Star Trek: Nemesis*

"Thaleron radiation is a biogenic weapon, capable of consuming cells at the subatomic level and somehow transitioning living material into a stone-like material of roughly similar density. A microscopic thaleron radiation source could kill everyone aboard a starship such as the Enterprise-E. (Correction: Beverly evidently says "a microscopic amount of radiation" or words to that effect. Sounds rather silly as stated (think "a microscopic amount of heat" or "light"), but in the case of thaleron radiation it would simply mean that a very few thaleron particles could do the deed. One wonders whether the complete transition to stone would occur with just a few particles striking the body or whether it would simply affect part of a person, but this is not clear. In any case, it takes very little to do a lot of bad things.)"

Anderson's correction is correct. Crusher actually says, "A microscopic amount [of Thalaron radiation] could kill everyone on [the E-E]." It does sound rather silly, in large part because she is obviously incorrect. The radiation [source] used to kill the Romulan Senate was quite obviously macroscopic (though, there is still no explanation for how radiation like that could be visible). Moreover, the radiation [source used] to kill the E-E, as shown on the Scimitar was similarly macroscopic. Further, the radiation appeared to turn the senators into a substance that resembled the appearance of stone, but its density cannot be judged from the appearance on screen. If anything, it would appear that the density was vastly smaller than that of stone, because a mere passing gust of wind was capable of toppling one senator's irradiated body. Certainly its strength did not resemble a hard stone's, because the said body fragmented completely upon impact. Real stone would have cracked, but not shattered. Moreover, Anderson's original statement is clearly wrong because the emitter used to kill the Senate was also quite obviously macroscopic. This is an obviously incorrect statement.

[Editor's note: indeed, it would be interesting to compare the size of the device to the size of a conventional explosive or chemical weapon that would kill the Senate the old fashioned way]

Anderson's commentary on the film is also apparently self-contradictory on a number of occasions:

"The Scimitar also carries a large number of Scorpion Class attack flyers, presumably (at least by the name "flyer") intended for surface attack operations, though the only weapon seen on the vessels is on the dorsal surface."

This begs the question of why such ships would be necessary for ground-attack operations, if Thalaron radiation can destroy a shielded target, as he claims is inferred by the movie. This is particularly galling in light of his analysis of the "Base Delta Zero Fallacy," where he uses the fact that TIE fighters conducted "mop up" operations to "prove" that the area was relatively unaffected by the bombardment.

"The Enterprise-E exhausted her entire photon torpedo complement against the Scimitar, and Romulan ships had fired upon it as well. In spite of that, the Scimitar still had 70% shields. I counted no less than 22 photon torpedoes fired (I think I missed some, too), and no less than 9 quantum torpedoes fired (though I can't recall if all quantums were reported expended as well) . . . this would not count any which were fired off-screen."

This is intentionally misleading. A majority of those torpedoes actually missed the Scimitar, altogether, due to its cloak and the inability of the Enterprise's computers to judge where the Scimitar was moving from visual feedback produced by shots that did strike the Scimitar. Moreover, if they had quantum torpedoes left, Picard should have fired them when Shinzon wanted to have a stare-down contest.

"Reman hand weapons technology seems a bit less advanced than the Federation's, given the design and observed effects. The rifles were seen to be readily switchable from bolts to beam (as seen when Picard sealed the door), but the Reman soldiers didn't seem to figure out this capability, firing bolt after bolt at the door instead of pulling a Picard and getting their melt on."

It seems more likely that the weapons did not have the power to melt through the entire door, and that Picard's "beam" had managed only to melt a small portion of the door from the other side. This is confirmed by the inability of the "bolt" weapons to actually punch through the door, instead merely cratering it. It is also confirmed because of the small length of time that passed between Picard's using his "beam" on the door, and the melted material's resolidification, as evidenced by the fact that the door would not open. Note that this does not seem to be less advanced than the UFP's weapons, as demonstrated in the same movie. While the Reman weapons were powerful enough to crater a blast door, the UFP's weapons could not do even that much damage to their presumably unarmored corridors while the E-E's crew attempted to repel boarders.

Anderson's largest technical debacle, however, doubtless occurs in his analysis of the collision between the Enterprise and the Scimitar. Prior to the collision,

"The presumably-damaged (or at least freshly re-enabled) engines accelerated the ship to a speed of between one-third and one-half her own length per second over the course of two or three seconds. That works out to a speed of between 230 and 350 m/s, for an acceleration of between ~78 and 175 m/s². The vessel seemed to stop accelerating rather quickly, afterwards moving at a constant speed of roughly 700 m/s toward the Scimitar."

Anderson's assessment would be correct if the Enterprise had actually accelerated to anything near 700 m/s, but it did not. In fact, Anderson's statement is self-contradictory. Anyone can see that the ship is not moving its own length in one second, which would be necessary for it to be moving 700m/s. In fact, the trailer shows a very slow collision speed. In the shot of the Enterprise-E just beginning to strike its more massive opponent, it takes 10 frames for the ship's bow to plow through the ship so that the first window on the ship is partially covered by the Scimitar's crumpling hull. That distance, on the E-E, is about 10 meters, and the trailer runs at 24 fps. This would indicate a relative collision speed of less than 30 meters per second. Of course, this is a very rough estimate. The E-E would have slowed down slightly from the collision, though over that small a distance the deceleration would have been minimal, particularly since the volume involved in the collision to that point was so small. This would make the estimate slightly conservative. The hull of the Scimitar, however, buckles visually. Additionally, the measurement was made from the time when the first debris from the Scimitar begins peeling off of the ship. It is possible that the actual impact occurred one or even two frames before. These considerations would both make the estimate a little high. Thirty m/s is a reasonable measure of the collision speed, at least until the DVD comes out and the incident can be analyzed more thoroughly. This is also confirmed by other shots in the trailer, which also show relative impact speeds in that general area. Note that the relative acceleration of the Enterprise cannot be measured with this speed, because the Scimitar was ordered to break away from the ship just before the collision, however 30m/s is a very small collision speed, and the E-E could not have accelerated much more than that, during its death-dive.

"The nature of the shielding systems is curious . . . the Enterprise seemed to plow right through them without impediment. Some have claimed this as proof that shields don't stop physical impacts, or that the shield energy of the Scimitar could not have exceeded the KE of the Enterprise, but these are preposterous claims. We saw the Enterprise-E shields deflecting large pieces of a Romulan cruiser earlier in the battle, knocking the debris away from the saucer and then the port nacelle. In the case of the Scimitar, we either have a secondary shield system that cannot block physical impact (which would assume that the primaries could, and that they had failed at this point), or that technobabble was employed off-camera while we watched proceedings from Shinzon's point-of-view, or that his new cloaking system required oddly-configured shields. In any case, I have no intention of throwing away the rest of the evidence for physical impact protection (including some from this very film) in favor of the claim that starships don't have KE shields."

This is merely another one of Mr. Anderson's pro-Trek claims that come from nowhere. While it is clear the starship shields are more than capable of stopping physical impacts (like photon torpedoes or the section of the hull that Anderson mentions), it is also impossible to rule out that the shields were simply not capable of deflecting such a large impact. Considering that the relatively small section of the Valdore class warbird, which struck the E-E twice, knocked its shields down by an enormous percent—down to ten percent from an unspecified but probably very high percent, and certainly one larger than forty percent because they were trying to hide another set of shields that had been depleted to that percentage by using their forward shields—we come up with a fairly consistent idea of how good Trek shielding is against KE impacts. Thus, we know with a high degree of certainty that ST ships' shields are designed to stop collisions, and we know that the Scimitar's shields did little or nothing to stop the E-E. All of this indicates that the shields were inadequate to stop the E-E.

Now, Anderson meekly responds to these concerns about the Scimitar's shields. According to Occam's Razor, when we have two competing theories [which both fit the data equally well], the one with fewer terms is [superior, ie- there is no reason to choose an unnecessarily complex theory]. Anderson claims that the primary shields might have been the only ones designed to stop physical impacts. Apparently, Mr. Anderson would have us believe that the primary shields made up less than thirty percent of the total shielding on the Scimitar, because that is the percentage of the shield that had been "knocked out" up to that point in the engagement. Had the primary shields failed, we should have heard about it, or we should have heard that the Scimitar had a much smaller fraction of its shields up than it did. Anderson goes on to state two other possibilities:

"that technobabble was employed off-camera while we watched proceedings from Shinzon's point-of-view, or that his new cloaking system required oddly-configured shields."

Of course, either of these views is absolutely absurd. If we employ Occam's Razor, which is mentioned above, then the unseen "technobabble" would violate it by adding another term. Additionally, the principle of parsimony tells us that unless we have evidence to believe something is going on, it probably is not. This is why we do not assume that God or alien abductions are real just because we have no evidence that they are not real. Mr. Anderson is employing a logical fallacy in attempting to tell us that technobabble is being used off-screen, particularly since we see that Picard commands everyone to brace for impact. If he was ordering technobabble to take place, he should have done that before he ordered the crew to brace for impact.

Now for some quick calculations. We don't know how much the E-E masses, nor what its actual volume is, but we can get a reasonable idea. The length of the ship is about 680 meters. Its beam is 240 meters, and its height is 87 meters1. For these calculations, it will be assumed that the ship is a perfect, rectangular box. It clearly is not, and its actual volume is likely somewhere between one half, and one quarter of the volume here calculated. Now, that gives the E-E a volume of 14,198,400 cubic meters. Assuming that the ship's density is that of iron, the ship will thus mass a total of 1.07E11 kilograms (This could, theoretically, be low. It's possible that the ship would be more dense than iron, but it would have to be far more dense in order to raise the total mass of the actual ship beyond the one here calculated. Remember that the ship is filled with empty space, including a long shaft shown in this very movie, with lots of lightweight plastic and ceramic-looking parts.). The collision speed was 30 meters/second. We can easily plug these numbers in to a KE calculator, and we find that the ship did ½(1.07E11*30²) = 4.81E13 joules to the Scimitar. Now, this is still being very generous. Remember that the E-E took substantial damage from the collision- indicating that it also absorbed a considerable amount of the impact energy itself. It also disregards the mass lightening effect of ST ships, which would lower this even further. Thus, this should be treated as a fairly high-end estimate of the amount of energy involved in the collision.

In any case, the shields of the Scimitar were lowered from seventy percent to zero, and the E-E continued on as if nothing had happened. Let us, however, assume for the moment that the Scimitar did manage to stop the E-E using just its shields. This would mean that the Scimitar has shielding equal to 4.81E13 joules, or the equivalent of less than 15 kilotons. It further means that all of the weapons fire that struck the Scimitar during the battle was the equivalent of just 5 kilotons! Most of the E-E's weaponry missed its target. According to Gil Hamilton's count2, at least eight torpedoes and three quantum torpedoes hit the Scimitar, as well as numerous phaser and disruptor shots. If we assume that only photon torpedoes hit the Scimitar, and that the quantum torpedoes and phasers and disruptors did no damage, we find that the yield of a photon torpedo is merely .625 kilotons. This means that an X-Wing can match a photon torpedo for firepower with just eleven shots!3 That calculation, incidentally, gives every possible advantage to Star Trek. It involves a lower limit for X-Wing firepower, and the enormously generous calculations above for both the collision, and for calculating the torpedo firepower.

"The Tech

Wow . . . they handled things well this time out . . ."

[Editor's note: RSA's clever alteration of "shields unable to withstand an impact of that magnitude" to "shields have no effect on physical objects at all" is sadly typical of him. It is rare that he will subject a "Warsie" argument to a fair critique (ie- without trying to distort it)]


* Anderson's opinions about the film's merits are his opinions. As such, they will not be either criticized or supported by this page. His technical examination of the film, however, is objective and will be examined.

1 Kennedy, Graham. Daystrom Technical Institute: Sovereign class (10 April 2001).

2 Hamilton, Gill. Scimitar's Shields and Federation/Romulan weapon strength (15 December 2002).

3 Wong, Michael. Star Wars: Imperial Beam Weapons (5 March 2002).

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