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Star Trek Physics Is Unrealistic, But We're Better off That Way

(Sheldon/Dave Kellett)

In most Star Trek scenes in which two or more ships meet, they'll face each other on the same plane, as though they were traveling in two dimensions, not three. This is physically unrealistic, but it's the only way to avoid the impression that a lot of ship captains are smashed drunk.

Lately, I've been re-watching Enterprise, the last Star Trek television program. The writers corrected many of inconsistencies from the previous shows. You can occasionally see ships meeting each other in non-parallel fashion.

-via Geek Tyrant

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It's kind of like when Picard setup the Tachyon detection grid to detect Romulan Warbirds entering Klingon space in "Redemption Part:2).

How it should have gone down:
Subcommander Sela: How are we ever going to be able to make it through the detection grid?
Moderately Intelligent Romulan Officer: Um...we're in about we fly over it.
Subcommander Sela: BRILLIANT! Someone give that man a Romulan Ale, on me!

Also all the maps of the neutral zone are two dimensional.
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"Visual range" and "sensor range" seem like the same thing, but not "targeting range".
For example, I can look at a far-away tree through a telescope (visual range), but that doesn't mean I can hit it with a BB gun (targeting range). The starship's sensors have identified the other ship, but all they can do is look at it on their big-screen until it gets close enough for their torpedoes to hit it.
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I guess my nerdy reply to that would be that - and I'm speculating here - there is no difference between a starship's visual range and its sensor range. Even in those goofy instances when they have a big window on the front of the bridge they're usually looking at a viewscreen overlaid upon it. One would assume those images are being generated from the ship's sensors, not from a video camera with a significantly lower resolution. So since the sensors that are used to target other vessels are the same sensors being used to generate the visual images of those vessels, they should not be able to attack ships beyond their visual range, since "visual range" and "targeting range" are simply two terms for the same thing in this case. Whadda ya think, does that fly?
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