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William B
Thu, Aug 15, 2019, 9:54am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Human Error

Also, I think the situation is different than if the roles are reversed, not because of gender but because Seven is basically an emotional child and Chakotay is both emotionally mature (well, is supposed to be) and her superior officer. What Seven is doing is inappropriate and the episode treats it as such but the emotional power imbalance is such that we don't really have to worry that Chakotay is being all that injured. Even if it were the less mature and confident Kim instead of Chakotay in Seven's fantasy it would play creepier, IMO.
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William B
Tue, Aug 13, 2019, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Naked Now

Thank you, Strejda!
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William B
Tue, Aug 13, 2019, 12:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@Trent, Theo (et al.)

Interestingly my view of the episode aligns pretty strongly with Trent's -- and indeed I was going to post something similar but fuzzier, before I decided it'd been too long since I'd seen the episode, my view was too poorly-formed, I didn't want to stir things up again etc.

What I'd add to what Trent says is that I think that the episode's use of the Ferengi is actually pretty clever. I think that the Ferengi are used as representatives of clownish sexism, oppression -- human trafficking, even! -- in order to make it easy to recognize Picard as being far above them, *initially*, only to loop back around into criticizing Picard at the end. The Ferengi's total objectification of Kamala raises the question of whether her own civilization, and then eventually Picard, actually treats her better. And I think the answer is that, in some respects, they don't. Something similar goes with the scenes of the catcalling blue collar types (a classist stereotype but from my observation not one with no basis in reality), and even Riker and Worf. The types that Kamala inhabits with the Ferengi (where she's just a golden egg), the miners, Riker, Worf etc. are all easier to spot as fantasy fulfillment figures than the type she inhabits with Picard, which is far more complex but (arguably) not any more "free." I might even add Beverly's take on Kamala to the list -- she views Kamala as a perfect victim, who has no agency at all and cannot possibly enjoy the life set out for her, which requires Beverly to gloss over the apparent alien biology of the situation, and also seems to not involve Beverly actually talking to her.

I also think that the episode highlights a fracture in Picard's ethical framework. Picard both values commitment to duty, self-sacrifice and self-abnegation, the greater good, peace, AND to justice, individual rights, countering oppression, the importance of subjectively lived experience, etc. This is reasonable -- most of us probably value both. This is a situation in which the two conflict. Picard himself would, I have little doubt, lay down his life to end a horrific war (provided it was his place, and not a Prime Directive issue), and so he does actually walk the walk with the self-sacrifice thing, but he also is not being asked to enter into what is a sham, symbolic marriage for the rest of his life, to have to live a lie for decades until he dies. Perhaps as Skeptical indicates she will have lots of time to herself to explore other features of her life, but I don't know whether that will be the case. Anyway, I think the inability of Picard to resolve the contradictions of his value system ends up cornering Kamala into a, if not worst-case scenario, arguably a very tragic one. He (and who his image of the perfect mate/partner) ends up inadvertently requiring her that Kamala understand the value of the freedom she cannot attain and the sense of duty and self-sacrifice required to put aside what is best for her. Kamala's imprinting on him produces the effect that she understands on a deep level what she is giving up, because Picard could not truly bear *either* that she commit deep down to the role she has been set out nor to actual rebellion against her circumstances.
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William B
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Elementary, Dear Data

Interestingly, there's a bit in the shooting script which reveals that Data had figured out that Moriarty could leave the holodeck and had outsmarted him as a result. This was a good cut, because while it resolves Data's arc for the episode it just creates too many other problems, technically, thematically, and ethically.

Interestingly I think the sequel to this episode, Ship in a Bottle, genuinely does resolve the dangling Data thread, which is great.
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William B
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Child

And of course Riker's beard, Geordi's being in Engineering, Worf's security post being more official. It's pretty low-key. Most of what's good about this episode is really quite incidental to the main story (which is a hastily rewritten script from the, following Worf's suggestion, killed-in-infancy Star Trek II series).
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William B
Fri, Aug 9, 2019, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Child

This episode contains one of the strongest pieces of evidence for Wesley as Mary Sue, which is that upon getting *Whoopi Goldberg* to be on the show, the very first use they put her to is to convince Wesley to stay. I say that half-joking and half with affection.

In retrospect I feel a little better about this one than I did earlier on. I think that the material surrounding the transitions and introductions and (offscreen) departures (Beverly, Wesley, Pulaski, Guinan) is pretty good, and looking at the Ian Andrew material through the lens of the cast reshuffling makes the episode broadly about not just life but about the way people (especially children) enter and leave our lives.
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William B
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 11:40am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Samaritan Snare

@Peter, this is a very intriguing analysis (and one that almost makes me want to rewatch this episode -- which I maybe even will, despite its...problems). What is it that "makes us go" but our hearts, in their literal function of pumping blood in our bodies?

On the Beverly question, I think I disagree a bit that it's a problem in Tapestry. Picard and Beverly *are* different ages -- at the very least, the actors are nine years apart in age, which would be significant at the time Picard was a cadet. This difference could have been shortened in order to provide the story you suggest. But I'm not sure that it's necessary that it was literally Beverly that Picard was stabbed for. We could rather see Picard's losing his heart due to his hotheaded decisions in his youth, and having to make do with a mechanical replacement (which he keeps deeply under wraps, to the point he wants to leave the ship), as being a determining factor that caused him to refrain from expressing his feelings to Beverly later on.

What's interesting is this also suggests the ways in which he relates to Wesley: Picard might actually *want* to take a more active fatherly role in Wesley's life, both because he loves Beverly and because he was Jack's best friend, but he feels restricted to only providing career-mentorship, which is, in the end, not really what Wesley wants from him either. The main lesson that the Traveler seems to teach Wesley is that he should try to interact with the physical, mechanical world from an intuitive, even emotional place, and that's where Wesley's genius lies; it seems that in following Picard Wesley internalizes some of the necessity of cutting himself off from his emotions in order to prioritize his career, which seems to be some of what leads him astray (deriving meaning in his life from Nova Squadron, e.g.). At the very least, the moral self-discipline required to live Picard's life seems to be greater than what most people can manage (apparently including Wesley), which is maybe a sign that we should not seek to emulate this aspect of Picard (his emotional detachment) *too* closely, if we can avoid it (which Picard arguably cannot).
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William B
Tue, Jul 23, 2019, 11:05am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Big Goodbye

Haha. Most of us probably all have soft spots for episodes we know aren't exactly the best.
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William B
Tue, Jul 23, 2019, 10:32am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Big Goodbye

(Of course, one could argue that a real Bogart fan would have made better episodes as homage!)

I should also say that because Picard is so enthusiastic, it should be a better detective/noir story than it is, so I take back that "part of the point" line. So okay it's not a good homage and it's anemic and all but I still find the effort kind of charming, and as I said I still really like Tierney here.
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William B
Tue, Jul 23, 2019, 10:26am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Big Goodbye

I kind of like this one, possibly because I am a fan of detective noir films. Of course this is plastic and inauthentic, but that's part of the point. It's definitely slow and kind of pointless, but I like Tierney a lot even in a kind of empty role like this one, and I like the Data, Crusher bits (as Springy mentions) and Picard's enthusiasm. Really this episode feels like a trial run for better episodes down the line (particularly the Moriarty eps). Picard navigating an "exciting" (or so is the intent) adventure as proxy for navigating the boring but higher stakes language diplomacy thing is also about how fiction functions in our lives (see also that Picard and Crusher can only flirt in character), and to an extent this first holodeck malfunction is about becoming too involved in a story.
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William B
Tue, Jul 23, 2019, 10:19am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Big Goodbye

I think it's the latter (that this is a deliberate homage to film noir in general). There was certainly no attempt to hide that this is based on The Maltese Falcon, with Sydney Greenstreet's character being renamed "Cyrus Redblock." Humphrey Bogart starred in both The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, and We'll Always Have Paris, later in the season, references Casablanca, so there seems to be a Bogart fan on the staff. Lawrence Tierney, who plays Redblock, was a heavy in many old noirs as well (Tarantino would use him in Reservoir Dogs a few years later).

In any case, the titles of both of the Marlowe novels are euphemisms to death - - the big sleep, the long goodbye. The episode gives some poignancy to Hill's friend who asks whether he'll still exist when Picard turns off the program, and so I think what this episode is "about" is about death and stories - - how we are attracted to stories where people encounter death but have mastery over it (detectives). Whether those stories stay with us when we leave them. I'm not saying it's successful at that.
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William B
Fri, Jul 19, 2019, 11:20am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Things Past

I'm pretty sure Dax just picked Leeta as the name as a Bajoran she knows. She was taken by Dukat's goons before the others found out their names, which required Garak swiping access to the computer system, and so she had no way to know who she was supposed to be. Probably Dukat doesn't particularly care what his, uh, "companions" call themselves, even if her identity can be verified.
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William B
Tue, Jul 16, 2019, 11:09am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Hide and Q

@Chrome,

I agree that this episode works pretty well if we assume Q's real target is still Picard, and it's not a stretch at all. OTOH,

(spoilers)

The case can be made that it's very important for the human race (!!!) for Riker to get a taste of real power and to give it up, and for him to recognize that he cannot just become Picard to replace him. Arguably both are necessary for Riker to save the day in BOBW, by recognizing how to see the value in recovering Picard and how to improvise around a more powerful opponent rather than simply being him. If we view Q as at least partly enacting a plan to help humanity then he maybe is intervening to get the very result this episode gives. Death Wish also suggests that the Q recognize Riker's importance. This is hardly the episode's intent but it makes some sense anyhow.
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William B
Tue, Jul 16, 2019, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Hide and Q

@Springy,

The penalty box scene is so cringey. I get why Crosby wasn't happy with her role on the show.

It's probably not intended, but I like that Troi is absent for this episode "about" Riker's runaway ambition.

I think I mentioned it above, but one thing I like is how this episode shows the "way out" of the dilemma in Where No Man Has Gone Before (where Mitchell got Godlike powers and had to be killed): Riker can choose to put them aside and doesn't have to be killed. There are a few TNG eps that imagine more peaceful resolutions to TOS plots. In some cases (eg this one) it makes for worse drama.
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William B
Tue, Jul 16, 2019, 10:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Battle

@Springy,

I think I recall you making a similar observation in Buffy, about Willow and Tara stargazing and Willow mentioning that some of the stars have since died.

I should add, this is also the first ep that suggests the possibility that a) the Ferengi are motivated by more than greed, and also b) "profit" (self-interest) is not entirely bad (Kazenga recognizing there's no profit in revenge), which are regular themes in the Quark eps.
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William B
Mon, Jul 15, 2019, 11:16am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Battle

@Springy,

Good thoughts. I remember really disliking this one when I first saw it when I was a young child, but I appreciate it more now.

There's a very..."elderly parent" tinge to the Picard material -- sickened, laid back with headaches, retreating into the past, taking repetitive actions which are no longer appropriate. Picard's loss of the Stargazer and Bok's loss of his son have hurt both of them -- but of course a ship is easier to get over than a son, which is why Bok needs a mind control headache sphere to push Picard to where he is (trapped at the moment of the Stargazer/Bok's son battle). I think Picard has guilt over the loss of the Stargazer and over the loss of the enemy ship, which makes me wonder if Bok is motivated partly by guilt, too, which he projects entirely onto Picard.

The Picard maneuver relies on going to warp so that the time delay from light speed creates the appearance of two Stargazers. But one of them is no longer there -- it's from the past, just taking its time to catch up. You have to make sure you know which is really still there, and what is just a figment of the past catching up.
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William
Fri, Jul 12, 2019, 8:54am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Paradise Lost

Is nobody else worried that a Starfleet officers family member (Sisko's father) already gave away that the blood tests wouldn't pick a Changeling from everyone else if they stored some blood inside them?
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William B
Tue, Jul 9, 2019, 1:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

@grumpy_otter, I'm always happy to have people deferring to me :), but as Chrome points out I think you are confusing Batman Begins and Beyond.

As far as Casino Royale, there are two movies with that title -- the one you're thinking of is indeed a spoof-ish thing with David Niven, Peter Sellers, etc. from the late 60's. The reboot (or possibly prequel) Casino Royale is from the 2000s and features Daniel Craig as a Tougher early Bond whose rough edges haven't been smoothed (he doesn't give a damn how his martini is prepared).
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William B
Sun, Jul 7, 2019, 7:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Naked Now

@Springy, nice to see you going through TNG. I love TNG but season 1 especially is rough.

I like your analysis of this episode regarding not letting things build up, the dangers of over indulging.... This episode infamously starts a series of Wesley precociously saves the day by making a calculation a computer can't (???) but on theme it's worth noting that Wesley's bubbling talent is partly something that normally has to get subsumed into pranks and actually applying his gifts to something important is only allowed by the boozy release valve. Similar maybe for Tasha's going after Data, where the idea is probably that her default oppositional mode is allowed to be suspended when she allows herself to indulge in a little tenderness outside the security chief job description. That Picard doesn't really let his guard down even with Crusher even while infected should say something about how much integrity he has and/or how deeply locked in he is.
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William B
Tue, Jul 2, 2019, 9:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Maybe I should modify what I said. I use "mystery box" because IIRC that's the term Abrams himself uses for the conceptual hook of a mystery whose resolution is largely irrelevant. As with Peter, my problem isn't that I think LOST sucks and therefore Abrams sucks. Rather, being tied to a series of mysteries which sometimes detracted from the show's actual strengths (which were many) is the negative contribution I feel like Abrams made to LOST. I liked the show much of the time and thought many characters were very well done, but Abrams is largely not responsible for this, whereas he is responsible for the show being tied to its increasingly bizarre mythology. I think I see something similar with TFA where it seemed to me that unsolved/unsolvable mysteries are deliberately set up to whet audience interest and then become an albatross for the next guy, who has to dodge or ignore them.
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William B
Tue, Jul 2, 2019, 9:12am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

@Chrome,

Certainly I'll give you The Godfather Part II. But Batman Begins and Casino Royale are more reboots than prequels, and both are, for that matter, adaptations of print properties (Casino Royale of a specific book, Begins more of the general Batman comics property). CR is more tied in with the other Bond films (Judi Dench's M, visual refeences to Dr. No et al.) but BB doesn't really feel related to the Burton/Schumacher Bat-pictures at all. Neither can really be true prequels anyway since they locate the "origin story" in the present day anyway.

I don't say this to deride (or defend) prequels.

@Jason, without getting into specifics about the Star Wars movies, I agree with you about Abrams. I have heard that Alias is okay; I'm willing to believe he does some things well. But I find his "mystery box" storytelling style empty and infuriating.
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William B
Wed, Jun 26, 2019, 2:12am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Good points, Chrome.

Peter, that's fair. I'm basing my read though somewhat on McCoy's interpretation:

MCCOY: The biographical tape of Richard Daystrom.
KIRK: Did you find anything?
MCCOY: Not much, aside from the fact he's a genius.
KIRK: Genius is an understatement. At the age of twenty four, he made the duotronic breakthrough that won him the Nobel and Zee-Magnes prizes.
MCCOY: In his early twenties, Jim. That's over a quarter of a century ago.
KIRK: Isn't that enough for one lifetime?
MCCOY: Maybe that's the trouble. Where do you go from up? You publish articles, you give lectures, then spend your life trying to recapture past glory.
KIRK: All right, it's difficult. What's your point?
MCCOY: The M-1 through M-4, remember? Not entirely successful. That's the way Daystrom put it.
KIRK: Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis. Did Einstein, Kazanga, or Sitar of Vulcan produce new and revolutionary theories on a regular schedule? You can't simply say, today I will be brilliant. No matter how long it took, he came out with multitronics. The M-5.
MCCOY: Right. The government bought it, then Daystrom had to make it work. And he did. But according to Spock, it works illogically.

It may be that he is wrong, but I think McCoy's point is that this is a predictable outcome for someone who completes a lifetime's work at 24 - - that it is actually on some level unbearable to never be able to recapture that success. Rationally of course no one can expect to produce more than one scientific or technological innovation in a lifetime, which is what Kirk is saying, but that is different from Daystrom's subjective experience of his own worth. This is not confined to scientists and engineers. Child stars often burn out and get sucked into drugs; authors whose first novel is wildly successful sometimes become unhappy recluses. Orson Welles continued working but frequently resented being tied to Citizen Kane forever. Daystrom was not spinning his wheels, but I believe he was unhappy and dissatisfied (as many child prodigies become). I am not even claiming that Daystrom ever was laughed at by colleagues - - it could well have been paranoia -- but merely that he learned too early in life to tie his whole sense of self worth to his "success" before having the maturity to understand what that meant.

The other thing is that the way Daystrom repeatedly emphasizes "self-defense" in the M-5's behaviour makes me think that Daystrom himself feels very threatened, since the M-5 is based on him. This is not incompatible with his paternalistic belief he knows what's best for all of society, but I get a certain impression of emptiness, disappointment and insecurity-based fear from Daystrom, under the bluster.
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William B
Tue, Jun 25, 2019, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

You know, I've been thinking some more about this, and I think I read Daystrom a little differently than Peter. I agree that he sees himself as different from other ("less intelligent") people, has some real arrogance, and seems to harbour egotistic condescension. But I think that, as much narcissism, this stems from deep insecurity:

DAYSTROM: We will survive. Nothing can hurt you. I gave you that. You are great. I am great. Twenty years of groping to prove the things I'd done before were not accidents. Seminars and lectures to rows of fools who couldn't begin to understand my systems. Colleagues. Colleagues laughing behind my back at the boy wonder and becoming famous building on my work. Building on my work.

This dialogue shows both -- but I want to emphasize "colleagues laughing behind my back at the boy wonder" here. Daystrom succeeded wildly early in life, and then after that felt empty. It's a common feature of prodigies; a somewhat less extreme version is Dr. Stubbs in TNG's Evolution, who seems worse at first glance (is not as much in hiding/denial as Daystrom) but ends up going far less crazy. His whole value was derived from other people seeing him as having accomplishments, and then without those accomplishments he had nothing left. I guess I want to emphasize here that this problem is not purely egotism, but that people who achieve highly early in life are sometimes effectively trained to view everything about themselves *except for* their achievements as worthless.

So here's the paradox, a connection that I just realized: Daystrom's problem is, in certain respects, the same one as Kirk's! Daystrom's first invention made *himself* redundant; he basically revolutionized all computer systems, with a technology so advanced that he basically put *himself* out of work, because he would never again create an invention of this calibre! Daystrom, as a result, struggled with his own redundancy for decades, until he came up with a new invention. Which means that Daystrom needed to continue to prove his worth, again and again, and could not stand the feeling of being useless, which is the thing he is ushering in for Kirk et al. The main difference IMO is that Kirk is capable of self-awareness, which Daystrom is not:

KIRK: Am I afraid of losing command to a computer? Daystrom's right. I can do a lot of other things. Am I afraid of losing the prestige and the power that goes with being a starship captain? Is that why I'm fighting it? Am I that petty?
MCCOY: Jim, if you have the awareness to ask yourself that question, you don't need me to answer it for you. Why don't you ask James T. Kirk? He's a pretty honest guy.

This makes me think, too, that the issue with the M-5 is not *purely* that it wants to RULE EVERYONE. In fact it's that it needs to *defend itself*. The thing is, technology, at least unless some AI is created which is accepted as having rights, is basically disposable unless it is useful. The M-5 has to demonstrate *its usefulness* in order to continue existing, which means that it has to have threats to eliminate, in order to prove that it is necessary to eliminate threats. "The unit must survive." It is, in a twisted way, genuinely self-defensive for the M-5 to see threats everywhere, because either something is an actual active threat to it, or it is "not a threat," in which case M-5 is no longer as necessary, and thus is more likely to be thrown in the dustbin (as Daystrom felt he was). The reason I mention this is not to make excuses for Daystrom, but because it's a slightly different "disease" with perhaps a different "cure." I think M-5 sees threats everywhere because Daystrom, on some level, sees threats everywhere -- because he is, on some level, deeply afraid of whether he has any value if he can never produce anything of value again.

Anyway, I think the best case scenario is to do what Kirk does: to recognize and value the desire to be productive and useful, while also keeping an eye out for what is *actually* good for others (and oneself), besides a need to prove one's usefulness. What this means in practice is difficult. As the discussion above has pointed out, the continuing way in which technology makes various human tasks redundant has all kinds of implications, and it's also not so clear how to stem the tide or whether that'd even be desirable.
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William B
Fri, Jun 21, 2019, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Explorers

@Jason, my understanding is that the experimental verification is very good, with the caveat that the experimental verification at extreme high speeds (extremely close to the speed of light) is largely from elementary particles -- which means that we might be missing something if extended acceleration breaks down bonds, or something like that. That is a potentially big caveat.

As far as the practical concerns, I don't know too much about what the engineering challenges would be so I'll just rattle off what I know and what I remember hearing. I'm sure there are big problems I'm not mentioning, but here are a few. The kinetic energy of a fast-moving object basically scales inversely with the time dilation factor, so to get to a speed at which time moves 1/10 as fast on the ship would require at least approximately 10 times the rest mass times c^2 energy input into the object, at minimum -- and that's not even counting that momentum also has to be conserved, which means that a large amount of extra energy would likely have to be input in order to account for the momentum travelling opposite the ship. With enough antimatter this might work out, but it becomes a standard rocketry problem where until the fuel actually leaves the ship, it has to be carried by the ship and still accelerated. I'd have to look into it precisely, but I think it's a problem. There's also the apparent limits on what accelerations a human being can survive. There might be ways around this ("inertial dampeners"!!!) but I'm not sure how much it'd be possible. Acceleration is really experienced within the object's rest frame, so the additional problem is that at "constant acceleration" in the object's own rest frame, the rate at which an object approaches the speed of light in (say) the Earth's frame will slow down. So that's another issue. I'm sure there are others.

Notably though, neither of these two are all *that* relevant when we're talking about even 1/2 the speed of light. The time dilation at 1/2 the speed of light is only a factor of 2/sqrt(3) or about 1.154, and so to a first approximation you can just treat it nonrelativistically. That's still extremely fast, but in a nonrelativistic universe it would only take a little under a year to accelerate to c at one g (the Earth's gravity), by coincidence, so it'd only take about half a year to accelerate to 1/2 the speed of light at a constant speed of 1 g. Sustaining 1g acceleration for a whole year on a space ship would require a lot of fuel, but might not be too bad. The idea of using lasers (as Chrome mentions) is a way of getting around the fuel issue, but creates its own problems. It is a cool feature that lasers exert pressure, and indeed using light reflection to propel an object does seem to be the most efficient way, offhand, due to light's lack of rest mass.
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William B
Fri, Jun 21, 2019, 10:51am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Explorers

@Peter,

That's a great question about how length contraction can be measured, and in fact it is very difficult to measure directly. I haven't checked the state of the art, so maybe someone has, but because the only things that are easy to accelerate close to light speed in the lab are particles (which, consequently, don't have much "length" to measure, although there are other things like their electromagnetic field which are similar) rather than extended objects, it's not an easy thing to verify directly. However, length contraction follows directly from the constancy of the speed of light and the existence of time dilation, both of which are well studied, as well as the principle of relativity. I'm probably understating the experimental evidence here, but it's more that the strongest and oldest experimental evidence is for the things that imply length contraction rather than length contraction itself.

To use an example that's close to what we're talking about, muons travelling at high speeds penetrate through the Earth's atmosphere with a relatively long decay time, even though the decay time of a muon in its rest frame is very short -- shorter than the time it takes for even a near-light-speed muon to pass through the atmosphere (in Earth's frame). In the Earth frame, the explanation is time dilation: the muon experiences a shorter amount of time between the point it enters the atmosphere and when it hits the Earth than the muon would itself. From the muon's frame, the Earth can still only approach it at *at most* the speed of light. That means that the distance between the upper atmosphere and the surface must be less in the muon's frame, in order for the muon to still experience as little time passing during the time it takes for the Earth to hit the muon. Basically both length contraction and time dilation are consequences of the Lorentz transformations, which transform between inertial frames while keeping the speed of light in vacuum constant.

To extend the example of the muon, here's what happens to the space ship during the round trip. It's in the Earth frame. Then it accelerates (say in a very short time) until it's moving near the speed of light, in Earth's frame. It travels to the star, and will get to the star in the Earth-star frame in just over ten years, because the Earth and star both measure its speed as being near light speed. Then it slows down, say touches down on the surface, and then accelerates and races back to the Earth, and then slows down and stops. Once again, the star-Earth frame distance is ten light years, and the ship is going at near light speed, so it takes ten more years (and change), for a round trip of twenty years on Earth. However, time dilation means that the space ship crew has barely aged during this time.

(This is Einstein's Twin "Paradox," which is that if one twin remained on Earth and the other went on the space ship, the Earth twin would age 20 years but the space ship twin would barely age at all. The "paradox" is that it appears to violate the tenet of (special) relativity that all frames are equally valid. In truth it does not, because the space ship was not staying in a constant inertial frame the whole time. An inertial frame is a "constant speed" frame, without acceleration, and so the space ship, due to its periods of acceleration, did not remain in a single frame the whole time, and thus broke the symmetry with Earth.)

But anyway, we know how much the ship crew has aged, and we know how much time has passed on Earth. It just remains to explain how this is explained in the space ship crew's frame. The way that transforming between frames work is that if A appears to travel at speed v in B's frame, B will appear to travel at speed -v in A's frame (equal and opposite). This means that if the space ship is travelling at near light speed in the Earth-star frame, then in the ship's frame, Earth and the star will appear to be moving at near light speed in the ship's frame. Note that the ship is *not moving* in its own frame. So it would seem at first glance that it would take another 10 LY for the ship to experience the journey, not because the ship is moving (in its own frame, it is still) but because the ship now has to wait for the star to come around and arrive at the ship, and the star is only going at near light speed. The key is that the Earth-star distance is shortened, by a factor equal to the time dilation factor. This is why the travel time is not merely halved -- it's not just that the ship and the star are both approach in each other, but that the ship is waiting for the star to cover a *much smaller than 10 LY* distance, which the star can do with ease. Similarly for the travel from the star to Earth. So the acceleration and deceleration is the "only" hard part. Because objects tend to stay in their own inertial frames, it's the accelerating between inertial frames that is the difficult part -- that and resynchronizing watches.

(Part of the reason I mentioned the "round trip" is that simultaneity is actually problematic in relativity -- while it's relatively intuitive to say that it takes light ten years to go from Earth to a star, in different frames what constitutes the "same time" on Earth and the star will be different, and so the most consistent way to measure a time for a trip is with a single clock at one location, rather than two synchronized clocks at different locations.)

Hope this made sense! It's actually easier with the math, but then maybe this isn't the time for a Lorentz transformations special relativity math lesson.

@Jason, your understanding is correct. Assuming Voyager could have accelerated up to very high sublight speeds, it could have made it to Earth in very little time at all, assuming they didn't care that they'd be arriving on an Earth 70000 light years later. If that were their plan, one assumes Janeway would have ditched her engagement ring sooner. (Although this does raise the other point that if Mark wanted to wait for Janeway, and if somehow he knew she would be back in 70000 years, he could "just" accelerate a ship to near light speed and go on a round trip to get back coinciding with her arrival. It be funny like that.)
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