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Star Trek Enterprise Tested to Mach 5 707

Sporkinum writes "University of Queensland Laser Diagnostics Dept has a page where they put the Enterprise through the gauntlet in a mach 5 wind tunnel. It did surprisingly well."
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Star Trek Enterprise Tested to Mach 5

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  • ...can be found here [mit.edu].

    Fair warning - the linked-to page contains an applet, so be prepared for the usual "computer freezes for 10 seconds" effect if you're running Windows.
  • In space there is no friction to stop your inertia. Excellent waste of time research people.!
    • by Doomrat ( 615771 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:28PM (#7329034) Homepage
      More to the point, there is no Starship Enterprise, freak.
    • Depends on whether you count all the hydrogen atoms and other random bits that actually fill up space. You wonder why they were comparing Mach 5 to Warp 5? There's a significant speed difference, but that's offset by the relative density of the surrounding matter.

      Don't be a troll unless you have your information straight.
    • Idunno if you watch the same star trek show that I do, but Newton has no place in Trekkian space. If there's not atmosphere out there, I can think of no other explanation for the Trek ships very aircrafy-style handling. I mean the small fighters from DS9 bank to turn for shite's sake. I'll believe its real space the moment I see someone drifting backwards.
      • Mechanics in Space (Score:5, Interesting)

        by virg_mattes ( 230616 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @01:33PM (#7329759)
        > I'll believe its real space the moment I see someone drifting backwards.

        This was touched upon in the second movie, where Spock commented on Khan's two-dimensional thinking in the cat-and-mouse hunt in that gas cloud, and the battle was won by piloting the Enterprise downward (relative to its orientation) and then back up behind the Reliant. Still, it's fairly easy to explain banking in spacecraft using relative inertia. When a spacecraft turns, the body of its pilot tries to continue in a straight line. Banking the craft causes the pilot to feel the change in direction as being pressed downward into the seat, which is both familiar and less likely to cause a g-force related blackout. On larger ships, it could be seen the same way, allowing the inertial dampers to work less to keep the crew vertical while the ship turns, and there were a number of occasions where large craft turned by spinning on center, as one would expect from spacecraft. Think of the opening credits on later versions of the above-mentioned DS9, where the Defiant backs off from the docking port and spins around its center to get to its exit heading, while drifting directly away from the station.

        There are lots of failings in Star Trek, but they do make at least some effort, and one must remember that it's a TV show/movie, so entertainment value sometimes trumps reality (like when one hears the explosions ripping apart yet another version of the Enterprise, or when a shock wave moving faster than warp 3 strikes a ship and swats it along instead of pulverizing it or crushing it like a soda can). Play along.

    • by Tattva ( 53901 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @01:14PM (#7329537) Homepage Journal
      In space no one can hear you squeal with geekish delight...

    • by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) <gpoopon@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @01:33PM (#7329750)
      In space there is no friction to stop your inertia.

      In the article, which I took the time to read, they stated that shock waves created by the model were intended to be analogous to shock waves created by passing through the space time continuum in a warp field. Obviously, this is only theoretical (if you can even call it that) and mostly just for fun, but one day space traveling people may look back and say these folks were ahead of their time.

    • by b-baggins ( 610215 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @03:14PM (#7330920) Journal
      Interstellar vacuum holds about 1 atom of hydrogen per cubic centimeter.

      According to the Star Trek encyclopedia, a ship's speed = (warp factor)^3 x c.

      So, warp 10 is 1000c.

      This translates to 3x10^11 meters per second or 3 x 10 ^13 cm/s

      This means, each second, 3x10^13 atoms of hydrogen are impacting each square centimeter of the ship.

      This gives us a total kinetic energy of 22.95 kJ/s for each square meter of the ship.

      Let's see what that would do to Ten forward's windows, which are made from Transparent Aluminum:

      Let's assume the windows are ten centimeters thick. A one meter square slab would then have the following properties:

      Mass: 270 Kg
      Specific Heat: 243 kJ/K
      Melting point: 933.52 K
      Heat of Fusion: 1.08E+05 kJ

      If you run the numbers you'll find that, at warp 10, the windows of Ten Forward will rise from a space normal temperature of 4K to the melting point of 933.52 K in 2.73 hours.

      Assuming the soft metal didn't blow out at this point, the windows would gradually melt away over the next 1.31 days.

      Mind you, this is in the deepest interstellar space where hydrogen molecules are at their thinnest.
      • If you run the numbers you'll find that, at warp 10, the windows of Ten Forward will rise from a space normal temperature of 4K to the melting point of 933.52 K in 2.73 hours.

        You did an excellent job, so good a job that I hesitate to point out what you missed. But I will anyway.

        The deflector dish pushes those particles to the side, creating an aerodynamic pocket and preventing those atoms from impacting in the first place.

        But how about on impulse? A ship is supposed to be able to travel at impulse spe

      • [Snip: lots of erudite calculations about a fictional spaceship, concluding with:]
        If you run the numbers you'll find that, at warp 10, the windows of Ten Forward will rise from a space normal temperature of 4K to the melting point of 933.52 K in 2.73 hours.

        And not only that! Did you know the Ringworld is unstable!?
  • by Squeebee ( 719115 ) <squeebee@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:24PM (#7328977)
    I was planning to use a scale model of the Enterprise as a hood ornament for my SR-71 Blackbird.
    • I know this is offtopic, but I actually got to touch an SR-71 Blackbird on Saturday! That was an experience I never thought I'd be able to have. It was amazing.

      Thankfully, the police were very understanding when the silent alarm called them...
  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:24PM (#7328979) Homepage Journal
    All that wind resistance in space could have meant certain doom for the crew!
    • by jonabbey ( 2498 ) * <jonabbey@ganymeta.org> on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:32PM (#7329079) Homepage

      Well, if you read the article, they do point out that they are using the shockwaves resulting from mach speeds in air as a speculative analogy to the shockwaves resulting from warp speeds in space.

      Now obviously Einstein showed everyone that that kind of analogy is not likely to be worth a bowl of warm spit, even after you get past the impossible part, but this sort of thing is still way unnecessarily cool, and precisely the sort of ilk I think we geeks should be encouraging.

      • how warp drive works (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @01:42PM (#7329855) Journal
        As seen in pages on emerging physics [washington.edu], warp drive works by generating a warp bubble around the ship. The matter inside the bubble is essentially motionless relative to itself. Sort of like a person inside a car does not have to worry about wind resistance.

        On the other hand, this has interesting implications for the physics of star trek weapons technology. No phasers at warp drive, and firing, never mind aiming, photon torpedoes could be a royal pain.

        • by epiphani ( 254981 ) <epiphani@ d a l . net> on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @02:59PM (#7330716)
          Accually, you'll notice that in star trek, they never use phasers at warp speeds. (They may have cheated in a few places, but nothing comes to mind.)

          Simple concept: When travelling faster than light, dont use weapons that can only move at light speed.

          Photon torpedos, on the other hand, are physical objects. If you fire them out at a relative speed of a few thousand meters per second while you're going a few times the speed of light, they're still moving away from you, and not blowing up in your face.

          And, from my recollections of the star trek technical manual (TNG), the navigational deflector is key to travelling faster than light. It projects a field far in front of the warp bubble moving small particles out of the way. Otherwise, a gram of asteroid would do significant damage to a ship moving faster than light. The warp bubble itself only propells the ship forward (by bending space around it).

          You'd be amazed how well thought out the physics of star trek are. Off topic of parent, but mentioned elsewhere was that of inertial dampeners and structural integrity - two systems that make it possible to accually accelerate at values that would normally crush people into gelatinous goo and snap even the hardest substances. They say that the scripts were written in the "we've got a [tech problem] down here!" format - but I can say one thing - the guy who substituted that text in was no idiot. The problems almost always match the situation. Ever wonder why when the bridge crew starts falling around, the next line is often "Inertial Dampers are offline!". Stating the obvious, yes, but at least they didnt say something like "the warp core containment system just went offline".

        • by lone_marauder ( 642787 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @05:23PM (#7332392)
          The matter inside the bubble is essentially motionless relative to itself.

          I don't know about you, but I just don't trust any matter that isn't motionless relative to itself.
  • mach 5 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 1eyedhive ( 664431 ) *
    ...but can it do warp 5? not too shabby, kudos to Walter Matthew Jefferies for a great design, may he rest in peace.
  • by Quixote ( 154172 )
    What's mach 5, like warp 0.000001 ?

    • Re:Eh? (Score:3, Informative)

      by kalidasa ( 577403 ) *
      Mach 1 at sea level is 0.0000001135 c. Warp 1 is conventionally assumed to be c.
      • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

        by proj_2501 ( 78149 ) <mkb@ele.uri.edu> on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:32PM (#7329080) Journal
        Warp 1 is stated to be c in both the TOS and TNG warp scales in the Star Trek TNG Technical Manual.

        After that the warp scales are two divergent wacky exponential sawtooth things.
        • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Funny)

          by pmz ( 462998 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @01:01PM (#7329427) Homepage
          Warp 1 is stated to be c in both the TOS and TNG warp scales in the Star Trek TNG Technical Manual.

          Okay, of all of us who actually do own both manuals, who are proud of it and who are slightly ashamed of it? I was proud of it, but now I tend to keep them hidden...

  • by nizo ( 81281 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:25PM (#7329002) Homepage Journal
    It is good to know that a fictitious ship designed to operate in a vacuum in a fictitious universe can handle mach 5 winds..... no really it is.
    • Despite your judicious use of the word "fictitious," you still neglected to apply it preceding "vacuum," since space is, of course, not a perfect vacuum.
  • Simple... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nebaz ( 453974 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:26PM (#7329015)
    We all know that simply rerouting the EPS conduit to emit a low level anti-tachyon beam will nullify any damage space junk will create.
  • by flynt ( 248848 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:26PM (#7329017)
    How is ending up broken into a dozen pieces considered doing "suprisingly well"???
  • by Dausha ( 546002 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:28PM (#7329029) Homepage
    It appears that the space debris is a gum wrapper. This demonstrates that giant space aliens should be tidy when travelling lest their rubbish destroy our mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:28PM (#7329035)

    <!--This file created 3/29/00 9:54 AM by Claris Home Page version 3.0-->

    Nice to see some up-to-date stuff here on Slashdot.

  • by British ( 51765 ) <british1500@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:28PM (#7329038) Homepage Journal
    I really guess "She canna take it anymore!"
  • Bah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:29PM (#7329046)
    I want to see them try this with the Borg cube.
  • Its a trap! (Score:5, Funny)

    by chobee ( 555901 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:30PM (#7329055)
    This is like an uber-geek/nerd role call.
  • by PissingInTheWind ( 573929 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:30PM (#7329057)
    5 times the speed of sound is just about 0.0005% of the speed of light. That's not a conslusive test, it's like doing a car crash test at a speed of around 5 millimeters per hour.

    I hope they realize they still have a *lot* of work to do.
  • Not a Good Test (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ClubStew ( 113954 )

    Besides the fact that there is next to nothing massive in space to cause resistence, Warp is closer to surfing where the starship doesn't actually move relative to space/time (at least from what I gather a long time about when I read the "manual"). It's like catching a major wave and riding it.

    What a waste of time.

  • What's this? I smell a contender for the next round of IgNobel prizes.
  • by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:31PM (#7329078)
    Now the NCC-1701D whoulc have been the one to test, after all, we know it actually made planetfall.

    Did they use containment forcefields in the test?

    How did the plasma conduits hold up to the stress?

    (Questions Geeks REALLY want to know!)
  • by Reverend528 ( 585549 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:32PM (#7329082) Homepage
    For a second I misread it and thought that the article would be about Star Trek OS, Enterprise Edition running on a Mach 5 Microkernel. Imagine my disappointment.
  • by ratfynk ( 456467 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:32PM (#7329087) Journal
    that blows me away...sorry
  • One wonders how much better the 'new' (old?) Enterprise would have done. It seems more streamlined. Voyager could probably beat them all tho.

    *realises what he's talking about*

    I'll get my coat...
  • You need to test the old round nacelles along with the newer flat nacelle styles.

  • ...it's Physics, Jim"

    from the lyrics of "Star Trekkin'" by The Firm.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:35PM (#7329132)
    ...cause you're starting to sound stupid.

    Two comments from /.'ers:

    (1) Yeah, but there's no atmosphere in space.

    No sh**. They acknowledge that in the second paragraph of their description and then proceed to suggest that mach 5 in an atmosphere may be similar to warp 5 in a vacuum (where you are pushing against the fabric of space). This isn't a scientific journal -- it's just some fun they're having after doing real work.

    (2) What a waste of time.

    This from the first couple dozen posters -- who really is wasting their time: the kids who did the experiment in an afternoon, or the /.'ers who check this website every 15 minutes, every day, for the rest of their lives?

    Get a life.
  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:36PM (#7329134) Homepage Journal
    Allow me to begin the second phase of stock Slashdot comments. Phase I has already taken place: "what a waste of taxpayer/foundation/whatever dollars!" Phase II begins now:

    Lighten up! It is clear from a very quick look at the rest of the site that the "Enterprise" simulation is just a fun application of some very serious science. It's clear that no special apparatuses (apparati?) were constructed to provide a real simulation of the Enterprise -- in fact, it's pretty obvious that the model used came out of a cereal box, or something.

    Day in and day out, it looks like these guys are engaged in cutting-edge wind tunnel science, testing object against forces so strong, they can only be simulated for tiny fractions of a second. This means that someone spends hours setting up everything within rigorous parameters, then pushes a button. "Bam!", and it's over. If the object under test was mispositioned by a fraction of a millimeter, the team gets to do it all over again.

    Once -- just once -- they'd like to have a chance to do something fun with the equipment. Someone has an old Enterprise model (actually, it may be from a snow globe). After a long day (probably unpaid) of testing the frontiers of science and boredom, they load up the (already warmed up) machine and have a little fun.

    Thanks to the 'net, we get to share their fun. And in another few decades, we may get to enjoy the results of their hard work when we book that vacation on Luna.
  • by DarkSarin ( 651985 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:36PM (#7329150) Homepage Journal
    I personally find this great. After all, I know that's exactly what I would do if I had a wind tunnel. I would also be testing the aerodynamic properties of the Millenium Falcon (which was designed for atmospheric travel), and numerous other fictitious "space ships". I would probably also test aluminum cans, coke bottles, penguins (after all I want to know how fast a penguin can go, having played too much tux racer), and numerous other objects.

    Of course, this is the exact reason no one wants to give me access to a wind tunnel! I'd probably break it.
  • Scotty was right after all!

    "I canna do that capt'n, she's gonna be ripped apart!"
  • by Jedi Holocron ( 225191 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:37PM (#7329158) Homepage Journal
    But the Enterprise isn't designed to enter an atmosphere??

    Very true!

    Very wrong! The saucer section of the Enterprise was designed for rentry and planetside landing.

    Okay, now I've shown my colors...forgive me.
  • Every time I feel that I'm being a little too geeky, a story like this comes along and proves that I have nothing to worry about....
  • Given that the solar wind sound speed is on the order of 30,000 km/s, one could argue that would be equivalent to flying at 150,000 km/s (ignoring relativistic effects).
  • "Nerds! Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!"

    C'mon. Find something USEFUL [slashdot.org] to do with your time and grant money.

  • Geez people... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rdewalt ( 13105 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:44PM (#7329262) Homepage
    All the comments seem to be of the type "Wow, what a waste of research time/money, -EVERYONE- knows there is no air in space."

    What ever happened to "Because its there."? You've got the capacity of generating Mach 5 winds... So you take your Enterprise model, and bolt it in and give it a go.

    OF COURSE the Enterprise isn't designed to enter atmosphere. Its also a fictional vehicle.

    People who do things like this, do it Because They Can.

    I sure as hell would. Ever build a kaleidoscope, and shine a laser into it? What about with one of those clear crystal isocahedrons inside it as well... I know for a fact that there was no New Science being done. I also know it was fucking cool as shit. Yes, I proved nothing with my shiny thing, except it looked good, and was fun.

    The Enterprise test was perhaps just that. Dicking around with shit. It just happened that the experiment returned "Its surprisingly aerodynamic". And they wished to share their results. Its geeky news, and so it made it onto Slashdot.

    Relax, science doesn't always have to have a purpose. That's how discoveries are often made. Not by "That proves my theory." but "Hey, That's funny..."
  • by maunleon ( 172815 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:45PM (#7329267)
    Yes, there is no atmosphere in space. But people, stop being nerdy. They were not testing the enteprise for space deployment.

    Can't people separate science from fiction?

    Is it hard to assume that it was just an aerodynamics test, and the object under test happened to be the enterprise just because it had a pretty, aerodynamic shape? If they test the aerodynamics of a carrot, are people going to whine about the different viscosity of common garden soil?

    This was NOT a deep space test!
  • As long as we're researching non-existent spacecraft. How about a TIE Fighter or X-Wing?
  • Truly trek geeky (Score:3, Informative)

    by iamsure ( 66666 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @12:52PM (#7329347) Homepage
    The truly trek geeky apparently arent here.

    Plenty of people are asking why they tested the atmospheric effects, when enterprise never goes there.

    In fact it did, in multiple episodes, and in multiple movies.

    Star Trek 4, multiple TOS episodes, and of course plenty of times in the TNG (granted different design, but still).

    The enterprise wasnt designed for it, but its definitely a valid question and test - it's occured more than a few times.
  • Well duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by jazman ( 9111 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @01:18PM (#7329564)
    Of course it blew up. They didn't have the deflector dish or the shields activated. Any idiot would know without them that it would blow up as soon as it started moving at any significant speed.

    I'd like to see them retest with shields and deflector - then let's see how well it performs!
  • They got it wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zangdesign ( 462534 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @02:20PM (#7330230) Journal
    OK, completely ignoring the fact that the Enterprise is completely fictional, etc., etc., they still didn't get the test right.

    The shape of the warp bubble is what's important, not the shape of the ship. While the bubble follows the general shape of the ship, it does not conform to the outer hull in the way that the test represents.

    OK, enough of that. Back to arguing about how a transporter works.
  • by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2003 @06:12PM (#7332857) Homepage
    I hate to say it, but NX class Enterprise/NX-01 (ST: Enterprise) would probably give them all a run for their money in the wind tunnel.
    I suppose Galaxy class/NCC-1701-D would give it a run for its money, anyway. Maybe Sovereign class/NCC-1701-E, too... (The movies after Generations)
    Excelsior class (-B) (From Generations beginning) and Ambassador class (TNG: Yesterday's Enterprise) (-c) seem a bit blockier.
    Since nobody else seemed to mention it, the one used in the test was the refit Constitution class. Either NCC-1701 or NCC-1701-A from movies 1 through 6

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982