|Scotty :||"Captain, you can't mix matter and antimatter cold. We'd go up in the biggest explosion since-"|
|Washburn :||"We made a complete check check on structural and control damage, sir. As far as we can tell, something crashed through the deflectors and knocked out the generators. Somehow the antimatter in the warp drive pods has been deactivated."|
|Kirk :||"Deactivated? Scotty, could some kind of general energy dampening field do that? And would the same type of thing account for the heavy subspace interference?"|
|Scotty :||"Aye, it all adds up. But what sort of a thing could do all that?"|
|Kirk :||"Antimatter seems our only possibility."|
|Spock :||"An ounce should be sufficient. We can drain it from the ships engines, transport it to the planet's surface in a magnetic vacuum field."|
|Kirk :||"Contact medical stores. I want as much haemoplasm as they can spare in the transporter room in fifteen minutes."|
|Garrovick :||"Yes sir."|
|McCoy :||"I presume you plan to use the haemoplasm to attract the creature?"|
|Krik :||"We must get it to the antimatter. It seems attracted to red blood cells, what better bait could we have?"|
|Spock :||"There is still one problem, captain."|
|Kirk :||"The blast, yes."|
|Spock :||"Exactly. A matter-antimatter blast will rip away half the planet's atmosphere. If our vessel is in orbit and encounters those shock waves..."|
|Kirk :||"A chance we'll have to take, Mister Spock."|
|0.0567 x (3x108)2|
|0.0567 x 9x1016|
Kinetic energy =
|1/2 m v2|
|1/2 x 5.24 x 1018 x (11,000)2|
|1/2 x 5.24 x 1018 x 1.21x108|
|1/2 x 6.3404x1026 J|
|Kirk :||"Kirk to Enterprise."|
|Spock :||"Spock here captain."|
|Kirk :||"Proceed immediately to maximum orbit."|
|An exterior shot shows the ship moving away from the planet.|
|Garrovick :||"Just think captain - less than one ounce of antimatter here... it's more powerful than ten thousand cobalt bombs."|
|Kirk :||"Let's hope it's as powerful as man will ever get."|
Note the absolutely gigantic crater on the surface. In this image the planet is some 490 pixels in diameter; it is hard to judge the size of the crater with any precision, but as shown the innermost ring of the crater is around 123 pixels in diameter, whilst the outermost extent of it is 235 pixels – with rays extending beyond that almost across the entire hemisphere.
If the planet is Earth-sized, then the diameter is about 12,700 km and so each pixel equals about 26 kilometres. That would make the innermost part of the crater 3,190 km in diameter, and the outermost ring 6,090 km. Again, it’s worth noting that these are approximate figures because it’s not easy to judge the scale of something on a rounded surface like this. But it’s clear, this outer diameter of this crater is certainly in the region of 6,000 km in diameter. It’s certainly obvious that this detonation was far, far and away beyond a megaton or two. So both the spoken evidence, the evidence of the effect on the ship, and the visual evidence of what happened to the planet all agree that this is a serious, planet-wrecking event – all from one ounce of antimatter!
Either Kirk changed his mind offscreen and decided to take a damn sight more of the stuff down there... or this antimatter is doing things our present day science says it should not be able to do.
Further confirmation comes in the episode 'The Immunity Syndrome'. In this the Enterprise encounters a region of 'blackness' in space. They penetrate it and fly towards the centre for some time, before eventually discovering a gigantic space-going amoeba at the centre. Spock describes it thusly :
|'Readings coming in now captain. Length approximately eleven thousand miles. Width varying from two thousand to three thousand miles. Outer layer studded with space debris and waste, interior consists of... protoplasm. Varying from a firmer gelatinous layer to a semi-fluid central mass. Condition... living'|
The space amoeba. Note the darker nucleus.
The ship eventually penetrates the amoeba and decide to use an antimatter charge to kill the creature :
|Kirk :||"Anti power."|
|Kirk :||"This thing has a negative energy charge, everything seems to work in reverse. We'll use antimatter."|
|Scotty :||"Aye, it couldn't swallow that!"|
|Kirk :||"Mr Chekov prepare a probe. Scotty, we'll need a magnetic bottle for the charge. How soon?"|
|Scotty :||"It's on its way sir!"|
|Kirk :||"Mr Chekov, we'll use a timing detonator for the probe. We'll work out a setting. Helmsman, when do you estimate arrival on nucleus?"|
|Helmsman :||"Seven minutes sir."|
|McCoy :||"How close are you going to it?"|
|Kirk :||"Point blank range. We'll implant it and then back away."|
|McCoy :||"Why, the probe has a range of-"|
|Kirk :||"With the eddies and currents in that thing, the probe could drift thousands of kilometres. We must be exactly on target, because we won't have a second chance."|
We can approach the idea of super-antimatter in one of three ways :
1) We're the ones with the problem...
The first option is to say that our present day knowledge of antimatter is flawed. In the future, scientists will discover that antimatter can indeed act in the ways that Star Trek shows it to.
This is, to put it mildly, highly unlikely. At the beginning of this article I mentioned the recent creation of 50,000 antimatter atoms by CERN. Scientists have been experimenting with subatomic particles of antimatter since the discovery of the positron (anti-electron) in 1932, and creating antimatter atoms for years now. To suggest that we could suddenly discover that all our knowledge of antimatter is wrong would be akin to suggesting that we could suddenly discover that Gold is a type of soft rubber.
2) New types of antimatter
A little more credible is the idea that the scientists of the future have discovered some form of 'super-antimatter'. A material which shares enough of the properties of antimatter to share the name, but which is different in other ways. This could be analogous to the way in which liquid crystals are so named because they have some of the properties of a liquid and some of the properties of a crystal.
This explanation has the advantage that it avoids most of the stepping on the toes of present day science whilst still allowing us to accept the canon as fact.
3) It's just a TV show, stupid!
Option three is the old fall back - the writers made a mistake, let's ignore it and move on. While this has the virtue of being literally true, it's an attitude that I've always thought of as being somewhat lazy and lacking in imagination. Your mileage may vary.
In accepting either option 1 or 2, we are accepting that the antimatter used in Star Trek is thirty billion times more powerful than that we know of today - each kilogram of M/AM mix would yield about 5.6x1027 J, equivalent to a 1,300,000,000,000 Megaton bomb. This has all kinds of implications for the power generation capacity of Starships and the yield of their weapons. For instance, 3 kg matter/antimatter charge described in the TNG technical manual would yield 3,900,000,000,000 Megatons instead of the 62 Megaton maximum possible with normal antimatter. The 2,000 kg M/AM charge carried by the Cardassian Dreadnought missile would have a yield of 2,600,000,000,000,000 Megatons. This begins to approach the kind of levels needed to blow a planet completely into fragments!
Quite how super-antimatter manages to produce so much energy is a mystery. In Star Trek most such mysteries revolve around subspace, which acts as a kind of catchall explanation to make everything work just as the plot demands it should. So maybe the reaction between matter and super-antimatter releases energy from subspace. Or maybe the Wicked Witch of the West throws evil fairy dust on it. It doesn't really matter, the point is that this is the conclusion that the evidence forces us to.
Although a strong canonical case can be made for this material, and the levels of power that would result, it is not something I have chosen to apply in the remainder of this website. At least, not yet...
|Yellow text = Canon source||Green text = Backstage source||Cyan text = Novel||White text = DITL speculation|
|Copyright Graham Kennedy||Page views : 8,043||Last updated : 1 Jan 1970|