Star Trek: Special Technology

Transporters | Replicators | The Genesis Device | Cloaking Devices | Holodecks
Self-replicating Mines | Hunter/Killer Drones | Data | Materials | Subspace Technology

Written: 1998.10.04
Last Revised: 1999.09.19



Transporters

A Federation transporter room, where they regularly disintegrate themselves as a sacrifice to their evil governmentFederation transporters disassemble inanimate objects or living beings into their constituent subatomic particles, translate those particles through space to a destination up to 40,000km away, and reassemble them into a facsimile of the original. The working mechanisms of transporters are described in the TM, but they are not particularly important or interesting. We are more interested in the tactical and philosophical consequences and limitations of transporters:

Transporter technology may be incorporated into the Genesis Device. The similarities are striking: both technologies rearrange matter at the subatomic level, both technologies are capable of manipulating matter many thousands of kilometres away, and both technologies are capable of quickly translating matter from one place to another. The ramifications of these similarities are briefly discussed in our analysis of the Genesis Device.

In conclusion, transporters are a horrifying example of the ruthlessness of the Federation, and its willingness to disregard the issue of continuity of existence and consciousness, in favour of expediency. Some claim that the Empire is ruthless, but we do not expect our soldiers to willingly destroy themselves as raw fuel for a cloning process! The Federation is a plague upon their galaxy, and must be eliminated to free their people from horrors like the transporter.


Replicators

Replicators are a low-resolution version of transporters, which transport raw materials from storage through "waveguides" (ref. TM) to "replication terminals" where the raw material is reorganized at the molecular level into a new form based on stored data. This means that replicators can reconfigure existing elements into new molecular compounds and perform rapid-prototyping by rapidly assembling those molecules into programmed configurations. However, replicators cannot change one element into another. The TM supports this theory by stating on page 91: "While transporters (which operate in realtime) recreate objects at quantum-level resolution suitable for life-forms, replicators store and re-create objects at the much simpler molecular-level resolution, which is not suitable for living beings." Many Federation cultists claim that replicators can cheaply manipulate matter at the subatomic level to achieve elemental transmutation, but this can be shown to be untrue:

  1. Latinum is a highly valuable substance, as seen in DS9. Obviously, it would not be valuable if anyone could replicate arbitrary amounts of it at will. Therefore, the energy costs of latinum replication must be so high that it is actually cheaper to physically mine and refine the material. In fact, it may not be possible at all, because otherwise, Quark would probably have attempted to tap into DS9's station power to obtain the necessary energy.

  2. Quark once stated that gold is still valuable (ref. Little Green Men), although not as valuable as latinum. Again, Quark would simply replicate large amounts of gold if it were feasible for him to do so.

  3. The USS Voyager is constantly searching for sources of energy, including deuterium. If replicators could arbitrarily transmute any element into any other element without exorbitant energy costs, they would be able to manufacture huge amounts of deuterium by extracting any random substance from any planet or nebula. Instead, they had to search for planets where deuterium could be found naturally, as seen in Demon.

The above examples also disprove another long-standing but erroneous Federation cultist claim, which is that Federation replicators manufacture objects out of pure energy rather than re-organizing existing matter. If they did, there would be no reason for specific elements to be difficult or impossible to repliacte (since the cost of transforming pure energy into matter will not be related to the type of element). Therefore, it is most likely that replicators manipulate matter at the molecular level to reorganize existing (or supplied) elements into new materials. For instance, food products can be manufactured out of the "raw food stock" (TM pg. 153) which is used as raw material for Federation food replicators. This food stock must contain all of the elements commonly found in food. If the replicator is supplied with more exotic elements, it could theoretically be used to manufacture items like weapons and starship parts. However, a replicator cannot economically create tantalum carbide (for example) unless it has a supply of tantalum to work with. This explains the following phenomena:

  1. Replicators cannot create latinum. Since a replicator would need latinum to create latinum, such an operation would be pointless. A replicator would only be useful for changing the shape of a latinum bar (eg. creating a sculpture without having to do all the work, although true artists would undoubtedly be quite offended at the idea of replicated sculptures).

  2. Starships need to return to port for certain critical components. Those critical components undoubtedly contain numerous exotic materials which are not normally carried aboard a starship as replication supplies.

Replicators have very limited military applications. To date, the only known military application is the cloaked, self-replicating minefield seen in A Call to Arms. Since we can detect cloaked objects with CGT sensors, there are a few ways to deal with such a minefield. These methods would include a single massive weapon discharge, huge tractor beams to move the mines en masse, rapid-fire destruction of the mines faster than they can self-replicate, or massive stasis fields to halt the self-replication procedure. However, sometimes old-fashioned tactics are still the best tactics; forcing prisoners into remote-controlled fighters and sending them into the minefield would be an effective way to wring control codes out of the enemy, and shut down the field with minimal effort and expense.

An important question then arises: since replicators consume large amounts of energy and still require a supply of raw material to synthesize anything, why are they useful at all? The answer lies in the Federation obsession with consumer convenience. Although it is more efficient to simply store food rations (as evidenced by the USS Defiant, which carries food rations rather than replication equipment), replicators allow a ship to convert "raw foodstock" (ref. TM) into a wide variety of palate-pleasing foods (several thousand menu selections, according to the TM). There is no cargo-capacity benefit to replicators since normal food or food rations take up no more room than "raw foodstock", unless one wishes to store such a wide variety of foods that thousands of menu items can be accomodated. Such a large variety of foods would require either a large vessel (like a Star Destroyer) or a replicator, and the Federation insists on providing a gourmet menu on even its smallest ships. There is no economic benefit, because normal food or food rations can be obtained as cheaply as "raw foodstock" which must be carefully mixed so that it has all of the ingredients necessary for replicator operations. And finally, there is no military benefit since the energy costs of refridgeration are insignificant compared to the energy costs of food replication (modern thermal isolation techniques make the energy cost of refridgeration negligible compared to the normal operation of a starship). Therefore, food replicators are only useful if one wishes to provide a large menu selection on a small starship. This may be considered an important priority for the consumer-driven Federation, but we have no need for such devices.

In conclusion, replicators are interesting toys but we have no use for them. They represent a typically wasteful Federation compromise between military efficiency and consumer convenience, perhaps also influenced by the small size of their ships. Well-trained soldiers do not need thousands of menu selections to operate at peak efficiency, and large starships such as Star Destroyers can easily carry a wide variety of foods without having to resort to the manufacture of synthetic foods from "raw foodstock." Luxury liners will also have no use for replicators, since replicated food is always noticeably inferior to real food due to "single-bit errors" (ref. TM pg. 154). Furthermore, luxury liners tend to be quite large (usually at least 1 kilometre long), and spacious, so that the storage of a varied food selection is not a problem. As an emergency food supply device, replicators are similarly useless because they need food to create food- a classic Catch-22 for supply-starved outposts. As a component-fabrication device, replicators are potentially useful but no more so than Imperial duplicators, which reconfigure matter at the molecular level and can be used for duplicating objects like weapons, machine components, etc. providing that the necessary raw materials are supplied (ref. Han Solo and the Lost Legacy).


The Genesis Device

The Genesis Device, just prior to its detonationThe Genesis Device was designed and built by Doctors Carol and David Marcus on the Regula One space station during the TOS film era. It was a small cylindrical torpedo that was designed to rapidly terraform planets. Although the actual elapsed time is unknown, the Genesis Device is known to work fairly quickly- various scene-changes complicate the process of estimating elapsed time during ST2, but the duration could not have been more than an hour or so. It uses proto-matter (unknown Federation technical term, possibly similar to hypermatter) to transform matter at the subatomic level. The device is most likely based on a combination of localized time-compression and a large-scale application of transporter technology. Using this combination of technology, the Genesis Device can rapidly terraform planets into any desired configuration. During ST2 it also displayed an unexpected ability: the ability to gather a planetary mass from the matter in a diffuse nebula.

The device detonated in the Mutara Nebula (located in the Regula system, just beyond the orbit of the planet which supported the Regula One space station, reachable within 5 minutes at sublight velocities). It gathered a planetary mass from the nebula, and accelerated the gravitic process of collapse so that the matter quickly collapsed into a planetary configuration. This may have been an inverse time-dilation effect, which locally accelerated time to facilitate the planetary collapse (this may have been part of the original Genesis Device design, to speed up what might otherwise have been a long slow transformation process). Its ability to collect nebular matter into a planetary configuration would therefore be an unexpected but welcome side-effect of this feature.

It has been claimed by Federation cultists that the Genesis Device required hypernova-level energy to collapse the planet, but this is simply not so. These bizarre claims (and their inherent problems) are described on the science page. Suffice it to say that the collapse of a nebula into a planetary mass represents a net gravitational potential energy loss, rather than an energy gain. Therefore, no energy is required from the Genesis Device and its energy requirement is zero. In fact, the process will result in large amounts of excess energy. This may offend some Federation cultists' sensibilities, but it is a simple application of energy balances and the First Law of Thermodynamics.

To use an analogy, what is the energy requirement for freezing water into ice? There is, of course, no energy required to freeze water since ice has a lower thermal energy state than liquid water. Similarly, there is no energy requirement for collapsing a nebula into a planet because the planet has a lower gravitational potential energy than the nebula. Federation cultists claim that because the process occured in an unnaturally short time-frame, millions of supernovae worth of energy were required. However, this doesn't make any logical or scientific sense since all of this energy would have had to spontaneously disappear when the process was complete. Otherwise, this energy would have to be released into the environment, where it would devastate the entire sector. A time-dilation effect is a much better explanation, and the frozen-water analogy is also applicable: if someone found a way to freeze water at an unnaturally rapid rate, would one assume that vast amounts of energy are pumped into the water? Of course not; that would boil the water rather than freezing it.

In conclusion, the Genesis Device is a fascinating piece of technology which is able to rapidly terraform planets with little or no energy requirement. However, it will probably have no effect on a shielded ship or planet; the time-compressed gravitic collapse was only seen once, and it was only used on an unshielded natural phenomenon (the Mutara Nebula). The Enterprise fled the scene, but it was also unshielded. The only other example of Federation subatomic matter-manipulation technology is the transporter, and transporters are known to be useless through shields. Therefore, the Genesis Device has no significant military applications against our planets. However, it would be a devastating strategic weapon in Federation space since they do not possess our planetary shielding technology. Acquisition of the Genesis Device would be useful to us primarily for economic reasons: although the Old Republic terraformed at least five planets to duplicate the configurations of other planets during its reign (ref. Spectre of the Past), it was a very expensive process. The Empire also created several artificial planets called "worldcraft" (ref. Crystal Star). Again, this was a time-consuming and expensive process. The Genesis Device would potentially make this process much more quick and economical, but there are three problems:

  1. The technology may be "lost". The only prototype was destroyed, the design data was wiped from the Regula One space station's computers, only two scientists survived from the entire research team, one of those survivors was killed shortly afterwards, and the only information known to be in Federation hands is a useless briefing video.

  2. The Genesis Device didn't work. It created a planet but the planet was highly unstable and quickly became uninhabitable. Our scientists are unsure as to whether we would be able to solve these problems once we had possession of the technology.

  3. Earth is the first target of our war campaign, and if the Federation does possess any information it will undoubtedly be lost when Earth is destroyed. Their infrastructure is highly centralized around Earth. The Sol system contains Starfleet Headquarters, the Federation's political capital, Starfleet Academy, and the Federation's most prominent shipyards. It is highly likely that the vast majority of their scientific libraries, archives, and restricted or secret technologies are also warehoused on Earth.


Cloaking Devices

The Federation has, at present, two types of cloaking devices available to it: the Romulan cloaking device and its own top-secret phasing cloak. They will be discussed separately:

The Romulan cloaking device

The Romulan cloaking device has been seen repeatedly from TOS through to the current time. It seems to be based on stealth concepts since all cloaked starships must adopt "silent running" tactics to keep their emissions from revealing their location. Although some Federation cultists claim that it functions by warping space to such an extent that light passes around the ship in the same manner as our own cloaking devices, this is obviously not true for the following reasons:
  1. A woman was able to walk up and actually touch a cloaked vessel in ST4 without any ill effects, which would have been impossible if the vessel were surrounded with a massive gravitic spatial distortion.
  2. The interior of a cloaked ship can be seen through an open hatch (again, in ST4). Again, if the ship were surrounded by a massive spatial distortion field, then nothing would be visible through the hatch even if it were open.
  3. They can still detect EM radiation and other forms of sensor data. If the cloak is a massive spatial distortion, it will indiscriminately prevent all incoming EM radiation (regardless of frequency) from striking the vessel. If it doesn't strike the vessel, the vessel's sensors will never see it and the ship will be blind. However, they can still see when cloaked, so the cloak obviously allows visible light in (and probably, everything else as well). This strongly suggests that the Romulan cloaking effect is based on a form of simulated transparency rather than a massive gravitic field.
  4. The ship is unshielded when its cloak is active. This means that energy weapons and torpedoes will strike the vessel unabated. If the cloak employed a massive spatial distortion, it would deflect weapons away as effectively as any shield.
In conclusion, the only important aspect of Romulan cloaks is that cloaked vessels are highly vulnerable to energy and matter-based weapons. Therefore, the Romulan cloak will be totally useless to the Federation even if the Romulans allow them free usage of the technology. As long as they remain cloaked we can still detect them with CGT sensors, but they are bereft of shields and weapons so they can be easily destroyed.

The Federation phase-cloak

The top-secret Federation phasing cloak was first seen in Pegasus, when the only prototype was retrieved from a disabled starship trapped in an asteroid. It appears to render a starship transparent to both matter and energy, so that it can pass through solid objects. Supposedly, the ship goes "out of phase" with the universe, although this claim is somewhat nonsensical since phase variances are only applicable when frequencies are exactly matched, and the various combinations of matter and energy in the universe all have differing characteristic frequencies.
Its actual operating mechanisms aren't important, and we know very little about its strengths and weaknesses. A phase-cloaked ship is immune to weapons while cloaked since they simply pass through it (and conversely, its weapons will pass harmlessly through another vessel), and it can pass through normal matter but we don't know what effect super-dense matter (eg. neutronium) would have, nor do we know what effect shields would have. It is most likely that phase-cloaked vessels will not be able to pass through super-dense matter or shields. Lieutenant-commander Geordi Laforge and Ensign Ro Laren were inadvertently phase-cloaked in The Next Phase and they were still affected by the ship's artificial gravity, with no noticeable change in the strength of that gravity. This means that the gravitic effects of super-dense matter or shields will affect phase-cloaked ships just as they affect normal ships. Furthermore, Ro and Laforge were still able to breathe the air, indicating that chemical reactions can occur between phase-cloaked and non-phase-cloaked entities. Therefore, the Enterprise-D must have been able to pass through the asteroid mass in Pegasus not because its phase cloak rendered it completely non-interactive with the rock, but because the rock was relatively inert, chemically speaking.
Phase-cloaked ships can still be detected by our sensors: if phase-cloaked entities are still affected by gravity, then they must still generate gravity. This means they can be detected with CGT sensors, just like Romulan-cloaked ships. However, energy weapons like turbolasers and ion cannons will probably be useless against a phase-cloaked vessel, since phasers are known to have no interaction with out-of-phase objects as seen in The Next Phase. Although energy weapons may not be useful against a phase-cloaked ship, there may be other avenues of attack: since The Next Phase demonstrated that chemical reactions are still possible between cloaked and non-cloaked objects, a cloud of nerve gas may be lethal to the inhabitants of a phase-cloaked ship. It may in fact be stunningly effective, since the gas would quickly pass through every deck and compartment in the entire vessel thanks to the phase-cloaking effect.
In conclusion, the Federation phase-cloak is an interesting piece of technology since it allows passage through solid objects. However, it has limited military usefulness since phase-cloaked ships can still be affected by gravity, and their position can be given away through gravity. Furthermore, it may be possible to attack phase-cloaked ships (or more importantly, their crew) by firing nerve-gas torpedoes (set to detonate where the CGT sensors detect the ship). This may be a moot point; although they currently possess a working prototype, it is their only prototype and no further study has been conducted on it. It is stored at Earth, and since Earth is the first target of our war campaign, it will most likely be destroyed within the first 24 hours of a war.

Holodecks

The Federation holodeck is an energy-intensive entertainment facility which is installed on most combat vessels. The logic of putting energy-intensive entertainment facilities on military starships is incomprehensible, but the Federation has a long-standing history of deliberately sacrificing military efficiency in the name of luxury and convenience. According to the TM, holodecks have two primary components:

  1. Replicated matter: replicators manufacture physical objects inside the holodeck, which can be carried around, touched, thrown, or even carried outside the holodeck (as seen when children aboard the Enterprise-D threw snow into the hallway outside the holodeck). This is highly energy-intensive, and is only used for objects which the user is likely to carry outside the holodeck, based on computer projections and past behaviour. A good example would be food, which is ingested by the user and carried outside the holodeck in partially-digested form.

  2. Forcefield-assisted holographic images: the system uses forcefields to simulate tactile sensations and solidity in holographic objects. These objects cannot be eaten or carried outside the holodeck, but they can be felt, and they can even be dangerous if the holodeck's safety interlocks are disabled. As Captain Picard noted in ST:FC, "even a holographic bullet can kill."

It is noteworthy that holodecks are very similar to Lando Calrissian's "Hologram Fun World" amusement park, and the hologram "adventure rooms" on the Coral Vanda undersea casino ship. Those adventure rooms use "a combination of holographic generators, tactile arrays, and olfactory emitters to create a stunningly realistic simulation" (ref. SWEGVV), which essentially means that they are functionally identical to the holographic portion of a holodeck system. However, while both technologies create an environment where the user can see, touch, hear, and smell the simulated environment, the Federation holodeck can potentially create a superior experience because of the replicated-matter system which augments its holographic system. Those replicated objects can be eaten or carried away from the facility.

However, the replication-portion of the Federation holodeck is highly energy-intensive, so much so that holodecks are routinely declared off-limits under high-load or low-fuel conditions, even on the Federation's most powerful starships. It is typical of the Federation that they would expend unreasonable amounts of energy, even on a military starship, to marginally increase the sensory experience of an entertainment facility. We see no particular military benefit in obtaining this technology, but some of our local luxury resort operators may be interested in the replicator-based half of holodeck technology for their decadent operations.


Self-Replicating Mines

During the Dominion War, the Federation Starfleet engineering group on Deep Space Nine devised an ingenious method for blocking Dominion access to the Alpha Quadrant of the Milky Way galaxy. The Dominion's pitiful warp-drive technology kept them from being able to simply travel directly to the Alpha Quadrant, so they had to travel through the Bajoran wormhole.

To stop Jem'Hadar incursions, the crew of DS9 built a series of mines which were capable of replicating replacements, by using the replication technology described previously on this page. Of course, the obvious problem with this system is the need to come up with raw material for new mines, since we know that replication requires suitable raw material to work with. To solve this problem, the crew of DS9 engineered a new class of mine. Perhaps it would be best to simply quote the DS9 TM and its description of this technology:

"The basic shell of the mine is adapted from an octagonal duranium cargo container 1.76 meters across and 1.85 meters tall, and outfitted with off-the-shelf equipment for detonation, station keeping, and replication for filling in gaps in the wormhole perimeter. The explosive system consists of a stripped-down standard photon torpedo warhead and includes only the central combiner tank into which the cryogenic deuterium and antideuterium have been premixed, but kept separated by a long-term toroidal magnetic field driver. The contact and proximity sensors would command the driver to collapse the field, allowing the matter and antimatter to detonate. Complete fusing of the mine envelope was delayed until the entire shell was in place, in order to prevent warhead fratricide."
"Station-keeping thrusters were cannibalized from a class-1 instrumented probe and connected to a single cold-gas nitrogen pressure tank. Modulation of the warhead magnetic field was also used to keep the mines aligned within a four-frequency icosahedron geodesic sphere. A neutrino source counter was incorporated into the sensor package to keep the mines at a uniform distance from the wormhole opening."
"The replicator system was designed to accomodate a swarm detonation of up to twenty mines and still maintain the total shell. The replicator was a kludge of Cardassian and Starfleet types and included a raw-matter supply container able to contribute enough mass to build one sixty-fifth of a complete mine. Mass for any one new mine was transported through the replicator's subspace emitters from as many mines away as was necessary, in a bucket-brigade system. As distributed over the entire shell, enough mass was stored to replace over 2,500 mines. In the event the mass supply dwindled below 85 percent, the replicator sections were designed to extract particles from the zero-point vacuum domain to replenish the system. The threshold was set deliberately high because of the long lead time required to produce small numbers of particle pairs."

As can be seen from the above information, although the self-replicating mine is an interesting piece of technology, it is hardly limitless. Some Federation cultists have taken to claiming that we would be unable to penetrate such a minefield, but it is clear from the above text that a swarm detonation of only 20 mines is sufficient to open a breach in the minefield, and that the destruction of only 2,500 mines would be enough to overcome the minefield's replication capabilities. The glacial pace of ZPE-sourced particle replenishment would not prevent the inevitable destruction of the minefield with CGT-assisted targeting. We estimate that a single CGT-equipped Star Destroyer would be capable of destroying over 2,500 mines in as little as 8.5 minutes, particularly since they are completely immobile and therefore easy to destroy once they are identified with the CGT sensors.


Hunter/Killer Drones

Although early information is somewhat sketchy, it appears that some new Federation anti-personnel weapons have surfaced in Star Trek: Insurrection. These drones appear to be small devices, smaller than a typical human torso. They seem to use anti-gravity drive systems and incorporate an unusual technique: they fire a tracer which allows remote transporter systems to lock onto human targets and transport them away. Strangely enough, the transport process associated with these drones is much faster than the normal transport process, which involves several seconds of shimmering and strange sounds.

The maneuverability and targeting capabilities of these weapons are unknown, although it can be seen from the brief combat scenes in STI that they are no faster than 20th century Earth aircraft. They are interesting devices; presumably, a light phaser could be fitted to one of these drones so that it could function as an independent air-mobile attack platform. However, their vast bulk (in comparison with Imperial Arakyd Seeker drones) indicates that the Federation has not yet achieved miniaturization levels on par with Imperial technology.


Data

Lieutenant-Commander Data is the pre-eminent example of artificial intelligence in the Federation. He has sentience, emotions (as of STG), high-speed computational capabilities, and extensive data storage capacity which allows him to duplicate much of the functionality of a full-fledged starship computer. It is commonly believed that Data is the only example of a sentient Federation computer, but this is absolutely untrue:

  1. In The Ultimate Computer, the artificial-intelligence starship control system known as M-5 was imbued with its creators's intelligence, sentience, and psychological neuroses. This represents the first known example of a sentient Federation computer.

  2. The Enterprise-D computer created a sentient hologram under the guide of Dr. Moriarty, which promptly seized control of the entire ship and held the ship's crew and captain hostage to its demands for freedom. The creature eventually agreed to a negotiated settlement.

This proves that Data was not unique in possessing artificial sentience. So why was he regarded as being so unusual? Why was Starfleet Command so eager to study his positronic brain, and why has no one ever been able to duplicate the feat except for his own late creator? The answer is that Data may not possess exceptional capabilities, but he represents exceptional miniaturization. Although the Enterprise-D computer can equal and exceed his capabilities in every area, it is vastly larger than his brain.

It goes without saying that since we have had sentient androids for thousands of years with highly miniaturized brains, our achievements in artificial intelligence and miniaturization of computer equipment exceed the Federation's best efforts. Data is, to this point, their only example of a truly sentient, compact computer.

Interestingly enough, Data disproves another Federation cultist misconception, relating to the Borg. In STFC, Data was captured by the Borg, who were unable to assimilate him with their technology. Instead, their queen had to debase herself by attempting to seduce him sexually- a rather pathetic and snivelling display, when the only prize is the acquisition of compact AI technology that we routinely use in such diverse locales as family farms and garbage recycling operations. The Borg failure to assimilate Data indicates that Data is unusually advanced by the standards of the Federation galaxy, and that the capabilities of Borg assimilation technology have been greatly exaggerated by Federation cultists.


Materials Science

Much has been made of the Federation's special materials. The list of unusual Federation materials is seemingly endless: duranium, tritanium, verterium, isotolinium, dilithium, tricobalt, gesselium, terminium, rodinium, anodium, sarium, toranium, uridium, and many others.

None of these materials are to be found on the 20th century periodic table of the elements, so Federation cultists inevitably assume that they must be extremely high-atomic-number elements, with atomic numbers in excess of 102. Furthermore, since such massive elements are invariably unstable, the existence of such materials is often claimed by Federation cultists as evidence that the Federation has developed some sort of artificial stabilization technology.

However, the DS9 TM states quite clearly on pg. 6 that in spite of past Cardassian depredations, "remaining geological strata containing uridium, duranium, rodinium, and other valuable ores have been analyzed and catalogued for further extraction and refining" on the surface of Bajor. Not only do these amazing unstable ultra-transuranic elements supposedly stabilize under the influence of Federation technology, but they appear to be naturally abundant in the crust of Bajor, Cardassia, and presumably many other worlds! Simply put, this is impossible. There is no way that ultra-transuranic elements like this could possibly form in nature because the energy state of atomic nuclei progressively increases as we move away from the most stable element, which is iron. Remember that everything in the universe naturally tends to move from higher energy states to lower energy states, and you will understand why fusion can only occur with elements below iron, and fission can only occur with elements above iron. Furthermore, it will be obvious that as you move higher and higher on the atomic number scale, the elements will become less and less stable. Elements with atomic numbers above 100 typically have half-lives of 10 minutes or less, and yet such elements are supposedly abundant in planetary crusts which are billions of years old!

If Federation cultists cling to the notion that all of these elements are ultra-transuranic, they are merely betraying their refusal to acknowledge the laws of thermodynamics and nuclear physics. If Federation starfleet officers claim to be scanning and extracting naturally occuring ores of elements with ultra-transuranic atomic numbers (as they do in "Voyager"), they are merely adding to their litany of scientific errors (such as routinely confusing units of energy and power, or thinking that a black hole's event horizon is a solid object rather than a mathematically defined radius) and demonstrating that their scanning equipment leaves much to be desired.

So if these elements are not found in the 20th century periodic table and they are not ultra-transuranic elements, then what are they? Do we accept that the Federation uses miracle elements which possesss hundreds of times the thermal toughness of any real element, exist in stable form despite their unacceptably high nuclear energy state, and have existed naturally on the surfaces of Bajor and Cardassia for billions of years? Do we therefore conclude that the fundamental laws of atomic stability are different in the Federation galaxy? Or do we conclude that these elements must actually be elements which exist within the 20th century periodic table of the elements, and which have been renamed? Of the two theories (fundamentally different laws of atomic stability and a revamped periodic table), the second theory is by far the simpler theory. It is also the more logical theory.

There is much evidence to support this conclusion: a useful isotope of duranium is duranium-235 according to the TM. A useful isotope of uranium is also uranium-235. Therefore, it is highly likely that duranium is actually uranium; many Federation element names are just bi- and tri- prefixes attached to real element names (eg. dilithium, tricobalt, etc., which is extremely odd since lithium and cobalt are both metals and do not form exclusive covalent or ionic bonds as one would expect for a di- or tri- prefixed molecular compound), so tritanium and duranium are probably titanium and uranium. This situation seems strange, but it should be remembered that the Federation homeworld endured a period of severe social, technological, economic, and political upheaval during its late 20th century and early 21st century. During that brief period, the Federation homeworld went through the Eugenics wars, World War 3, and first contact with the Vulcans. It is hardly inconceivable that they might have adopted or modified certain element naming conventions to suit their new Vulcan associates, who must have seemed like saviours from the sky to the fractured, disorganized survivors of their last World War.

The Federation Technical Manual indicates that the 7.2 TJ energy release from the overload of a small hand phaser is sufficient to vapourize three cubic metres of tritanium. We know the material characteristics of titanium, which would seem to be the most likely candidate for "tritanium". Its latent heat of alpha-beta phase transition is roughly 83 kJ/kg (@1155K), its latent heat of fusion is roughly 402 kJ/kg (@2000K), and its latent heat of evaporation is roughly 8.83 MJ/kg (@3550K). Its density is roughly 4500 kg/m³. Its alpha-phase specific heat is roughly 460 J/(kg·K), its beta-phase specific heat is roughly 655 J/(kg·K), and its liquid-phase specific heat is roughly 680 J/(kg·K). This means it would take roughly 11.3 MJ to raise a single kilogram of titanium from room temperature to vapour state, and 0.15 TJ to vapourize three cubic metres. This is only one fiftieth of the energy that is supposedly required to vapourize tritanium, which raises the question of what tritanium actually is, and what assumptions are inherent in the 7.2 TJ figure. The problem with this situation is threefold:

  1. The battery-cell storage figure in the TM is obviously exaggerated: based on the hand phaser output figures given in the TM (0.01MW) and "The Mind's Eye" (1.05MW) as well as the battery-cell figure for Cardassian hand phasers given in "Return to Grace" (4.7MJ), the 7.2TJ figure is obviously too high (it amounts to a small tactical nuclear warhead, which is not what we saw when Roga Danar overloaded one).

  2. There may be numerous process inefficiencies factored into the statement. A real-life localized point-release of radiation will direct most of its energy away from an adjacent block of tritanium. Whatever energy does travel directly toward the tritanium may not be in the optimum form for radiative energy transfer, and there will be a strong ablative effect from the surface layers of the tritanium forming a vapour cloud as they billow off the surface of the metal. This could easily account for the 50x difference between the TM's claims of tritanium thermal toughness and the true thermal toughness of titanium.

  3. Real materials simply do not possess such high thermal toughness values. This is because the thermodynamic concept of temperature is in fact a macroscopic rationalization of the microscopic phenomenon of average nuclear kinetic energy. Furthermore, in ideal gases temperature is a function of the number of nuclei rather than the size of nuclei, which explains why the highest known specific heat (13,600 J/kg·K) occurs in hydrogen, the lightest element. Very high atomic-number elements tend to have rather low specific heats, and correspondingly low volume-specific vapourization energies in spite of their high densities. For any stable element to possess 7.2 TJ in a mere 3 cubic metres, its individual atoms would need to possess such high nuclear kinetic energy that they would have to be gases (they would be moving too quickly to be encased in a solid or liquid form). Contrary to popular belief, this situation cannot be rectified through forcefields or gravimetric fields or any other such technobabble; at sufficiently high temperatures, materials shift to gaseous state regardless of pressure. For example, the core of the sun is gaseous in spite of the enormous pressures and densities therein.

In conclusion, the erroneous claims of the TM (refuted clearly in the canon episodes "The Mind's Eye" and "Return to Grace") have been used by Federation cultists to buttress their claims of superior materials science technology, to the point that they are ludicrously claiming that their materials defy the known laws of thermodynamics as well as nuclear physics by remaining in solid or liquid form even when they have too much nuclear kinetic energy to do so, and by existing in stable form, naturally! It is quite typical of Federation cultists that they eagerly discard all of the weapon and shield power figures from the TM in favour of canon evidence (which we also do in order to be conservative) but they cling to the obviously erroneous material-toughness implications like drowning men hanging onto flotsam in a storm (note that they are not explicit figures, but implications, since the TM never actually states specific heats or boiling points). The fact that the resulting figures bear no resemblance to the known laws of thermodynamics or physics does not deter them, but many Federation cultists are reluctant to acknowledge the applicability of any scientific principles to their technology. Presumably, they have decided to ignore the words of their own Montgomery Scott:

"I canna change the laws of physics, Captain!"

Subspace Technology

Almost all Federation technology is based on subspace technology. Everything from their computers to their propulsion system is based on subspace fields. Subspace, as defined by Federation engineers, appears to have virtually infinite numbers of "domains", and indeed, it may simply be a catchall term in the Federation for all extradimensional phenomena. However, there does appear to be a particular realm of subspace upon which all of their technology is based, and the nature of this realm of subspace was revealed in the Praxis explosion seen in ST6.

This explosion demonstrated that subspace technology is both a great strength and asset of Federation ships, as explained in the Praxis mystery discussion page.


Acknowledgements



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