Why the Enterprise Could Never Go Underwater

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By now, you've probably seen the new trailer for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, which features a stunning shot of the Enterprise rising up out of a body of water. According to journalists who have seen the first nine minutes of the film, the Enterprise is purposefully hiding there. Only one problem, though: It could never happen.

Raymond Wagner, who has a PhD in electrical engineering and works in the space industry, told Badass Digest going underwater is the kind of thing that simply wouldn't be built into the capabilities of the spaceship. "Like most spacecraft, the Enterprise is designed to keep between one and several atmospheres of pressure in, while the ship itself is exposed to the vacuum of space," Wagner says. "This is a very different job than keeping out the pressure from tons of sea water over your head." For every 33 feet the ship descends into the body of water, Wagner says, the pressure would increase by one atmosphere, "and it won't take much depth to generate some crazy pressures!" And that's just one reason why having the Enterprise hang out underwater doesn't make sense.

Devin Faraci, who wrote the article and expressed displeasure about the scene on Twitter, obviously understands that filmmakers often stretch or fudge science in service of the story—as is their right, to make a more compelling movie. Still, he says, Star Trek has been an inspiration to scientists—and in fact has inspired many areas of modern science—since it debuted in the 1960s. But Abrams' films seem to be more fantasy than sci-fi, and that's an issue. "In a modern age where space exploration is being devalued and huge numbers of Americans still believe in Creationism, Star Trek's aspirational, human-level, technology-centered philosophy is more important than ever," Faraci writes. "I want the new Star Trek franchise to inspire the next generation of engineers and explorers. Instead it seems that JJ Abrams has taken the franchise into the Star Wars space fantasy direction, where characters misuse words like 'parsecs' and where basic physics are thrown out the window. ... Star Trek should be scifi... and science is just as important as fiction in that portmanteau. "

I tend to agree with Faraci on this one. What do you guys think?

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December 11, 2012 - 3:30pm
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