Monday, November 30, 2009

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 compared to what anyone might expect as "normal operations".

Kirk, preparing to dive after our helmsman, yells "Sulu!" in a useless gesture. Kirk then dives after our helmsman and yells "Sulu!" in another useless gesture. Hikaru could not possibly hear him in either instance, since wind is really loud, obstruction by the platform and the distance between them, but there's no real point to yelling Sulu's family name at him anyway, is there? With impossible precision, Kirk speed-dives into the free-falling Sulu, and despite Sulu's lack of preparation, they successfully gain a secure linkup on the first try. Kirk calls out for him to "Hold on. I gotcha – now pull my chute!" When this occurs, the chute deploys and once we are shown future technology and techniques inferior to those of the past when the canopy breaks away like Corvette convertible soft top, and the free-fall continues. Like most other dubious failures, this one is bounded by a matched pair of miracles.

"Kirk to Enterprise: we are falling without a chute. Beam us up!" The transporter tech uselessly reports "I'm trying - I can't lock on to your signal, you're moving too fast." We cut to the bridge as Chekov announces: "I can do that!" twice, maybe for "dramatic" effect, then he bolts from his seat and yells to a female crew member "Take the con!" "Aye, sir."

Let's see...Capt. Pike was responsible for the ship, and he abandoned his post during an emergency. Next, Spock had command responsibility, then he abandoned his post, then Chekov did the same. Let it never be said that Starfleet does have consistency in their cadet training (in dereliction).

One of the Bridge crew reports: "The black hole is expanding; we won't reach minimum safe distance if we don't leave immediately." Hm, they seem to know a lot about what the singularity is going to do based on unknown readings that are "Off the scale" and caused by unknown "red matter" modified and delivered by some unknown technology from the future, by aliens about whom they know almost nothing! As if by miracle, the Bridge crew has also calculated a schedule for what will happen, and a timetable for the response actions they need to take and their safety magins. It's too bad they weren't using any of these miraculous mental powers earlier, when it might help in some way.

Chekov sprints down the passageways announcing again: "I can do that!" twice, maybe for "dramatic" effect. As he reaches the transporter room, we hear Kirk's voice repeat: "Beam us up!" and in an external shot, we see the pair still holding on to each other, tumbling to their next near doom.

In this segment, one woman delivers a single uninterrupted line onscreen.

Next, Star Trek by the Minute 061: Spock Beams Down

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