Sunday, October 18, 2015

Should Civilians Be Exempt From The Prime Directive?

Even though it seems like an all-encompassing ethical principle in the Star Trek universe, should space-faring civilians of the Federation be exempt from the Prime Directive? 

By: Ringo Bones 

To the seasoned Star Trek fan, they’ve probably first found out that civilians are actually exempt from the prime Directive in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled Angel One which originally aired back in 1987 during TNG’s first season. But before we proceed further, here’s a brief refresher crash-course on Starfleet’s Prime Directive. 

The Prime Directive – also known as Starfleet general Order 1 or the non-interference directive – was the embodiment of one of Starfleet’s most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. At its core was the philosophical concept that covered personnel should refrain from interfering in the natural, unassisted development of societies, even if such interference was well-intentioned. And it focuses particularly to civilizations that have yet to develop faster-than-light interstellar travel technology. The Prime Directive was viewed as so fundamental to Starfleet that officers swore to uphold the Prime Directive, even at the cost of their own life or the lives of their crew. The most recent example that younger Star Trek fans are probably most familiar with was the opening sequence of Star Trek: Into Darkness where Spock was willing to die rather than Captain Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew violate the Prime Directive in order to save him. 

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled Angel One, Data says that civilians – as in crews of freighters and trading vessels whose home ports are members of the United Federation of Planets – are not bound by the Prime Directive as opposed to Starfleet personnel. Does this mean that civilians in the 24th Century can “evangelize” other civilizations? 

The issue whether civilians should be exempt from the Prime Directive arises in the situation of that particular TNG episode is that the planet Angel One has developed for centuries as a female-dominated society and the crew of the freighter Odin which crashed there 7 years before and its civilian crew had started to set roots after the hopes of being recued by Starfleet or the Federation seems impossible. Though it was only a few years after that the government of Angel One found out of the stranded male crew – as in all male crew who grew up on Earth or at least raised on Earth like values – became a problem after they have been secretly “evangelizing” their values to the women of angel One that they have been secretly cohabitating with. Does the issue set a legal precedent to the established laws of the United Federation of Planets?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Omega Molecule: The Most Dangerous Substance In The Star Trek Universe?

Despite the acclaim as the most scientifically-researched literary device in 20th Century science fiction, does the Omega molecule still qualify as the most dangerous substance in the Star Trek universe?

By: Ringo Bones 

Despite being a “mere science fiction magic wand / literary science fiction device” at the moment, many a Star Trek fan at the time of this famed molecule’s introduction in an episode of Star Trek Voyager titled “Omega Directive” really saw the Omega molecule as such because around this time – around June 5, 1995 – college students working at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s NIST-JILA lab named Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman finally synthesized the famed Bose Einstein Condensate which was first theorized by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose as far back as 1924. Near the end of 1997, Dr. Robert L. Whetten, Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Georgia Tech and his team were able to synthesize gold cluster molecules with “extraordinary quantum particles” which at the time was the closest thing we humans have of an “actual” Omega molecule. But what is this Omega molecule anyway?  

In the Star Trek universe, the Omega molecule was a highly unstable molecule believed to be the most powerful substance known to exist. With sufficient amounts of Boronite – an ore in the Star Trek universe containing high amounts of stable ultra-heavy transuranic elements that can only be found in star systems that were born out of a hypergiant star’s Type 1a supernova explosion powerful enough to be able to synthesize such stable ultra-heavy transuranic elements – the Omega molecule could be synthesized. However, proper containment methods did not yet exist in Captain Janeway’s time to prevent the violent destabilization of the Omega molecule, which destroyed subspace and rendered warp speed travel impossible. The explosion of a single Omega molecule was found out to be able to destroy all subspace in a 7-light-year radius. Some cosmologists in the Star Trek universe theorized that that the Omega molecule existed in nature at the instant of the Big Bang, when the universe as we know it was born. Presumably, an Omega molecule would be so energetic that a small chain of molecules would be able to power a space-faring civilization for millions of years. 

To most Star Trek fans – including me – our knowledge of the Omega molecule came to us via the Star Trek Voyager episode titled Omega Directive where Captain Janeway discovered that another civilization in the Delta Quadrant was actually successful in synthesizing some 200-million Omega molecules in the year 2374. The said civilization was able to keep the molecules stable by using the Omega molecule’s own resonant frequency of 1.68-terahertz to calibrate their containment field. Unfortunately, a freak mishap devastated their research facility that rendered warp speed travel in that part of space impossible. The starship USS Voyager managed to neutralize the remaining molecules before they could do further damage to the region’s subspace. 

Seven of Nine then adopted the Borg’s harmonic resonance chamber design to emit an inverse frequency which would dissolve Omega’s inter-atomic bonds without the resulting catastrophic subspace rupture. Seconds before the harmonic resonance chamber was jettisoned into space, the molecules started to stabilize spontaneously and remained stable for at least 3.2 seconds. The remaining Omega molecules were destroyed via a modified gravimetric torpedo. 

The Omega Directive was born out of the aftermath of a scientific experiment that seriously went wrong and almost destroyed the United Federation of Planet’s ability to travel at warp speed in the Alpha Quadrant. The directive is only revealed to starship captains and higher up flag officers in the Federation. The directive came to pass after an incident where a single Omega molecule was synthesized in the late 23rd Century by the Federation physicist Dr. Ketteract on board a classified research station located deep in the Lantaru Sector. The molecule remained stable for a fraction of a second before it catastrophically exploded, killing 127 leading Federation scientists and subsequently destroying subspace throughout the Lantaru Sector through rupturing. The secondary effect of the scientific experiment gone catastrophically haywire is that after the incident, it is now impossible to create a stable warp field throughout the Lantaru Sector thus complicating rescue efforts of possible survivors. The powers-that-be of the United Federation of Planets covered the tragic incident up at the time and since then the impossibility of warp speed travel in the Lantaru Sector was explained away as a “natural phenomena”. 

As revealed in the Star Trek Voyager episode titled Omega Directive, it was believed that the Borg were the first ones to attempt in synthesizing the Omega molecule. In the year 2145, the Borg learnt of the Omega molecule’s existence through the knowledge of the top theoretical physicists of the 13 species they recently assimilated at the time and this started an experiment to synthesize a single Omega molecule that remained stable for one-trillionth of a nanosecond. The experiments conducted by the Borg on that Omega particle that destabilized and exploded resulted in the destruction of 29 Borg vessels and 600,000 drones. The Borg, who referred the Omega molecule as “Particle 010” regarded it with near-reverence as they believed it to exist in a flawless state. Because the Borg saw the Omega molecule as “perfection”, all Borg were ordered to assimilate it – and all knowledge regarding it – at any cost. From their data, the Borg designed a harmonic resonance chamber that could theoretically stabilize the molecule, but according to Seven of Nine, the Borg haven’t yet acquired enough Boronite ore to synthesize more Omega molecules since their catastrophic botched attempt. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Star Trek’s Subspace Communication: More Science Fact Than Science Fiction?

Even though researches into it are still few and far between, are there preexisting natural phenomena that allow data transmission at faster-than-light velocities?

By: Ringo Bones 

Some conspiracy theorists well-versed and grounded in science often decry the “mainstream” scientific community’s extreme skepticism when it comes to exploring preexisting natural phenomena that allows the possibility of data transmission or signal transmission at speeds faster-than-light’s 186,000 miles per second speed limit. I mean the last time serious work done on it was probably back in the 1930s with Albert Einstein’s “spooky-action-at-a-distance” / quantum entanglement, the EPR Experiment Paradox some aspects of quantum tunneling that allow faster-than-light data transfer are the only well-known ones – at least ones “tolerated” by the current “mainstream global scientific community”. But can we ever transfer data faster than the electromagnetic spectrum’s rather limited 186,000 miles-per-second / 300,000 kilometers-per-second speed limit? Well, in the Star Trek universe, it’s not just faster-than-light interstellar travel that’s a staple, but also faster-than-light communications / data transmission as well. 

Subspace communication, also called subspace radio or the hyperchannel, was the primary form of electromagnetic communication used by the United Federation of Planets across vast interstellar distances given the relative “slowness” of radio waves at 186,000 miles-per-second. By transmitting radio through subspace, rather than normal space, subspace communication permitted the sending of data and messages across interstellar distances faster than the speed of light. This made it much more practical than conventional radio. In fact, starships from the 23rd Century onwards rarely even monitor radio frequencies than travel at the speed of light as it propagates across interstellar space  as noted in the Star Trek: Voyager episode titled “The 37’s” about the Voyager crew finding Amelia Earhart and some of her 1937 contemporaries abducted by aliens and exiled in a distant Earth-like planet. 

Though it is not often mentioned in Star Trek episodes – from the original Captain Kirk era to the later ones – the exact speed or how many times faster-than-light subspace communications signals can traverse the vastness of interstellar space, in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “When No One Has Gone Before”, Captain Picard and crew were catapulted in a region of space 2,700,000 light-years from Earth and Commander Data noted that from that distance, their subspace distress call would have taken 51 years 10 months to reach the nearest Federation outpost. But is such form of interstellar communication more a flight of science fiction fancy? 

During the early 1970s associate professor Thomas Van Flandern of the US Naval Observatory performed calculations and published it in “Physics Letters A” titled “The Speed of Gravity – What Experiments Say” which demonstrated that the force of gravity propagated at least 20 billion times faster than the speed of light and may propagate across the entire universe almost instantaneously. Quite a contrary to what Prof. Stephen Hawking had published on his A Brief History Of Time in which Hawking declared that the force of gravity propagates at the same speed as that of light – 186,000-miles-per-second. If we ever uncover a preexisting faster-than-light data transmission / information transfer in nature, would it also forever chance the face of astronomy by establishing a new branch of it called “Faster Than Light Astronomy”?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lucille Ball: Star Trek’s Godmother?

Even though not all Star Trek fans have known her importance on the existence of Star Trek, would Star Trek in its current beloved form still exist today if not for Lucille Ball?

By: Ringo Bones 

Without the help of Lucille Ball, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek would have been the most brilliant still-born idea in 1960s Hollywood. But what do I Love Lucy and Star Trek have in common? 

Back in 1964, Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry found a home for his still fledgling science fiction series at Desilu Productions, the studio founded in 1951 by the husband and wife team of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz who became television superstars in the 1950s with the groundbreaking sitcom I Love Lucy and hence the name Desilu - which is a contracted combination of Desi and Lucy. By 1964, the couple divorced and Lucille Ball became the sole owner of the lucrative studio making her a true Hollywood player – which was a rarity for a woman in the 1960s. But some within her studio weren’t very excited by Roddenberry’s ideas. Ball took a liking to the writer and the Star trek concept and it was her influence that would eventually keep the show alive when most other shows would have been scrapped by the powers-that-be. 

In 1965, Roddenberry got a pilot order from NBC and produced the original Star Trek pilot titled “The Cage”. It was rejected by the network execs because it was deemed “too cerebral” and for most pilots that’s where the story would have ended. Luckily for Roddenberry, he had Ball on his side. The story goes that Ball still thought that the Star Trek idea had legs and used her considerable influence in television to push for NBC to give Roddenberry a second chance. The network made the exceedingly rare move of ordering a second pilot from Roddenberry who overhauled almost the entire cast of characters from “The Cage” and eventually produced “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. The pilot was accepted, the show was given a series order and the rest is history. So if it weren’t for the Hollywood clout, and eye for story, of an iconic redheaded comedienne-turned-mogul, we might not have Star Trek as we now it today.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Is Star Trek A Religion?

Though science fiction literature outsiders may see it as such but is Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek a “religion-in-itself”?

By: Ringo Bones

Strange how it is that during the first decade of the 21st Century, the most vocal critics that I know of the malfeasance behind former US President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror” are dyed-in-the-wool Star Trek fans. Despite of his service during World War II and a first-hand working knowledge of the most devastating weapons at the time – Gene Roddenberry was a former US Army Air Cops bomber pilot – he is surprisingly pacifist when it comes to his views on America’s military adventurism at the height of the Cold War.

Before he passed away back in October 24, 1991, Star trek creator Gene Roddenberry had a very profound statement about a degree of a civilization and its ability to wage was in which he quoted: “The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them.” Which, If you ask me, is quite a far cry from former US President Bush’s “neo-conservatives” in the White house and Capitol Hill had done after 9/11 and the ensuing chaos that resulted in the Persian Gulf that we are still feeling until this very moment.

Many had described Gene Roddenberry’s “religious belief” as “secular humanism”. In actuality, secular humanism is a non-religious worldview rooted in science, naturalistic philosophy and humanist ethics. Rather than faith, doctrine, or mysticism, secular humanists use reason, compassion, and common sense to find solutions to human problems. Secular humanists promote universal values such as integrity, benevolence, fairness, and responsibility, and believe that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will and tolerance, progress can be made toward building a better world for ourselves and future generations. And I think it is a “religion” I can definitely subscribe to.   

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dilithium: A Mere Star Trek “Magic Wand”?

Even though the IUPAC has a somewhat different definition of it, is dilithium nothing more than the Star Trek universe’s “magic wand”? 

By: Ringo Bones 

According to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry – or IUPAC – dilithium is the diatomic allotrope of the gaseous form of the alkali metal lithium, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek seems to have a somewhat different definition. Although in the parlance of science fiction literature, it is known as a “magic wand” – i.e. something completely fictitious or could yet to be invented in the future. Unfortunately, the Star Trek definition of dilithium is what most of the general public know about the “fictitious chemical element”.
It first appeared in the Star Trek Original Series novel titled Preserver in which dilithium was defined as a rare transuranic element that was formed naturally via the violent explosions of supernovas – i.e. Type 1a supernovas. In the Star Trek universe, it was the only known material which could regulate matter-antimatter reactions in the warp cores of starships; which is why dilithium was used by most sentient species in the Star Trek universe in their various warp-capable starships as in spacecraft capable of faster-than light travel without breaking Albert Einstein’s laws on Special Relativity – i.e. the “Alcubierre Warp Drive”. 

Different compositions and origins produced slightly different appearances in the crystals ranging in shape and color. Its atomic weight is 315 and its atomic number is 119. While some various “canonical” Star Trek novels lists dilithium as having an atomic number that ranges from 190 to 300 depending on the date when it was written.   According to what we currently know theoretical physicists surmised that Type 1a supernovas have trouble efficiently producing chemical elements heavier than iron and thus conclude that most silver, gold and other heavier elements found on planet earth are probably produced by a more violent, but rarer cosmic event – i.e. the collision of two neutron stars. Some canonical Star Trek novels and on the original series even stated that the stars going supernova that precede our sun are not powerful enough to produce dilithium, thus explaining the virtual nonexistence of dilithium on planet earth in the Star Trek universe.