[OFFICIAL] What are Star Trek sensors really capable of?

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Postby Isolder74 » 2006-12-07 05:32pm

Ted C wrote:Inserting a spyware program into the security network would probably be a lot more difficult than bribing a disaffected security guard with access to the security network to provide the image.


That's true. Of course you could also bribe said person to install the trojan as well. That would give him 'plausible denyability'.
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Postby Batman » 2006-12-07 05:38pm

Isolder74 wrote:
Ted C wrote:Inserting a spyware program into the security network would probably be a lot more difficult than bribing a disaffected security guard with access to the security network to provide the image.

That's true. Of course you could also bribe said person to install the trojan as well. That would give him 'plausible denyability'.

I very much doubt your average rent-a-cop has the system access to do that.
I realise software security appears to be dead as the Dodo in TNG but there's a difference between making a copy of a video sequence (possibly by nicking the 'tape' for a while) and installing system-wide software.
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Postby montypython » 2006-12-07 07:41pm

During the Cold War, US subs would tap into underwater comm cables that the Soviets used, a similar comm tap could also be used here too.

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Postby LaserRifleofDoom » 2006-12-07 11:32pm

montypython wrote:During the Cold War, US subs would tap into underwater comm cables that the Soviets used, a similar comm tap could also be used here too.
I would actually expect this, given the Cold War themes regarding a lot of Federation international politics.
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Postby Patrick Degan » 2006-12-08 02:22pm

A starship's sensors appear capable of detecting life-signs (or lack thereof) from star systems lightyears in the distance ("The Changeling", "The Immunity Syndrome"). They can resolve out details on a planetary surface while the ship is still making its orbital approach from several thousand kilometres distant to determine the presence of cities, highway systems, and in one case the encroachment of lower animals and vegetation and huge numbers of unburied corpses ("Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"). They can pinpoint one individual on the surface of an otherwise barren planet ("The Man Trap"). They are sensitive enough to detect the operation of a cook-stove from orbit ("Mudd's Women") and campfires ("The Vengeance Factor"). They can detect heartbeat activity in another ship ("Space Seed"). They are able to determine the differences between Romulan and Vulcan bio-readings ("The Enterprise Incident" —though in this case the unique nature of Mr. Spock may have played a factor in this).

The sensors can be obscured or blocked by heavy ionisation fields ("The Galileo Seven", "The Enemy") and thick dust nebulae or cometary dust particle trails ("Balance Of Terror", Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan). The aforementioned difficulty to read targets through magnetic fields ("Peak Performance") has been discussed —as has the inability to read through rock laced with certain ores ("Who Watches The Watchers").
Last edited by Patrick Degan on 2006-12-08 02:31pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Darth Wong » 2006-12-08 02:28pm

I think we must postulate that they can emit a particular type of radiation (presumably "subspace" related) which very strongly interacts with certain phenomena in a manner differently than electromagnetic radiation does. Many materials seems to be transparent to this radiation which would not be transparent to EM radiation, yet there are certain phenomena which have little effect on EM radiation (such as passage through a weak gravitational field) that can have a profound effect on this kind of radiation.
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Postby SirNitram » 2006-12-08 04:45pm

Hasn't it already been theorized that dense metals screw with subspace technologies? Could this explain it; you look for the mobile 'interference', and there's the platinum?
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Postby Darth Wong » 2006-12-12 11:24am

That's what I was thinking. If particular kinds of materials strongly retransmit this "subspace radiation", then you could detect those materials even through solid barriers of reasonable thickness. It may not necessarily be a simple matter of density either, although that's an early candidate.

Having said that, we know that subspace radiation is normally expected to pass through most materials. So the implication is that when a subspace sensor picks something up, it's just picking up certain constituents of that object, rather than "seeing" it the way visible light would.

This also implies that if you could construct a starship "skin" out of a material which is very absorptive of "subspace radiation", you could stealth yourself from the heavily used subspace sensors in Star Trek. I wonder if this has ever been done in the show.
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Postby Ted C » 2006-12-12 01:50pm

Darth Wong wrote:This also implies that if you could construct a starship "skin" out of a material which is very absorptive of "subspace radiation", you could stealth yourself from the heavily used subspace sensors in Star Trek. I wonder if this has ever been done in the show.


The "mercenary ship" in TNG "Gambit" was constructed of materials that made it invisible to long-range sensors. This sounds like exactly the sort of thing you mean.

Presumably these hull materials absorb or scatter subspace radiation in such away that it will both prevent active "subspace radar" pings from returning and hide the emissions of the ship's own subspace systems.

The mercenary ship seemed to have a lot of technical problems, which may have been either an unavoidable side effect of its design or simply poor maintenance: no way to be sure which. The first reason would explain why such materials are not widely used in military starship construction.
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Postby General Zod » 2006-12-12 04:36pm

Another feat I don't recall being done before, ship's sensors are capable of picking up any sound on the ship, according to the episode Court Martial. But since Dr McCoy had to use a special device to filter out everyone's heartbeats, and all nonessential personnel were beamed off, it would show that they don't have the ability to use them to filter out specific sounds. (This may have changed by TNG, but it hasn't been demonstrated again since to my knowledge).
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Postby Darth Wong » 2006-12-15 01:22am

AVOGARDO's ignorant bullshit split to a different thread. His declaration that the theoretical properties of gravitons are irrelevant to his graviton-based argument because they are not "proven" was the last straw.
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Postby Patrick Degan » 2006-12-27 11:08am

Darth Wong wrote:That's what I was thinking. If particular kinds of materials strongly retransmit this "subspace radiation", then you could detect those materials even through solid barriers of reasonable thickness. It may not necessarily be a simple matter of density either, although that's an early candidate.

Having said that, we know that subspace radiation is normally expected to pass through most materials. So the implication is that when a subspace sensor picks something up, it's just picking up certain constituents of that object, rather than "seeing" it the way visible light would.

This also implies that if you could construct a starship "skin" out of a material which is very absorptive of "subspace radiation", you could stealth yourself from the heavily used subspace sensors in Star Trek. I wonder if this has ever been done in the show.


Commissioner Beale's scoutship in "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" was apparently sheathed in special materials which rendered it invisible, though Spock's sensors as well as Chekov's still picked up readings of the vessel's approach to the Enterprise —perhaps through passive detection of engine emissions. However, they could not get a visual of the ship nor read its configuration.
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Postby Illuminatus Primus » 2006-12-27 05:26pm

I don't know if we're also compiling projections or implications based on what's been gathered regarding ST sensors, but if so I offer the following:

Most Star Trek civilizations appear to be Type I-II Kardashev scale civilizations (the Federation appears to be somewhere around a Kardashev scale Type ~1.5 - their starships appear to tap into 1e19-20 W individually and mid-level Type I's display power consumption in the 1e20-24 W level - Earth is around a Type 0.7 civilization). As Dr. Saxton notes here the enormous waste heat (even if most is emited in the form of neutrino radiation by highly efficient disposal mechanisms) makes a STAR WARS version of the Prime Directive impossible for post-industrial societies. Telescopes would be illuminated with waste radiation like our satellites can trace modern cities by street light.

This begs the question regarding Star Trek - does the Federation have unusually poor conventional telescopes and sensors? If their telescope technology is as sophisticated as alleged, then the Borg couldn't possibly be a great power for more than seventy-thousand years, which puts yet another cap on the grandiose claims of Borg age and scale. If the Borg have existed for thousands of years - as often claimed - why hasn't the waste heat, even from their relatively primitive past been detected? And if subspace telescopes can observe locales light-years away in real time, there must be rather local limitations on this technology from an astronomical perspective, given how little that Star Trek still knows about their galactic neighborhood, to say nothing of the occassional planet within their own borders. If subspace is such a powerful technology, why did the extreme heavy-use of associated technologies by the Borg not manifest on subspace sensor or telescope gear long before they arrived? This puts definite fixed limits on the reach of such technology, even such emplacements as fixed subspace telescopes.

And what of gravitational sensors which frequent references to "gravitons" necessarily imply? Massive disturbances in space-time like Borg transwarp hubs and conduits should presumably manifest somehow to such sensors, even at great range. Right now we're at work observing gravity waves from binary stellar corpse systems and other sources. Why is this not more useful at distance?

Peculiar subspace sensors and technology seem to have use as active sensors, or passive ones for subspace-using vessels in relative astronomical proximity. But on the galactic scale their observations appear to be nearly as limited as our own by c. And place probable limits on the age of interstellar civilization in the Star Trek Milky Way.

And refering to the earlier analogy to a situation pointed out in STAR WARS by Dr. Saxton, it seems to cast doubt on the wide-eyed idealistic ideology of the Prime Directive regarding pre-warp civilizations. Post-industrial, pre-warp civilizations - Earth level civilizations, especially those within Federation borders - should easily observe the artificial characteristics of UFP power generation.

I hope this is useful or falls under the limits of this discussion.

Quick query:

Are we going to start doing these type threads for STAR WARS as well?
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Postby Bounty » 2006-12-28 04:22am

If their telescope technology is as sophisticated as alleged, then the Borg couldn't possibly be a great power for more than seventy-thousand years, which puts yet another cap on the grandiose claims of Borg age and scale.


Where did you get the '70.000 years' from? The Borg were still a local power controlling a handful of worlds as late as the 14th century AD. They're not particularly old.

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Postby Illuminatus Primus » 2006-12-28 04:42am

Voyager out in the Delta Quadrant was 70,000 lyr away.
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Postby Mad » 2006-12-28 11:39am

Illuminatus Primus wrote:And what of gravitational sensors which frequent references to "gravitons" necessarily imply? Massive disturbances in space-time like Borg transwarp hubs and conduits should presumably manifest somehow to such sensors, even at great range. Right now we're at work observing gravity waves from binary stellar corpse systems and other sources. Why is this not more useful at distance?


Gravitational sensors are only useful in conjunction with other sensors. They can tell you about unexpected changes in gravity, or if there's an unexpected gravity source in the vicinity, but not much else. (Long-range graviton detection would have to be done by subspace sensors, given gravity propagates at lightspeed.)

As for the gravity observation we do today: I'd suspect we're detecting gravity by its effects on nearby bodies using other sensors, and not by measuring the gravity source's effects on earth (using gravity sensors).
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Postby Illuminatus Primus » 2006-12-28 04:43pm

There are several gravity-wave telescopes being developed that intend to directly observe the ripples generated by black hole binaries and other things.

I'm just curious about ST sensors for two reasons a.) the very premise of the shows and everything we've seen suggests that they're advanced sensor technology, be it subspace or simply very complex and advanced gravity or EM telescopes, cannot clue them in to the outside galaxy much more than ours can today, and b.) the Prime Directive cannot be very sincere when their heat signatures should clue in pre-warp but modern-day level civilization.

And I'm assuming since this is done for comparison to SW for a revamping but not fundamental change to the site, this is important because as Dr. Saxton notes in his Observational History article, SW historians have access to telescopes to directly observe historical events. One conceit of ST v SW is that both parties may have even remotely comparable probability of ever finding the wormhole. Telescope technology and density of settlement alone makes it nearly impossible that ST powers would ever locate it first.
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Postby Patrick Degan » 2007-01-21 11:32am

The range of the sensors in TOS tricorders apparently could reach to space: Kirk uses his to scan for high-energy residue as indication that the Enterprise might have exploded in "That Which Survives".

The sensors on the Enterprise were also apparently capable of picking up trace radiation from an interstellar war from lightyears away ("The Changeling"). Spock mentions this capability when ruling out possible causes of what might have led to the annihilation of all life in the Malurian star system which did not jibe with the data.
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Postby Aaron » 2007-02-08 02:48pm

In the Ultimate Computer the Enterprise could not positively identify the approaching Constitution class ships until they where 200,000 kms away.
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Postby Patrick Degan » 2007-02-08 10:52pm

Cpl Kendall wrote:In the Ultimate Computer the Enterprise could not positively identify the approaching Constitution class ships until they where 200,000 kms away.


It is possible that the Lexington and Excalibur were employing spoofing measures to fool the Enterprise's sensors as a test of M5's capabilities. Or that for a target as small as a starship a certain interval of scanning is necessary to identify the vessel as something other than a contact. It may be that a higher resolution protocol is needed to provide detailed information and that until it is activated the sensors only give raw contact data on movement, bearing and position.
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Postby Ted C » 2007-02-09 10:15am

Patrick Degan wrote:
Cpl Kendall wrote:In the Ultimate Computer the Enterprise could not positively identify the approaching Constitution class ships until they where 200,000 kms away.


It is possible that the Lexington and Excalibur were employing spoofing measures to fool the Enterprise's sensors as a test of M5's capabilities. Or that for a target as small as a starship a certain interval of scanning is necessary to identify the vessel as something other than a contact. It may be that a higher resolution protocol is needed to provide detailed information and that until it is activated the sensors only give raw contact data on movement, bearing and position.


If TNG is any indication, Fed ships rely heavily on transponders to identify other ships. If the Lexington and Excalibur switched off their transponders, they'd be hard to identify from a distance.
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Postby Mobird53 » 2007-02-10 02:21am

Ted C wrote:
Patrick Degan wrote:
Cpl Kendall wrote:In the Ultimate Computer the Enterprise could not positively identify the approaching Constitution class ships until they where 200,000 kms away.


It is possible that the Lexington and Excalibur were employing spoofing measures to fool the Enterprise's sensors as a test of M5's capabilities. Or that for a target as small as a starship a certain interval of scanning is necessary to identify the vessel as something other than a contact. It may be that a higher resolution protocol is needed to provide detailed information and that until it is activated the sensors only give raw contact data on movement, bearing and position.


If TNG is any indication, Fed ships rely heavily on transponders to identify other ships. If the Lexington and Excalibur switched off their transponders, they'd be hard to identify from a distance.


I know that in Voyager they identify by hull design.

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Postby Mobird53 » 2007-02-10 02:26am

Again voyager. in the couple episodes where they are under ground voyagers sensors can pick then up, and even transport with enhancers. but they can only scan through few kilometers of rock. As an example when the flier crashes and goes into the planet their sensors can't pick up the ship they are so far down, they only pick up there fires and some debree.

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Postby Aaron » 2007-02-10 12:46pm

Mobird53 wrote:
I know that in Voyager they identify by hull design.


That's most likely because the Delta Quadrant is basically a mishmash of shit. There's no coherent government over half of it and no way to enforce transponder standards. And Voyager was from the Federation who wouldn't have the ability to read Delta Quadrant transponders anyways. I'd like an episode quote for that so I can look it up as well by the way.
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Postby Mobird53 » 2007-02-10 04:45pm

Cpl Kendall wrote:
Mobird53 wrote:
I know that in Voyager they identify by hull design.


That's most likely because the Delta Quadrant is basically a mishmash of shit. There's no coherent government over half of it and no way to enforce transponder standards. And Voyager was from the Federation who wouldn't have the ability to read Delta Quadrant transponders anyways. I'd like an episode quote for that so I can look it up as well by the way.


Any episode w/ the vidians, but yeah I gotta go look for a quote
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