Warp Core Power Generation

"if the ship was only generating 12.75 billion gigawatts per day (as I suggested), that's "only" 147,000 gigajoules per second ..." [Editor's note: no, that's not a misprint. RSA actually wrote that on his page, thus demonstrating that he doesn't understand the units of power and energy that are taught in every high school science class (note how the only way to duplicate his calculation is to treat gigawatts and gigajoules as synonymous)]

This page represents an attempt by Mr. Anderson to speculate on a character's dialogue that never even appeared in an episode. In "True Q" [TNG], Data said that the Enterprise is "currently generating 12.75 gigawatts per…" and is interrupted. Of course, Anderson contends that Data must have been about to say a unit of time. He uses days, and generates a truly bizarre figure. As anyone knows, "watts" are a measure of power. Anderson uses it to generate a unit of energy by dividing it again by a time unit. In other words, he is saying that Data was about to suggest that the Enterprise was producing "joules/time unit/time unit." That is clearly either a measure of acceleration in terms of power generation, or Anderson's contention is incorrect. It is probable that Data was about to measure the efficiency of the warp reactor, for instance by saying that the Enterprise generates a certain number of watts per unit of anti-matter that is used.

"... although "watts per" anything is a peculiar phrasing, it is not unheard of. A quick search through Yahoo provides numerous examples of this use where "anything" is a time unit, in a manner similar to the "kilowatt-hours" on most people's power bills. It does not imply an accelerating increase in energy." [Editor's note: yes, all of you who possess high-school science educations can start laughing now; he just claimed that power per unit time is equivalent to power multiplied by unit time]

In order to justify his bizarre assertion, Anderson resorts to lies and distortions. He claims that "kilowatt-hours" is a measure of "joules/unit time/unit time." This is, of course, not true. In actuality, a kilowatt-hour is a measure of energy equivalent to saying "joules/time unit*time unit," or more simply "joules." This makes perfect sense. A power bill, if charged in kilowatt-hours, is measured by every hour in which someone is constantly expending one kilowatt. Any unit per unit time squared is a measure of acceleration, and it is even more likely that Data was about to measure the core's efficiency, though this is considerably less likely than the acceleration idea. And if Data was actually referring to a unit of time, it would have to be a unit of acceleration, rather than a unit of power or energy, as Anderson claims.

"I am not assuming it is a unit of time. It is the only continuation of the sentence that makes sense (or, more correctly, "comes close to making sense") in the context. It is also (note well) the continuation that offers the smallest possible interpretation of the power figure given. Further, it also happens to correspond with the script (which, alas, is non-canon), where Data says "per second.""

It is not the only continuation of the sentence that makes sense. In fact, it makes little sense. A measure of acceleration makes perfect sense. Moreover, the script is non-canon, as Anderson himself notes here. That does not and should not factor into a site that prides itself on using "exclusively canon material."

Moreover, in order for Anderson's page to make sense, he must first dismiss "The Dauphin," in which the Enterprise is stated to be able to produce less than one terawatt of power. As Anderson reports the exchange,

"DATA: Sir, sensors indicate the communication originated from a terawatt source on the planet.
RIKER: That's more power than our entire ship can generate.
DATA: It is what is needed to penetrate the atmosphere."

The meaning of this statement is clear. The ship cannot generate more than a terawatt of power. Anderson attempts to dismiss this incident as follows: "take a look at the context . . . they're talking about communications." This is incorrect. Data is speaking of a communication from a terawatt power source, and not a communication that involves a terawatt of power. Riker then explains that the ship cannot generate that much power. It would be very strange if Riker was talking about the entire ship's communications gear in such a manner. Riker is clearly speaking of the entire ship's power core, and not the power of the transmission itself.

"We know from ST:TMP, et cetera, that starships carry not only subspace communications equipment, but also devices capable of transmitting via "primitive" radio frequencies, so one could argue that by "entire ship" Riker was employing a synecdoche. This can be reasonably well established, given that we know from "Who Watches the Watchers"[TNG] that a 4.2 gigawatt reactor can power a subspace relay station."

If a subspace relay station, which transmits messages [for the Federation communications network backbone, no less- Ed], only has a 4.2 gigawatt reactor, it would be astonishing if the Enterprise required a terawatt of power for its communications equipment, but it would also be astonishing if the Enterprise needed more than ten or fifteen gigawatts for its communications equipment. Since Riker is talking about terawatts, in this instance, it would be unlikely that he would point out that the ship's communications equipment requires such power, and still less likely because Riker never says, "communication" during the entire exchange.

In "Booby Trap" [TNG], we learn something else about ST impulse engines. The plasma exhaust of the Enterprise is clearly only briefly visible, despite its well-documented appearance as the ship moves at impulse. This indicates that very little power is required to move the ship quickly forward, because plasma is generally very visible and advertises its presence. This indicates that the ship is ejecting very little plasma. In "Booby Trap," however, we learn that just three hours will completely deplete the energy reserves of the ship, even with the engines merely idling. This represents very small energy reserves, and demonstrates that the ship's engines require a considerable amount of power.

Additionally, in "Final Mission" [TNG], we further learn that mere back-up fusion reactors can make a significant difference to the ship, while it is towing another vessel. Since there are some significant restrictions on the size of fusion reactors, and since there are thus limitations on the output of the fusion reactors, this places an upper limit on the power generation abilities of the entire GCS.

The most important fallacy that Anderson uses is a simple misrepresentation. He takes the quote and makes claims about it that are most clearly dishonest and display an astonishingly weak double-standard. Essentially, Mr. Anderson is claiming that Data mistook the word "watt" to mean "joules" when he made his quote. Anderson thus believes Data meant to say something to the effect of "Imagination is not necessary; the scale is readily quantifiable. We are presently generating 12.75 billion gigajoules per- "

Anderson then goes on to explain that the only possible continuation of the sentence is if Data were about to specify a time limit. As he puts it, a time:

"is the only continuation of the sentence that makes sense (or, more correctly, "comes close to making sense") in the context."

Anderson then goes on to explain away the most telling criticism of his work (that Data could have been measuring the efficiency of the warp core) by assuming that Data knew what he was talking about when he said "watt," and that by "watt" he meant a unit of power. If Data were, as Mr. Anderson claims, referring to joules when he incorrectly used the term watt, we find that a measure of the efficiency of the warp core is readily measurable. Data could have been trying to say something to the effect of "Imagination is not necessary; the scale is readily quantifiable. We are currently generating 12.75 billion gigajoules per 200 kilograms of antimatter." Contrary to Mr. Anderson's position, such a statement would make perfect sense if Data had actually been speaking in terms of joules when he said watts. Mr. Anderson thus employs a double standard: assuming that Data meant joules so that he could come up with a power generation figure, but then dismissing this as a possibility so that he could eliminate the quote's potential to describe warp core efficiency.

Using his red-herring to claim that Data actually meant "joule" when he said "watt," Anderson was able to dismiss the possibility of the Enterprise producing such power, but this is based on a completely dishonest basis. This is clearly an intentional attempt to increase the power generation abilities of the Enterprise beyond the ones described in other episodes, and should not be taken seriously.

[Editor's note: RSA defends his bizarre translation from "our entire ship" to "our entire comm system" by saying:

This allows us to fit the "Dauphin" quote into the numerous other examples, and not simply throw it away in light of the preponderance of evidence. It also provides a better solution than throwing away the preponderance of evidence in favor of a single quote.

Notice the false dilemma fallacy: why does he assume the only two possibilities are his absurd word substitution and having to discard either the quote or the rest of the evidence? In an automobile, its engine may generate 300 horsepower but only a miniscule fraction of that is available in the form of electricity from its alternator. Why can't we simply reconcile these figures by saying (as I did on my page several years before he wrote his) that most of the ship's power goes to propulsion, and cannot be directly harnessed for any other powered system? One of the most common Trekkie tricks (which RSA is by no means the only perpetrator of) is to pretend that various competing pieces of evidence are totally irreconcilable, and then try to make you seem unreasonable for trying to incorporate them all]

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