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Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

Posted December 12, 2012 10:04 AM

From mental_floss:

By now, you've probably seen the new trailer for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, which features a stunning shot of the Enterprise rising up out of a body of water. According to journalists who have seen the first nine minutes of the film, the Enterprise is purposefully hiding there. Only one problem, though: It could never happen.Raymond Wagner, who has a PhD in electrical engineering and works in the space industry, told Badass Digest going underwater is the kind of thing that simply wouldn't be built into the capabilities of the spaceship. "Like most spacecraft, the Enterprise is designed to keep between one and several atmospheres of pressure in, while the ship itself is exposed to the vacuum of space," Wagner says. "This is a very different job than keeping out the pressure from tons of sea water over your head." For every 33 feet the ship descends into the body of water, Wagner says, the pressure would increase by one atmosphere, "and it won't take much depth to generate some crazy pressures!" And that's just one reason why having the Enterprise hang out underwater doesn't make sense.Devin Faraci, who wrote the article and expressed displeasure about the scene on Twitter, obviously understands that filmmakers often stretch or fudge science in service of the storyâ€"as is their right, to make a more compelling movie. Still, he says, Star Trek has been an inspiration to scientistsâ€"and in fact has inspired many areas of modern scienceâ€"since it debuted in the 1960s. But Abrams' films seem to be more fantasy than sci-fi, and that's an issue. "In a modern age where space exploration is being devalued and huge numbers of Americans still believe in Creationism, Star Trek's aspirational, human-level, technology-centered philosophy is more important than ever," Faraci writes. "I want the new Star Trek franchise to inspire the next generation of engineers and explorers. Instead it seems that JJ Abrams has taken the franchise into the Star Wars space fantasy direction, where characters misuse words like 'parsecs' and where basic physics are thrown out the window. … Star Trek should be scifi… and science is just as important as fiction in that portmanteau. "I tend to agree with Faraci on this one. What do you guys think?

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#1

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 10:51 AM

Scotty, divert all power to the Structural Integrity Field and the Shields!!!!!

Ah cannah due et captain, we doont hae' the powah!!!

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#2

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 11:01 AM

As an engineering structure, the Enterprise needs to be large and of minimal weight for its size, which might at least make it buoyant; it would probably float if it were strong enough. Isn't that why it is called a space-ship and not a space-sub?

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#3

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 11:38 AM

I saw the top level statement of work for the Starship Enterprise and he is wrong.

The whole outer hull is permeated by a force field that gives the Enterprise its structural shape and protects it from impacts and maintains the ship's integrity.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 12:55 PM

Just let some of the air out.

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#16
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:22 AM

gotta love it!

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 1:12 PM

My understanding of the Enterprise (or at least the later Galaxy class ones, -D and on wards) was that the windows were only force fields and not solid (main reference of the top of my head was the Movie First Contact, but I am sure it came up in the series too).

This then brings us to the real discussion, would the forcefield technology expressed in the Star Trek universe be capable of repelling water exerting a slow constant force on the vessel. I don't believe it ever came up in any of the episodes, movies or books and current electromagnetic field theory says no.

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#6
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 1:24 PM

Well, it is all science fiction, so whatever you want it to be aligns perfectly with the fiction portion of that. :)

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 1:45 PM

I was thinking more along the lines of the grey area between science fiction and theoretically proven or achieved science fact.

For example.

There may be some wiggle room between artistic interpretation and possibility.

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 1:55 PM

Amendement.....

It did come up many times with regard to pressure exerted on the hull (in a vacuum or atmosphere due to gravity, explosion, shock wave, etc) but this was countered mostly with the line "structural integrity field" which by my understanding was some sort of field acting directly on the structure and hull to increase its strength and separate from the main force field which didn't really stop the forces.

Of course even if the water pressure was ignored, could simple chemical thruster technology (which I think is what the vessels still used for basic lift and simple maneuvering) lift such a submerged mass in a planets gravity field.

I would say no based on this point, making the original argument true that it couldn't, but for a different and more sound reason.

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#9

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 2:45 PM

The real point of the article isn't about the strength of the hull. I haven't seen the trailer, but one could always propose that the fluid in which the Enterprise is submerged isn't H2O, or that they pumped air into the Enterprise to counteract the outside water pressure, or that the planet's gravitational field is far weaker so the pressure on the hull is not as strong as it would be on Earth... etc.

No, the real point of the article is that JJ Abrams is a bit of a douche. He's more interested in the special effects gimmicks than plot, drama, conflict or characters to make a good sci-fi story; that's he's willing to distort the timeline of the Star Trek universe so that he can shoehorn-in some more explosions.

And the author of the article would be correct. Well, as they say, the theaters make more money selling popcorn and sodas than they do selling movie tickets.

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#11
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 3:42 PM

Too true. It's Star Wars Episode 1-3 all over again.

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#17
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:30 AM

If we are going to start on this: How come the Enterprise does not implode while traveling through space-time at warp 9+, and encounters all these various extra-stellar gas clouds and what not in space-time?

If in fact, she bends space-time around her (by rarifying space-time?) then the matter nearest the Enterprise simply does not exist within here envelope, and there is no pressure to be concerned with.

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#24
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 1:33 PM

Technically (and really simply as this is just a concept) the theory of Warp drive in the Star Trek universe is that the ship doesn't move, the warp field moves the space around the ship, the key point here thou being moving around the ship (including small objects like stellar dust). I may be slightly wrong, but you (may) get the point.

The whole point of this is a believable concept of faster than light travel without breaking any known laws about traveling near, at or faster than light.

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#10

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 2:56 PM

Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was "Oh no, not again".

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#12
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/12/2012 10:28 PM

Hey - no crossovers with HHGTTG.

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#13

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 2:50 AM

They have an anti-gravity field, a structural integrity field, off course they bought the version with the anti water field.

Don't be a Redshirt!

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#14

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 5:34 AM

WALOOB! No problem at all!
If we gloss over the fact that it's fiction, Raymond Wagner may have a PhD, but unfortunately he has no imagination or ability to think laterally (is there a correlation there?) and his logic stumbles at the first step.
The enterprize is designed to hold pressure in... yeah.
So simple pressurize the hull to an atmospher or two greater than the ocean pressure acting on it.
Sorted.
Next!
I'm sure Scotty can beam up enough air to hold the pressure high enough, and Bones can sort out the resultant cases of the bends should they come up too quick
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#19
In reply to #14

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:38 AM

OK, Del. I'll bite, what's a WALOOB? Even a google search can't/doesn't turn up a meaning for this one.

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#20
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:47 AM

What A Load Of Old B*ll*cks...
Del

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#21
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:53 AM

Ohhh. I thought you were cussing at me, and was trying to figure out why. Then I realized you were just answering my question. Thanks. What a relief.

And, for the record, I agree.

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#15

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:21 AM

Shields up or down? As long as the di-lithium crystals don't get wetted with seawater, what exactly is the problem again? Come on, Capt'n, I am giving you all she's got!

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#18

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:36 AM

Isn't this entire discussion mute? The damn thing hasn't been built yet and not within our technological capabilities for some time from now!

Conjecture conjecture conjecture!

I'm with AH on this one.....if it was even possible to built this sort of craft in the future, then the shields, aka known as 'force field", could aptly repel any force imparted by a fluid.

That PhD, Doc Wagner, IMO apparently cannot think outside the box....

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#22

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:56 AM

I'm in agreement with Del. Why not just pressurize the inside hull with a helium oxygen mix slightly above the water pressure with the warning "But Captain, just be careful of what orders you give less they be misinterpreted with that high squeaky voice that comes out. Perhaps you should switch over to your mind-thought communicator."

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#23
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 12:39 PM

Thank you for the laugh, I now have Star Trek episodes playing in my memory with helium voices.

As for the article, if Star Trek shield technology can repel photon torpedoes surely Scotty could tweak them to repel water at a few atmospheres pressure. Why would you even limit your thinking about Star Trek to present knowledge of physics?

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#25
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 3:04 PM

You never saw the adventures of Donald Duck in outer space? WALLOB2

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#28
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/14/2012 7:29 AM

"Och, ye cannae break the laws of physics, Cap'n."

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#26

Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 7:46 PM

I think Mr. Wagner and Mr. Faraci are the only limiting factor to ideas and imagination here. They are only showing the limits of their own foresight and lack of imagination with these statements not to mention contradicting their own words. They say that the new movie is based in fantasy rather than in scifi and are portraying things that are not scientifically achievable by todays technology. Many of the common items featured in the 60's version as they put it are still not available today 50 years later! I have yet to find a phaser at the local hardware or sporting goods store. To my knowledge, though we may be close, I don't believe this is possible still today. That handy little communicator they all used, though similar to today's cell phones is still nonexistent especially if you look a little forward to "The Next Generation" series when the communicator was embedded in the Insignia on the uniforms. None of these things were possible at the time of those shows but with the imagination of those that brought these stories to life many engineers and scientists dreamed of making them a reality. Who is to say that todays or future generations of engineers and scientists can't make a "spaceship" that is also capable of submerging under water. Just sounds to me like a challenge that needs to be excepted!!!

There have already been several ideas thrown around on this discussion board that someday in the future could turn out to be the basis for that reality.

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#27
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Re: Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

12/13/2012 9:32 PM

I have yet to find a phaser at the local hardware or sporting goods store. To my knowledge, though we may be close, I don't believe this is possible still today.

I think they are working on the concept for fibre optic communications to increase the bandwidth and hence speed.

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