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Star Trek by the Minute 060: Minimum Safe Distance

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Sulu, who has been standing on the edge of the platform like he is preparing to back flip off of it, does a back flip off of it. The transporter technician's voice comes across Kirk's com as "I can't lock onto you, don't move…don't move!" This hardly seems possible: a speed of light (or faster) transportation system that cannot lock onto a target with a tiny amount of relative motion? For example, if the Enterprise were near Earth and stationary relative to the sun, a cadet at Starfleet Academy would be moving about 30 km/sec relative to the ship. Because we don't sense the Earth's motion, 140 m/s in a straight vertical diving freefall seems fast – but is really more of an indication of how poorly our senses give us an accurate impression of "the bigger picture". In reality, locking onto a person in freefall at maximum velocity would involve less than one half of one percent difference in their relative speed…