Ramming, Shields, and the Nemesis Fallacy

 - Objections

Quick Reference:  Past Shield Penetrations, Psychic Shield Silliness, The Display, Kamikaze Tactics, and Objections Wrap-Up


Over at StarDestroyer.Net, there's been a lot of howling about the Nemesis Fallacy page, and their claims have reached a level of absurdity beyond astonishing.   

Before we begin, it might help to revisit the basics.

As per the provided examples of Past Rammings, all ten instances involving a collision against the defender's  standard shields (including one from Nemesis) produce a shield glow.  In the four instances where we know there are no shields on the defender, there is no glow.   These were given as S(a)-G and P(a)-nG, respectively (where "(a)" equals the shield status of the ramming ship). 

From this, one might infer that, in the case of impacts and rammings, there is a glow from the defender's shields if and only if there is a shield on the defending ship (duh).  Or, to put it in another way, we could employ the proposition G iff S (in English: there is a glow if and only if (iff) there is a shield).  Let's see how it works out on a standard truth table (easy explanation for those unfamiliar):  

G S G iff S Translation
T T T True, where there is glow and shield.  (which would be S(a)-G)
T F F False, where there is shieldless glow.  (which would be P(a)-G) 
F T F False, where there are shields without glow.  (which would be S(a)-nG)
F F T True, where there is no glow and no shield.  (which would be P(a)-nG)

The table above perfectly describes what we see in the canon, with one obvious exception:  "Year of Hell"[VOY4], and the scrape across the saucer by the damaged allied ship.   In that case, the defending ship (Voyager) was presumably shielded, and yet there was no glow when collided with.  That, however, is the exception which proves the rule . . . Voyager was rigged with temporal shields, not standard shields.  We saw in the episode that when standard shields were reconfigured to temporal shielding, even the conventional (non-temporal) weapons of the weapon-ship got through effortlessly.   Thus, the inferred rule holds . . . G iff S.

In the Past Rammings examples, there were also 3 uncertain episodes in addition to the 15 which follow the inferred rule . . . the BoP / Cardie Orbital Weapons Platform collision obscured by explosion, and the JH bug / Klingon collisions from ToTP and WYLB.  In the case of the BoP/COWP collision, it's hard to tell just what's going on, but there's no reason to assume that it doesn't follow the rule . . . either there's shields with obscured glow, or no shields and no glow (not that we could see this lack anyway).  

Thus, we're at 16 and 2.  Those two involve rammings which occur in the midst of fleet combat.  In both cases, the combat has lasted a sufficient amount of time that one of the Jem'Hadar starships about to engage in ramming has lost shields, and BoP weapons fire sends it tumbling in flames against another ship.  In both cases, the ships have maneuvered into spitting distance, with weapons fire from both sides erupting as the ships close.  In both cases, the combat has lasted a sufficient amount of time to allow the ships to have broken ranks, ships from both sides flying every which way (as shown by the BoP's pursuit of the tumbling bug just mentioned).

Are we just supposed to assume that the defending ships that showed no glow had full shielding, in contradiction to every other example?   Why should this be so?  Newer Federation shields, 100 year old Federation shields, three Delta Quadrant species' shields, Dominion shields, Cardassian shields, et cetera all follow the rule.  There's no reason to assume that Klingon shields operate on totally different shielding principles (if so, that would've been a better reason for the IKV Ki'tang's resistance to the Breen weapon than a reactor modification).

Once again, there's no reason to assume shield impact without glow . . . in which case, both logically and from the canon context of the events in question, we find ourselves right back at the inferred rule . . . G iff S, in 18 of 18 examples.  

And, even better than pointing out the context of the ramming incidents, I can point out evidence of shield penetration in both cases regarding the very first ships hit . . . the Birds of Prey.

But first, let's take a look at the objection regarding shield penetration:


Shield Penetrations

Some have suggested that the Enterprise overwhelmed the Scimitar's shields so quickly that they did not flare, as we know shields would.  This concept, however, is also in violation of canon shield behavior.    Though we rarely get to see shield failure actually occurring (as opposed to hearing about it from the bridge), a few incidents are observed in Trek:

A.  "Yesterday's Enterprise"[TNG3](alternate timeline) - The Enterprise-D fires phasers against one of the Klingon cruisers.  The hit is dead-center, and after a moment the Klingon ship's shields fail, unwrapping around the ship while the phaser beam cuts into the hull.

B.  Voyager, in battle against a Kazon vessel, cuts through the shields and damages the ship.  The residual sparkly dispersion is still visible, even after the hull is struck. 

C.  "Silent Enemy"[ENT1] - The unidentified ship's shields succumb to Enterprise phase cannon fire.  Even after penetration, the shields continue to glow and sparkle around the ship.

D.  "Message in a Bottle"[VOY4] - In a Federation shield example, a Nebula Class starship pursues and fires on the captured starship Prometheus.  The Romulans separate the ship and attack, cutting through the shields and damaging the Nebula.  Note the similar effect to the Klingon shields of "Yesterday's Enterprise":

Note how in each of the above cases of shield failure, there is a residual shield effect which continues to occur after the shields are actually penetrated. 

What the opponents are suggesting is that the Enterprise-E instantaneously overwhelmed the Scimitar's shields with her first meter's worth of saucer, and that the shield glow, present and quite visible immediately on contact in the numerous "Past Rammings" examples, simply chose not to appear.  As the vehement opponent puts it:  "If the shields remain up after the impact, a glow will be observed. If they are knocked out by the impact, no glow will be observed."    Not only are the shields supposed to be invisible, but evidently they're also to be psychic . . . instead of flaring upon impact like all other shields, they evidently decide in advance that they'll be failing, and thus ought not glow. 

The least the opposition could do is try to hide the insanity of their claim in the 1/24th of a second that a frame lasts . . . say, by claiming that the shield glow appeared and had already dissipated within the space of a single frame.  Of course, that concept doesn't work either, as per the long post-penetration glows above, and the behavior of the Enterprise and Scimitar shields against weapons and (in the case of the E-E) impact.

And even worse, the conclusions which would come from such a concept are ridiculous.  We would have two choices:

Absurd Choice #1. Guesstimate the Enterprise's mass from the known mass of Voyager (700,000 metric tons . . . perhaps triple it to 2.1 million, max), use her speed (114.2 m/s), and get her KE (13 terajoules). One would then have to assume that this is sufficient to crash through 70% shields, and to do so with such rapidity that the shields don't even have time to blink.

However, that results in an absurd conclusion . . . a photon torpedo's yield is in the 100 megaton range, minimum . . . we've seen them far higher. If 70% of the Scimitar's shielding equals 13 terajoules (or much, much less, given their supposed ultra-rapid failure), then 30% equals 5.6 terajoules, maximum.

That means the Scimitar, which resisted no less than 10 direct hits (not even counting the 7 unconfirmed hits, 9 quantum torpedo hits, and countless phaser and disruptor hits), lost 30% shielding from a mere 5.6 terajoules of weapons fire.  Again, per torp-known-to-hit and ignoring all other weapons (to drive up the photon torpedo yield), one would still come out with 560 gigajoule photon torpedoes, absolute maximum.  That's about .13 kilotons, and would imply that a two-meter long photon torpedo carried a mere 6.2 milligrams (0.0002 ounces) of antimatter!

If we include the 9 quantum hits as regular torpedoes, and assume that the phasers and disruptors contributed at least 20% to the shield depletion, then we come out with 234 gigajoules per torpedo . . . a mere 55 tons worth of explosive, or about 22 times the Oklahoma City blast that took out one half of a five-story federal building.

Just try to make that jive with the idea that, over 110 years earlier, lone ships could wipe out every city on a planet.  Hell, it would take 110 years.  Note also that this would mean that the Enterprise NX-01, from 225 years earlier and sporting 500 gigajoule phase cannons, would absolutely pistol-whip the Enterprise-E, especially in a beam-weapons-only fight.

That's insane.

Absurd Choice #2.  Take the known average torpedo yield of about 100 megatons, multiply it out by the torpedoes that hit, adjust for the required energy to take down the last 70% of Scimitar's shields, and use that to get the required KE of the impact.  Since the speed is known (114.2 m/s), we'd have to fiddle with the Enterprise's mass . . . but in that case, she'd have to be one helluva heavy bird.

Let's say 11 photon torpedoes hit (throwing in all the other weapons as one extra torp's worth), at 100 megatons each. That's 1100 megatons, or 4.6 million terajoules. If that's 30% worth of Scimitar shielding, then 70% would be in the range of 10.7 million terajoules. Working the KE equation backward, we get a mass of 1,640,897,923,880,738.7kg for the E-E . . . 1,600,000,000,000 metric tons or so.  That's ever so slightly heavier than the 700,000 ton Voyager, to be sure.

I guess Picard wasn't kidding when he said he needed to go to the ship's gym.

Either way you go, assuming the shields are still up involves something absurd happening . . . either some of the wimpiest torpedoes seen since Kirk's special-order torps in ST5 (being fired against the greatest threat to Earth since the Borg) or an Enterprise-E that suddenly has a mass of 2.25 million Intrepid Class starships, at under twice the length. 


More on the 'Psychic Shield' Objection

The loudest opponent of the logical conclusion regarding the Scimitar is, unsurprisingly, Mike Blackburn, aka "Master of Ossus", though Wong has naturally begun supporting his claims.  As mentioned above, he believes:  "If the shields remain up after the impact, a glow will be observed. If they are knocked out by the impact, no glow will be observed."

I've already pointed out the utter absurdity of such a concept, both logically and canonically.  Even having been shown all the canon examples that demonstrate the fact that the shields of the Scimitar could not have been up, they will still claim the exact opposite and try to shuffle the facts under the nearest rug.  And, even more astonishing, they claim that their notion is "clearly superior", "explains all observations", "explains everything perfectly", and so on.  

( (Sigh) . . . one wonders why I bother.  They are truly astonishing.  To borrow from Paine, arguing with them by use of the very reason they've left long-abandoned is like administering medicine to the dead.)

Though their claims are absurd and have already been shown to be so, it never hurts to be thorough:

In addition to the above examples of shield penetration, it seems we have an extra one . . . the first ramming incidents from "Tears of the Prophets" and "What You Leave Behind".   In both episodes, the first casualty of the Jem'Hadar weapons fire and kamikaze attacks is a Klingon Bird-of-Prey.  And, in both cases, that BoP shows evidence of shield failure right before both ships turn into a single huge exploding wreck:

Two frames before explosion:
Note the new glows, one in the area of the neck,
the other extending meters off the bow.  Both 
continue into the next frame.

Cropped and marked version, with +40% brightness for the dim monitor crowd:

One cannot logically conclude that the glow off the bow, especially, is a normal part of a hull-hull impact.  And, while the glow at the neck and beginning of the BoP's engineering hull could possibly be explained away by opponents as a reflection from the impact site, the idea holds very little merit.  

Unfortunately, the conflagration of the impact a moment later is so enormous that no further detail can be seen.  However, this is certainly an instance of shield glow by impact penetration.   The lack of such a glow in other examples from those same episodes suggests, as does the fleet combat context, the shields of those vessels were down.   And, in the case of the shielded BoPs, they probably had very little left.


The Display

The display of the Scimitar that Geordi is looking at when he reports 70% shielding has an oval around it.  As I'd already mentioned on the main Nemesis Fallacy page, it would make little sense for this oval to be the shield display, since not only does it not show the Scimitar's conformal shielding, but the oval is blinking on and off throughout the scene!   

What, was Geordi suggesting 70% up-time instead of 70% shield strength?  (No, Warsies, do not start arguing that . . . the timing doesn't work.  It was a joke.)

Naturally, the SD.Net flunkies ignored these facts, and the display has become a prominent subsection to their Magic Psychic Shields argument.  Figures.

(Update:   Though my argument above is mostly correct, that is indeed the shield indicator.  However, it is inconsistent with just about everything . . . indeed, if they accept it as a shield indicator, it only makes their argument worse!  See why here.)


Why Ram?

Some argue that there is no tactical logic to ramming, and thus in Star Trek it must be a viable combat tactic which will produce greater damage than any weapons.  Therefore, they believe, calculations such as the "Absurd Choice #1" (with the ridiculously low weapons yields contrary to all other canon) must be accurate.

Meanwhile, the canon disagrees.  Oh, sure, there may indeed be times when, moving pound for moving pound, one's vessel is better used as a club than as a gun (especially when, as seen in the desperate rammings of YoH and Nemesis, the gun was out of bullets).  However, in almost every non-accidental incident of ramming, the purpose is strategic, not tactical.

The most obvious example of this would be the kamikaze attacks performed by Dominion ships.  In the case of the Odyssey, the three bugs had demonstrated over the course of the battle that the Galaxy Class starship was no match for them and their shield-ignoring polaron weapons.  The ramming was, as Sisko put it, the Jem'Hadar showing the Federation how far they were willing to go.  In other words, it's basic kamikaze strategy.  This is no different than what we saw in Starfleet's first offensive (ToTP) or the last step before the assault on Cardassia (WYLB).   Or, to translate:  "Don't resist us . . . it will cost you", then "Don't invade . . . it will cost you", and finally "Ow, you're kicking our ass, but we'll make you pay for every bruise, so why don't you just go home".  

In other words, there's nothing to suggest magical ship-killing powers from ramming, and this can be seen quite well just by comparing Bird of Prey destruction events across the canon with the rammings and collisions that involve them. 

It's also worth noting here that many people conclude that the Enterprise-E, when struck by debris from the Valdore-type ship in Nemesis, took damage to her shielding.   This is not so.   The hits occurred in two areas:


Afterward, Data reported that forward shields were down to 10%.  As you can see below, neither of the above areas that were struck are in the forward shield arc:


Objections Wrap-Up:

"G iff S" . . . in impact situations, you can't separate shields and their glow.  There is no counterexample.  It's not just a good idea . . . it's the law.  ;-)

Opponents of the canon will no doubt continue to develop fanciful explanations that purport to show how the Scimitar's shields could have magically been up without glowing, magically disappeared without showing, and so on.  However, the logic behind such charades is as invisible as the shields they want to pretend were there.