter did not get knocked off the table when the guy hit the shield. Other graviton applications, such as tractor beams, do not result in such effects . . . note how Wesley was able to pick up a large chair with his desktop model effortlessly in the same episode." It is a hallmark of the unscientific mind that when faced with an interesting scenario, he invariably picks the most outlandish explanation. In this case, he sees a desktop emitter which can lift a chair or knock a man on his butt, and decides that it must be violating the laws of physics! Does it ever occur to him that perhaps it is simply well-anchored to the table, perhaps via magnetic attraction or the same forcefields he touts so highly? Of course not; in his mind, it is better to conclude that the laws of physics just went out the window].

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