The Star Trek universe overflows with subatomic particles and energy sources of all kinds, from both natural and artificial sources. Characters who go into space (especially in Starfleet) seem to run into these wild phenomena on a regular basis.
Accordingly, part of the fun of being a Starfleet character in the Star Trek universe must, I think, be to get to interact with these phenomena. Starfleet characters should have tools allowing them to find ways to detect these various phenomena, to figure out what they signify, and to produce other effects that protect from or counteract encountered phenomena.
So I thought it might be fun to collect information on the various sorts of physical effecs that Star Trek characters have run into, and to see if I could define some of the tools and processes by which players of Star Trek Online might detect and interact with those effects. This document is the result of that research and development.
Something I realized early on was that an attempt to define all the tools that have showed up in Star Trek would take more time than even I have! So to give this review a workable focus, I've limited it to the use of sensors. In what follows, I'll list the phenomena that have been mentioned in the Star Trek universe, and I'll describe the tools and processes used to observe and affect those phenomena.
As a result, there's no department-specific emphasis here. Science, Medical and Engineering players won't find a complete list of every tool they could ever hope to use, or every game function they could ever perform. But they will find tools and a limited set of processes for using a starship's sensors to detect the many particles and energies in Star Trek.
(Note: Although most of the discussion that follows focuses on sensors as used by starships, many of the objects and ideas described will apply in a limited way to tricorders and more specialized sensor devices as well.)
The first section of this document will be a list of phenomena in the Star Trek universe, along with a detailed analysis of many of the ship-based sensors that have been seen in use in Star Trek. This is pretty dry stuff, probably of interest only to the seriously hardcore, but I suffered for my art and now you will, too. :)
The second part (starting at "Sensor Operations in Star Trek Online") is the juicy bit -- this is where I get into a set of concrete suggestions for how a player might use sensors on board a ship in Star Trek Online. It's not intended to be a hard-and-fast, This Is How It Must Be kind of thing; it's more of a collection of ideas that are meant to stimulate discussion. Feel free to chime in with comments, pro or con. If you like the ideas, feel free to say so! If not, how would you improve it? How would you make using sensors more fun?
With that, I give you what I've been working on for the past several months. Enjoy!
THE EXCESSIVELY COMPLETE LIST OF STAR TREK PHENOMENA
It took a while to track down all the references and figure out all the uses, but eventually I was able to come up with a list of most (though probably not all, which is sort of terrifying) of the phenomena encountered in the world of Star Trek.
What I've done here is to organize these phenomena into three groups:
- matter (subatomic particles and macro-level materials)
- radiation (of both particles and energies)
- energy (in various field, pulse, wave, and other forms)
PHENOMENON CLASS TYPE PRODUCTION USE Anion matter subatomic particle artificial destroys/removes chroniton particles Antichroniton matter subatomic particle artificial destroys/removes chroniton particles Antigraviton matter subatomic particle natural negates gravity; deflects transporter beams; seals subspace sinkholes Antilepton matter subatomic particle natural jams subspace communications Antineutrino matter subatomic particle natural weakens antimatter containment fields Antineutron matter subatomic particle natural demon planet construction material Antiproton matter subatomic particle natural emitted by Klingon cloaks, and by Romulan cloaks before 2400; slows mutation rate of DNA; extremely powerful when weaponized as a beam (e.g., Doomsday Machine) Antithoron matter subatomic particle natural weakens containment fields Antitachyon matter subatomic particle natural anti-time particle used to close temporal rifts Baryon matter subatomic particle natural deposited by subspace field of warp drives Beta-tachyon matter subatomic particle artificial can be used (in conjunction with antiproton beams) on remodulated shields to increase their strength by an order of magnitude Boson matter subatomic particle natural subspace emission (photon, Z-particle) Chroniton matter subatomic particle artificial carry temporal flux energy; generated by Romulan cloaks; used by Borg to maintain temporal sync in transwarp conduits; used in chroniton torpedoes which use temporal flux to bypass shields Decyon matter subatomic particle artificial creates rips in quantum singularity walls; trans-temporality allows them to transmit short messages across causality loops Duderon matter subatomic particle natural subspace emission [usage unknown] Electron matter subatomic particle natural negatively charged subatomic particle of normal matter Fermion matter subatomic particle natural (quark, lepton, proton, neutron, electron) Gluon matter subatomic particle natural (not used in Star Trek as far as I know, but included here for completeness) gauge boson Graviton matter subatomic particle natural gauge boson; source particle for artificial gravity; can be weaponized as beam or gravimetric torpedo; beam can be used for communication, tractor beam, or to open portal to fluidic space; wave form amplifies powered movement; field form opens subspace portal Hyperon matter subatomic particle natural baryons with a strange quark (hypothesized source particle for hyperonic radiation) Lepton matter subatomic particle natural (electron, muon, neutrino, tau particle) associated with wormholes Meson matter subatomic particle natural associated with wormhole terminus Methogenic particle matter subatomic particle artificial volatile when condensed; can be ignited by tricorder emissions Metreon matter subatomic particle artificial forms volatile interstellar gas; lethal to living cells; destabilizes warp fields; damages impulse engines Muon matter subatomic particle natural 200 times heavier version of electron; build-up in a warp core leads to core breach Nadion matter subatomic particle artificial phasers; disruptors; prevents opening subspace fractures Neutrino matter subatomic particle natural generated by cloaks; emitted by wormholes before opening; emitted by some Romulan explosives; used to calibrate sensors; warp engines have unique neutrino emission signatures Nucleon matter subatomic particle natural (protons, neutrons) found in polaric fields; destabilize plasma injectors; transmits memory information in a low-level beam; interferes with transporter locks; radiated by Federation replicators when they blow up Neutron matter subatomic particle natural used in neutron microscopes; generated by warp cores; generated by Klingon torpedo launchers just before firing Omega (particle) matter subatomic particle natural (not used in Star Trek as far as I know, but included here for completeness) baryon composed of three strange quarks Omicron matter subatomic particle artificial generated by warp engines; dangerous to humans; can be used to augment production of antimatter; emitted by some forms of holomatter Photon matter subatomic particle natural gauge boson; generated (along with other particles) in the matter/antimatter reaction of photon torpedoes Polaron matter subatomic particle artificial phased polarons used as Dominion beam weapon; disrupts tractor beam; stabilizes containment field; reveals masked ships; interferes with subatomic disruption beam; carrier for Borg scanners; forces changelings into gelatinous form Positron matter subatomic particle natural substrate for android computer brain; residual particle from contact between normal matter and dark matter; can be weaponized as beam of jacketed positrons; form of active object scan which returns composition information Proton matter subatomic particle natural disrupt deflector shields; can retard decay of antimatter in warp cores Quark matter subatomic particle natural subspace emission Tachyon matter subatomic particle artificial generated by fluctuations in spacetime continuum produced by time travel; produced by Klingon cloaks and Romulan cloaks before 2400; can briefly disrupt deflector shields; can open transwarp conduits Tau particle matter subatomic particle natural charged, heavy version of muon Tetryon matter subatomic particle artificial subspace emission; generated during incursion from subspace manifold into normal space; disable directed-energy weapons; used as particle beam weapon; used to initiate isolytic reaction in antimatter; found in atmosphere of Borg vessels; used in Klingon and early Romulan cloaks Thoron matter subatomic particle natural with duranium shadows, can present appearance of active weapons; can repel non-corporeal cerebral lifeforms; can be weaponized Trianium particle matter subatomic particle natural emitted by fusion generators Verteron matter subatomic particle artificial present in wormholes; interfere with sensors; can disable impulse engines, warp engines, and deflector shields; can be applied to subspace instabilities to guide wormhole opening points Vertion matter subatomic particle artificial present in wormholes; found in some white dwarves and neutron stars; found in high-energy subspace phenomena W-particle matter subatomic particle natural gauge boson (not used in Star Trek as far as I know, but included here for completeness) Z-particle matter subatomic particle natural gauge boson; emitted by corporeal form of evil; distorts sensor readings (especially visual-frequency EM results) Omega (molecule) matter inorganic molecule artificial extraordinarily energetic but unstable material; destroys subspace when it explodes Inorganics, simple matter inorganic molecule natural simple inorganic materials such as elemental matter (hydrogen, silicon, etc.) or basic compounds (water, rocks, salt, etc.) Inorganics, complex matter inorganic molecule natural complex inorganic objects such as structures, vehicles, and devices Solanagen matter organic molecule natural component molecule of lifeforms in a tertiary subspace manifold Virus matter organic molecule natural viral organism Bacterium matter organic molecule natural bacterial organism Plant matter organic molecule natural characteristic of plant lifeforms Animal matter organic molecule natural characteristic of animal lifeforms Antimatter matter anti- natural matter whose fundamental particles have similar mass but opposite charge, spin, or magnetic moment Dark matter matter dark natural (not used in Star Trek as far as I know, but included here for completeness) non-baryonic matter pervading the universe that interacts with normal matter only through gravity Fluidic matter matter fluidic natural a form of matter that comprises fluidic space Holomatter matter holographic natural an unstable form of matter that can be manipulated by holographic emitters to mimic the properties of many forms of real matter Protomatter matter proto- natural an unstable and dangerous form of matter Alpha radiation particle natural (not used in Star Trek as far as I know, but included here for completeness) Analeptic radiation particle artificial confers on humans a temporary resistance to mutagenic pathogens Antimatter radiation particle natural emitted by antimatter; lethal to humanoids Antithoron radiation particle natural decontaminates planetary crust prior to polyferranide extraction Baryon radiation particle natural can eliminate Temecklian virus contamination Berthold ray radiation particle natural lethal to humans Beta radiation particle natural when applied in sufficient quantity to kemocite, can produce temporal translation Chroniton radiation particle artificial generated by chroniton torpedoes; signals and/or induces time travel Cosmic ray radiation particle natural particles accelerated to near-relativistic speeds; hazardous to humanoids; only defense is planetary-strength magnetic field Delta radiation particle natural emitted by ruptured baffle plate on J-class ships; emitted by mirror universe warp drives; harmful and eventually lethal to humanoids E-band radiation energy natural radio frequency energy; emitted by collapsing stars; can be used as background carrier for coded communications Eichner radiation energy? artificial emitted by subspace phase inverters (not typically carried aboard starships) Electromagnetic radiation energy natural generic radiation of electromagnetic-frequency energy; emitted with a characteristic signature by most power sources Epsilon radiation particle natural produced by tetryon (power generation) reactors Gamma radiation particle natural ionizing; dangerous to humanoids; lethal to nanites; requires thick or active shielding; generated by Borg weapons and Crystalline Entity Geodesic radiation energy? natural lethal to humanoids; generated by geodesic folds; passes through standard Starfleet shields Gravimetric radiation particle natural dangerous to humanoids; generated by large-scale graviton sources moving through subspace Hyperonic radiation particle natural usually lethal to humanoids; disrupts transporter beam; randomizes phaser beam Ionizing radiation particle natural hazardous to humans; general description of any radiation that alters the charge of the atoms of molecules of living tissue; can interfere with sensors Kinoplasmic radiation energy? natural hazardous to computer systems; generated by subspace anomalies M-ray radiation energy artificial at specific wavelengths, can open gaps in some kinds of force fields Metaphasic radiation energy natural beneficial to humanoids; produces anti-aging and regenerative effects Microwave radiation energy natural nonionizing wave radiation; used in radar; used in masers; fills the entire universe as cosmic microwave background radiation Neutron radiation particle natural lethal to humanoids at high concentrations; generated by warp cores Nucleonic radiation particle natural dangerous to humanoids at high concentrations; generated by Federation replicators Omega radiation particle natural (used in a possibly fictitious context) Omicron radiation particle natural dangerous to humans; can destroy Borg nanoprobes Plasma radiation energy artificial generated by the energetic plasma inside warp cores or plasma conduits Polaric radiation particle artificial acceptable to humanoids; generated by polaric energy sources that produce polaric ions; can disrupt sensors; persists as a residual effect Polaron radiation particle artificial dangerous to humanoids; causes changelings to revert to gelatinous state; produced by polaron emitter [note: polaron radiation is not the same thing as polaric radiation!] Pyritic radiation energy? artificial (possibly fictitious) Subnucleonic radiation energy? natural lethal to humanoids not held in stasis; hazardous to Borg drones; damaging to bioneural computer components; generated in some Mutara-class nebulae Subspace radiation energy? natural generated by detonation of Omega molecule or subspace warheads; mitigated by multiphasic shielding; impairs stability of warp fields Temporal radiation particle artificial generated by temporal drives; produce small-scale temporal anomalies Tetryon radiation particle normal lethal to humans; generated in subspace naturally or by subspace mines; can be deflected by enhanced shields Thalaron radiation energy artificial lethal to organic matter Thermionic radiation energy natural dangerous to humanoids; generated by Y-class ("demon") planets and deliberately modified EPS conduits Theta radiation energy? artificial dangerous to humanoids; generated by contaminated antimatter byproducts and early starship throttle assemblies; can impair sensor scans; can disrupt subspace enough to collapse nearby warp fields; can degrade deflector shields Thoron radiation particle artificial acceptable to humanoids; generated at low levels by medical devices and at high levels by weapons; can interfere with transporters by degrading transport sensor scan effectiveness; can distort and/or jam sensor readings of weapon-grade particles or energy sources Ultrasonic radiation energy natural very high audio-frequency energy; undesirable to some humanoids; generated naturally by some organisms and artificially by medical and engineering devices Ultraviolet radiation energy natural ionizing; hazardous to humanoids; generated by stars; mitigated by planetary ozone layers Visible light radiation energy natural useful to most humanoids; generated by high-temperature sources; can be used (as a laser) as an information transmission channel or weaponized when amplified and made coherent X-ray radiation energy natural ionizing; hazardous to humanoids; generated naturally by pulsars and quasars, and artificially by early medical imaging devices Anionic energy energy field natural residual neural patterns; can be contained behind a neutrino field Bio-neural energy energy flow natural electrical activity generated by an organic nervous system Bio-supressor field energy field artificial inhibits cellular mitosis in living organisms Bioelectric field energy field natural generated by some lifeforms; renders lifeform impervious to sensors and greatly degrades accuracy of transporter locks; when generated by Borg nanoprobes, can allow organism to bypass most force fields Biogenic field energy field natural biological energy expressed as a field Bioregenerative field energy field artificial radiant energy shaped into a field; accelerates cellular growth Chromoelectric force field energy field artificial type of shield based on the chromoelectic energy bound in some components of the field-strength tensor of the strong nuclear force Chromoelectric pulse energy pulse artificial discharge of chromoelectric energy as a packet; can disrupt the polaric modulator of a coaxial warp drive Cloak, Suliban energy field artificial energy burst applied as a field; alters the molecular structure of matter contained within the field to allow EM energy and particles to pass through that matter, rendering it "invisible"; visibility can be restored by a quantum energy burst from a quantum beacon Cloak, Interphasing energy field artificial energy burst applied as a field; inverts the phase of molecular matter, shifting it out of the normal space-time continuum; generates chroniton particles; disrupted by anyon particles Cloak, Klingon energy field artificial constant-effect scattering field produced by bombarding tetryon concentrations with protons within a massive magnetic field produced by a ship's deflector shield emitter grid (preventing their use as shields); requires enormous energy; generates tachyons and antiprotons; generates chronitons over short ranges; cloak interference (from multiple ships) also generates tetryons Cloak, Romulan, early energy field artificial constant-effect scattering field produced by bombarding tetryon concentrations with protons within a massive magnetic field produced by a ship's deflector shield emitter grid (preventing their use as shields); requires enormous energy; generates tachyons and antiprotons; generates chronitons over short ranges; cloak interference (from multiple ships) also generates tetryons Cloak, Romulan, late energy field artificial constant-effect scattering field produced by bombarding tetryon concentrations with protons within a massive broadband EM field produced by a ship's secondary deflector shield emitter grid; requires enormous energy Dampening field energy field artificial broadband EM field actively generated at inverse frequencies to all local EM emissions; can drain power, block sensors and communications (including transporter locks), and inhibit the firing of high-energy weapons (phasers, disruptors) Dark energy energy field natural (not used in Star Trek as far as I know, but included here for completeness) form of energy affecting only gravity that pervades the entire universe Dielectric field energy field artificial generated by actively tuning warp coils; used to protect spacecraft from electrodynamic turbulence that can interfere with impulse engines, as well as sensors and transporters Dispersal field energy field artificial form of cloaking barrier generated by Borg field emitters; blocks sensors, transporters, and communications Displacement wave energy wave artificial a polarized magnetic variation in subspace capable of transferring matter over galactic distances in minutes Distortion field energy field artificial area containing an unusually high frequency of spatial anomalies Duonetic field energy field artificial artificially generated form of EM jamming signal that disrupts EM activity; interferes with communications, sensors and phasers and other local electronic technology (but not, apparently, transporter signals from an orbiting ship) E-band energy pulse natural generated naturally by collapsing protostars; delta-compressed signal can be imposed on artificially generated E-band energy pulses Electricity energy flow natural movement of electrons from high resistance to low resistance Electro-plasma energy flow artificial extremely high levels of energy (e.g., warp power) conducted or stored as plasma Electromagnetic field energy field natural a magnetic flow created by electricity, such as to regulate the flow of antimatter Electromagnetic storm energy field natural an especially intense electromagnetic field (usually naturally-occurring) over a large area of space Electrophoretic field energy field artificial a biological energy field Electrostatic energy energy flow artificial electrical energy generated by friction among many dust-sized particles Energy barrier energy field artificial an energy-based field impeding the motion of objects or energy through it Ethorin pulse energy pulse artificial energy applied to cortical motor neurons to stabilize them Force field, containment energy field artificial type of force field normally used to constrict the movement of matter Force field, grid energy field artificial generated by Q; a field of energy capable of blocking the passage of matter Force field, inertial dampening energy field artificial computer-controlled rapidly adaptive force field that compensates for inertial variations related to interstellar travel Force field, multi-spatial energy field artificial advanced force field spanning multiple spatial dimensions Force field, standard energy field artificial energy field generated by field emitters; capable of blocking the movement of matter or transmission of energy; Starfleet force fields rated from Level 1 to Level 10 Force field, subspace containment energy field artificial type of force field used to contain subspace anomalies (such as spatial ruptures) Force field, subspace isolation energy field artificial type of force field enclosing a pocket of subspace around the field emitter; blocks the effects of temporal fragments Force pulse energy pulse artificial energy supplied as a large pulse, typically for providing power to a device to be emitted as a burst or brief beam Fusion energy energy flow natural produced by fusion reactors to supply energy to impulse engines and auxiliary systems Genesis wave energy wave artificial energy wave which carries the preprogrammed matrix used to realign subatomic particles into a new form (the Genesis Effect) Geodesic pulse energy pulse artificial pulse of energy supplied to power a verteron beam used to create a geodesic fold capable of producing lethal geodesic radiation Gravimetric field energy field artificial energy applied over an area which exerts a force resembling gravity on nearby material objects Hexi-prismatic field energy field artificial suspension field which exerts a minor but detectable shear in the direction of a nearby sporocystian lifeform Interferometric pulse energy pulse artificial energy which, when produced repeatedly in conjunction with other such sources, can invert the direction of motion of directed energy weapons Inverted magnetic pulse energy pulse artificial magnetic pulse inverted 90 degrees; used to coax space-dwelling lifeforms away from starships Inversion field energy field artificial broadband EM energy which blocks subspace communications and short-range sensors Ionic disruption field energy field artificial energy field generated by matter-antimatter reactor that can be used to block transporter signals Isokinetic containment field energy field artificial type of force field optimized for the containment of warp drive matter Isolytic burst energy pulse artificial explosion of subspace energy which tears subspace by inducing an isolytic reaction in a targeted starship's warp core Kedion pulse energy pulse artificial generated by modified Borg interlink transceiver; interferes with operation of positronic nets Krieger wave energy wave artificial disrupts matter at planetary ranges Laser, beam energy beam artificial beam form of directed energy produced by stimulating coherent light Laser, pulse energy pulse artificial pulse form of directed energy produced by stimulating coherent light Magnetic field energy field natural generated by planets and by the flow of electricity through coils; can divert some forms of matter (charged particles) and energy (active sensor scans) Magnetic field, containment energy field artificial generated by magnetic constrictors in a warp core, as well as power transfer conduits; restrict flow of antimatter and propel it into the M/ARA intermix chamber Magnetic flux energy flux natural regular variation in the strength and/or extent of a magnetic field Magneton field energy field artificial carrier field for most energy-based scans; high-efficiency degaussing properties Magneton pulse energy pulse artificial polarized magnetic energy generated by a malfunctioning warp core; can disperse ion trails; can produce artificial wormholes Memory beam energy beam artificial disrupts memory engrams of sentient organisms Metagenic pulse energy pulse artificial biological energy that stimulates Borg implants Metaphasic field energy field artificial non-propulsive subspace field that acts as an energy/particle shield Molecular reversion field energy field artificial interferes with transporter beams, removing or altering molecular-level information Negative energy energy field natural exotic/toxic form of energy that destroys regular energy Neurogenic energy energy field natural biological energy produced by nervous systems; stored in transporter buffers Neurogenic field energy field artificial low-intensity field produced by active organic brains, typically unique per individual mind Neurogenic pulse energy pulse artificial burst of neurogenic energy, typically to increase engrammatic activity in the brain Neurostatic pulse energy pulse artificial modified form of neurogenic energy used stimulate and stabilize the nervous system Neutrino beam, coherent energy beam artificial active scanning beam that can be used to construct a polythermal image of the interiors of objects Nucleogenic energy energy flow natural energy stored in the cellular structures of nucleogenic lifeforms; can be used to enhance warp power Particle beam energy beam artificial particles energized into the form of a continuous and straight stream Particle field energy field natural general term for any energized field of particles Photonic energy energy flow natural binding energy for photonic lifeforms Photonic lattice energy grid artificial energy structure used to provide support and protection for photonic lifeforms and objects (similar to a holodeck) Plasma field energy field artificial area of charged plasma; interfere with sensors (incl. navigational sensors); can be ignited with impulse engine exhaust Plasma stream energy flow artificial stream of warp plasma within a starship's warp nacelle Plasmatic energy energy field natural a form of subspace plasma associated with sporocystian lifeforms or astral eddies Polaric field energy field natural area of polaric radiation and nucleonic particles; associated with temporally active subspace fractures; can lead to core breach when particles flood a ship's plasma injectors; can be created by a tricorder Polaric ion energy energy flow artificial energy source; too susceptible to planet-destroying subspace chain reactions Polaron grid energy grid artificial energy structure used to block the movement of normal or nucleogenic matter Psionic energy energy flow natural form of energy associated with the use of telepathy and other mental powers Psionic field energy field artificial area of bioelectric energy; able to induce hallucinations in humanoid lifeforms when modulated via delta waves; can be disrupted by a resonance burst from a starship's warp drive Radio energy wave natural radiant electromagnetic energy whose frequency is between 30 Hz and 300 GHz; also used in subspace radio Radion beam energy beam artificial confined beam of coherent low-frequency electromagnetic energy; can penetrate some kinds of shields; can be modulated with transporter signal Resonance burst energy pulse artificial a discharge of energy (from a warp drive or navigational deflector) that can be modulated to disrupt local gravimetric distortions or psionic field emitters Resonance pulse energy pulse artificial a discharge of warp or tractor beam energy that can be modulated to depolarize or stabilize energy fields Scattering field energy field artificial energy field created by hyperionizing particles; used to block tranporter, communication, sensors, or visual signals Shock pulse energy pulse artificial massive discharge of pulse-modulated energy from a starship's warp core Shock wave energy wave natural compressional wave of energy or matter, in normal space or subspace, produced by massive explosions Spatial distortion wave energy wave natural also called "distortion ring"; spatial anomaly in which the organization of space-time flexes and folds, distorting matter and rendering matter-based technology ineffective Sporocystian energy energy flow natural form of energy associated with sporocystian lifeforms Stasis field, quantum energy field artificial area of quantum-level energy modulated to prevent Changelings from altering their current biomolecular structure Stasis field, standard energy field artificial area of temporal energy modulated to greatly slow chemical reactions; in particular, can slow respiration, decay, and the movement of matter almost completely Steri-field energy field artificial area of low-level non-ionizing radiation inimical to bacteriological or viral pathogens; used to create sterile area for invasive medical procedures Structural integrity field energy field artificial form of force field used to actively compensate for mechanical stresses on starship structural components Tantalus field energy field artificial short-range temporal dislocation field which can be used to shift an individual to a different time Temporal energy energy flow natural [not described in Star Trek but necessary to explain other phenomena] form of energy vibrating on one of the subspace dimensions associated with the expression of time (as opposed to dimensions of space) Temporal field energy field artificial area of modulated temporal energy which alters the time in which a designated volume of normal space exists Temporal flux energy flux natural area of unmodulated temporal energy in which contiguous locations in normal space exist at different moments in time; can be induced on normal matter by travel through subspace fractures Tetryon beam, coherent energy beam artificial active scanning beam used by the Nacene, a sporocystian lifeform Transport inhibitor field energy field artificial energy field generated by transport inhibitor to block lock-on of transporter signal Transport scrambler field energy field artificial energy field generated by transport scrambler device to disrupt annular confinement beam of transport signal Trianic energy energy flow natural organizing force for non-corporeal beings found in dark-matter nebulae Triolic wave energy wave artificial byproduct of exotic energy production process; harmful to humanoids Triquantum wave energy wave artificial wave-modulated radiant energy on a triquantum spectral band associated with the opening of Borg transwarp conduits Warp energy energy flow artificial subspace field energy produced by a starship's warp drive Warp field, broad-spectrum energy field artificial asymmetrical subspace displacement field produced by the field coils of a warp drive which allow matter to move at superluminal velocities Warp field, quantum energy field artificial focused quantum-level warp field produced by a deflector dish that creates a tunnel through subspace for quantum slipstream propulsion Warp shell, static energy field artificial symmetrical subspace displacement field produced by the field coils of a warp drive which has no propulsive effect
Except for computers and vehicles, most of the tools in Star Trek are either emitters or detectors. (But note that an active sensor system which includes a detector must also include some kind of emitter, since it sends out energy or particles whose reflections it then detects to reveal information about the object being studied.)
Note: Although particle and energy emissions have their place in scientific, engineering, and medical applications in Star Trek, in a gameplay-heavy Star Trek MMORPG it's likely that emissions will generally be a Tactical function. So I won't go into too much detail on how these might work -- this document will focus more on how sensors might be used to collect information.
In particular, one of the most powerful and versatile of all emitters is a starship's main deflector dish.
A highly sophisticated instrument capable of emitting an extremely wide array of both energies and particles, the main deflector is normally used to project a subspace force field around a starship. This serves both to deflect small particles that would destroy a ship at high speeds, as well as to provide a basic level of protection from various forms of radiated and projected energies and particles.
An additional use for the deflector is to emit energies and particles of various types and forms for scientific or tactical purposes.
Energy may be sent through the deflector dish in pulses or as a collimated beam, both of which may be directed toward a position forward of the ship. For energy field effects, the deflector dish can operate as a field emitter capable of surrounding the entire ship in radiative energies of various kinds. Energy emitted by the deflector dish may be modified by power level or frequency modulation. The dish is also capable of emitting energies of multiple types and frequencies simultaneously to achieve harmonic effects.
Special short-lived, high-energy particles generated by a superluminal accelerator coil integrated into the deflector system may also be emitted by the deflector dish, typically as either a pulse or a beam directed at a position near the front of the ship.
Some examples of the energies and particles emitted by devices seen in various episodes of Star Trek might be instructive. I'll list some uses of the main deflector dish first, then a few of the other devices we've seen employed.
antimatter resonance burst energy field (ST: Generations) decyon particle beam (VOY: "Parallax") fluidic space portal energy beam (VOY: "Scorpion, Part 2") graviton particle beam (DS9: "In Purgatory's Shadow") graviton particle pulse (TNG: "Schisms", DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach") high-power visible light energy beam (TNG: "A Matter of Time") holographic carrier energy beam (VOY: "Prototype") interplexing beacon carrier energy beam (ST: First Contact) inverse tachyon particle beam (TNG: "All Good Things...") inverse tetryon particle pulse (TNG: "Schisms") multi-frequency warp energy beam (TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds", DS9: "The Visitor") rapid nadion (phaser) particle beam (DS9: "Starship Down") subspace energy field (TNG: "The Loss") transporter carrier energy beam (VOY: "Non Sequitur") warp signature energy beam (DS9: "Tears of the Prophets")Other devices which detect or emit energies and/or particles have also been used in Star Trek. Some of these are:
Anion emitter particle beam (TNG: "The Next Phase") Antigraviton emitter particle beam (DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels") Gamma pulse generator energy pulse (TNG: "Evolution") Graviton emitter, handheld particle beam (DS9: "A Simple Investigation") Holoemitter particle field (many TNG+ episodes) Sensor relay emitter energy beam (TNG: "Schisms") Tetryon emitter particle beam (DS9, "Blood Oath", VOY: "Favorite Son")There have also been lots of energies/particles emitted by weapons in Star Trek -- too many, really, to get into here. Perhaps some day in another essay....
Detectors come in two main types: sensors and scanners. There's no real difference between a "sensor" and a "scanner," but a working distinction is that a sensor is treated as a device that operates once (but which may be used repeatedly), while a scanner is a device that typically operates constantly until turned off.
Modes: The key difference between an active and a passive sensor is that a passive sensor can observe objects or energy sources by detecting reflected or emitted radiation, while an active sensor observes objects by detecting artificially generated radiation directed at and reflected from an object.
"Personal" = 0 - 99m (face-to-face to local range) passive or active "Short" = 100m - 499,999km (ship-to-ship to lunar orbit range) passive or active (in vacuum) "Medium" = 500,000km - 99mkm (lunar to interplanetary range) passive only "Long" = 100mkm + (interplanetary to interstellar range) passive onlySensor packages (for use in probes and other spacecraft):
Passive sensor packages Basic DETECTOR TYPE SUBTYPE MODE RANGE (MIN/MAX) USE FUNCTIONS Electromagnetic scanner EM Broadband Passive Short - Long Science detect energy sources Proximity sensor Gravitic Passive Personal - Short Tactical detect nearby objects RF receiver EM Radio Passive Personal - Short Tactical receive radio frequency communications Visual image sensor EM Visual Passive Short - Long Science visual band energy detector/recorder Standard = Basic passive sensors + Gamma ray scanner Nuclear Gamma Passive Short - Long Science detect gamma particles Myographic scanner EM Bioelectric Passive Short Science detect individual bio-electric signatures Neutron densitometer Gravitic Passive Short Science detect object structure detail Particle sensor Nuclear Passive Short - Medium Science detects particles [I invented this one as a catch-all particle detector] Subspace flux sensor EM Subspace Passive Short Science detect variation in local subspace field (as produced by warp engines) [I had to invent this one, too] Subspace receiver EM Subspace Passive Medium - Long Tactical receive subspace frequency communications Enhanced = Standard passive sensors + Gravimetric sensor Gravitic Neutrino Passive Short - Medium Science finds wormholes Interphasic scanner EM Subspace Passive Personal - Short Science detect objects out of phase Ionic trace sensor Chemical Atomic Passive Short Science detect presence of ionized elements (as produced by impulse engines) [I invented this one to explain following an ion trail] Pheromonic sensor Chemical Molecular Passive Personal Tactical individual or species identification Tachyon scanner Nuclear Tachyon Passive Short - Medium Tactical detect operational cloaking device
Active sensor packages Basic DETECTOR TYPE SUBTYPE MODE RANGE (MIN/MAX) USE FUNCTIONS Flux coordinating sensor EM Magnetic Active Personal Engineering modify/monitor magnetic flux strength Parametric scanner EM Visual Active Personal Science image parameter recorder RF transceiver EM Radio Active Personal - Short Tactical transmit and receive radio frequency communications Standard = Basic active sensors + Chemical identity sensor Chemical Atomic Active Personal - Short Science determine chemical composition Holographic imager EM Visual Active Personal Science holoimage parameter recorder Magneton scanner, large EM Subspace Active Short Science detect subspace fractures Molecular imaging scanner Nuclear Active Personal Engineering used by transporter Submicron scanner Nuclear Active Personal Engineering reveal internal atomic structure Subspace transceiver EM Subspace Active Medium - Long Tactical transmit and receive subspace frequency communications Targeting scanner, transporter Nuclear Active Personal - Short Engineering detect objects for transport Targeting scanner, weapons Nuclear Active Short Tactical detect objects for weapons lock Transpectral sensor Multi Active Short Tactical detects objects, penetrates plasma interference Enhanced = Standard active sensors + Micro-tunneling sensor Nuclear Active Short Tactical penetrating, scans one molecule at a time Neutrino beam, coherent Nuclear Neutrino Active Short Science scanning beam, constructs polythermal image of object interiors Tomographic imaging scanner Multi Active Short Science multiphasic particle detection Medical sensors Detronal scanner Chemical Genetic Active Personal Medical scans living DNA Electron resonance scanner Chemical Genetic Active Personal Medical examine DNA Psychotricorder EM Bioelectric Passive Personal Medical detect mental states Pulmonary scanner Nuclear Active Personal Medical observe respiratory system Resonance tissue scanner Nuclear Active Personal Medical detect viral/bacterial infection Special-purpose sensors Gravimetric scanner Gravitic Graviton Passive Personal Science rapid predictor of kinetic probabilities (like dabo results) Graviton telescope Gravitic Graviton Passive Long Science astronomy Magneton scanner EM Subspace Active Personal Science degauss transporter room MK-7 retinal scanner EM Visual Active Personal Security retinal identity verification MK-12 retinal scanner EM Visual Active Personal Security retinal identity verification Targeting sensor, exographic Nuclear Active Personal Tactical see through walls for weapons lock Tetryon beam, coherent Nuclear Tetryon Active Long Science scanning beam used by the Nacene, a sporocystian lifeform Weapons scanner Multi Active Personal Security detects objects identifiable as weapons
- Gravitic sensor net
- Tachyon detection grid
- Science Tricorder
- Medical Tricorder
- Trident scanner
- Class I Sensor Probe
- Class II Extended Sensor Probe
- Class III Planetary Probe
- Class IV Stellar Encounter Probe
- Class V Planetary Reconnaissance Probe
- Class VI Comm Relay/Emergency Beacon
- Class VII Remote Culture Study Probe
- Class VIII Medium-Range Multimission Warp Probe
- Class IX Long-Range Multimission Warp Probe
- Interface Probe
- Multispatial Probe
SENSOR OPERATIONS IN STAR TREK ONLINE
Now that I've described many of the phenomena and sensors available in Star Trek in excruciatingly painful detail, let's consider how these things might be usable in Star Trek Online.
The most common references to shipboard sensors in Star Trek come in three forms: long-range scans, short-range scans, and internal scans.
1. Long-range: scan for elementary particles and electromagnetic energy over long (interstellar) distancesLong-range scans are usually performed in order to see what's ahead of the ship for the next few light-years: stars, major interstellar phenomena, and any anomalous high-energy sources that might indicate the presence of space-based structures or starships. Because of the great distances involved, long-range scans use only the ship's passive sensors, which detect very energetic particles and emitted or reflected energy sources.
2. Short-range: scan for life-forms and complex technological systems over short (planetary) distances
3. Internal: scan the interior of the vessel for anomalous energies and lifeforms
Short-range scans, in addition to using passive sensors, can also use active sensors to emit some kind of particle or energy, then observe something about objects by the way that those objects reflect the emitted particles or energies back to the sensor. As a rough guideline, I've assumed that the upper distance limit on active sensors -- and therefore on short-range scans -- is about 500,000 kilometers. (Since the average distance from the Earth to the Moon is about 385,000 kilometers, and a signal from the Earth to the Moon and back traveling at the speed of light -- about 300,000 kilometers per second -- has a round-trip travel time of about 2.6 seconds, I think a roughly 3.3-second delay for active scans of objects 500,000 kilometers away from a starship is a reasonable maximum, even for 24th-century sensors and computers.)
In other words, what distinguishes a long-range scan from a short-range scan is that the latter is capable of collecting considerably more information about objects, but those objects must be relatively nearby. A long-range scan, on the other hand, can collect information at greater distances, but returns less specific information about the nature of any objects detected. (A passive long-range scan may be able to return useful information about powerful energy sources, however. For example, using only passive sensors we've already detected over 100 extrasolar planets without ever leaving our own solar system.)
Finally, there is the special case of performing an internal scan of a ship. This is normally a tactical usage, so I won't go into detail on how it might work. But it's another key usage of a ship's sensors, and needs to be represented as an available option.
I'll discuss short-range and internal scans in slightly more detail later. For now, to get a sense of how sensors might be used in Star Trek Online let's consider how a player might operate long-range sensors.
Sensor Display Features
For the discussion that follows, I've created a diagram that shows a very bare-bones example of a typical use of long-range sensors. Note that this diagram doesn't include many of the controls that would be necessary for an actual game. It's not intended to be a complete set of visual requirements; it's just an attempt to represent visually the basic features of a sensor system in a Star Trek MMORPG.
Take a look at this diagram. On the left side you'll see the basic controls, of which the key controls are the three scan settings (long-range, short-range, and internal) and an option for turning active sensors on or off. (Since using active sensors tells everyone where and who you are, if you want to be a little more stealthy you'll need to be able to turn off anything that blares your presence.)
As this diagram shows, we're currently performing a long-range scan with active sensors on to pick up additional information on any nearby objects.
(In short-range mode, the display would zoom in to show only those objects within 500,000 kilometers of the ship, and the right-hand and lower portions of the display would change to provide detailed information on the structures and lifeforms within the range of the ship's active sensors. Similarly, if the player selected an "Internal" scan the display would change to show a plan view and profile view of the ship's Master Systems Display, with options available on the right side of the display to allow the player to select which kinds of things they want to scan the interior of the ship for -- unknown lifeforms, subspace anomalies, and so on.)
The long-range scan display is composed of four sections:
1. sensor schematic: a visual representation of the ship, the sensed areas, and detected objectsIn normal mode, sensors scan an area around and in front of the ship. This area of sensor detection is represented visually in the sensor schematic area as a "sensor cone" -- it's the large dark gray triangle in front of the stylized image of the ship. (Note that passive sensors would really collect information in a roughly spherical area around a starship, but my feeling is that it's more in line with Star Trek usage to simplify this to a cone. Also note that although this really would be a cone, existing in three dimensions, it can only be represented in a flattened form on our computer monitors. This might have some gameplay impact unless the developers decide to keep things relatively simple by using a mostly 2D system.)
2. particle detector/selector: an area which shows which particles are currently sensed and may be selected for sensing
3. electromagnetic energy detector/selector: like the particle detector/selector, but for electromagnetic energies
4. text output area for computer analysis of detected particles or energies
If active sensors are on, they are represented in the sensor schematic area by a smaller medium-gray cone extending in front of the image of the player's ship.
In both the passive and active sensor cones, the intensity of all received information is averaged, showing "hotspots" where energy sources or objects are detected. If the ship's computer is working, and if it has data on that area of space, and if the information returned is sufficiently detailed (this might be conditioned by both the player character's skill level with sensor operations and the number, power, and quality level of the ship's sensors), then the ship's computer may be able to provide specific information about what it detects. This information will be provided in the text output area as a description of the object or energy source.
Detailed sensor information can also be represented graphically in the sensor schematic area in two ways: first, the area from which detected particles or energies seem to emanate is shown as a large circle overlaid on the schematic display, where the size of the circle indicates the relative intensity of all information detected from that location. (Active scans from other ships might make them light up like a bonfire!) Second, the source of the sensory input is represented with an icon whose shape and color provide additional information about what the computer guesses might be emitting those particles or energies.
For example, a star might be represented as a small circle, where the color of the circle indicates the spectral class of the star. (Note that unless a ship's computer is malfunctioning or its stellar cartography database has been damaged, all ships traveling in known space should always know the location and type of all stars. This is information that is readily available to today's ground-based telescopes.) Similarly, nebulae might be shown as small squares; starships as points-up triangles, starbases as points-down triangles; and so on.
To the right of and immediately below the sensor schematic are the "sensor detail" sections. To the right is the particle detection detail area, which shows particles grouped by the major types (there are a few radiation-type particles I ran out of room to show). If a particle is detected at some rate significantly higher than random background radiation, the text showing the name of the particle changes color. (Actually, what I'd rather see is the box containing the text slowly filling up with a background color to indicate the relative rate at which those particles are being detected -- I just wasn't able to achieve this effect with my sample image.)
In addition to telling the player which particles are currently detected, this area also lets the player control which specific particles he or she wants to focus on detecting. (Trying to detect everything might lead to an overly-busy schematic area.) By clicking on a particular particle type, the sensor schematic area will display only sources of that particle.
Below the sensor schematic area is the electromagnetic detection detail area, which shows the expanded EM spectrum and a constantly-updated frequency line that indicates the strength of energies detected in each EM band. (Note that the names and relative frequencies for each of the major EM frequency bands are realistic. The exceptions to this are subspace and temporal energy, which -- since I had to put them somewhere -- I assume are both at a shorter frequency than even hard gamma radiation.)
Similar to the particle display area, the EM display area also allows the player to select which EM bands to display in the sensor schematic area. In this case, the player should be able to click and drag a box around any part or parts of the EM detection area, and the sensor schematic area will then show only those EM bands that are currently boxed. (To keep things simple, the developers might instead only let the player select or deselect EM sources to be displayed by clicking on the name of a particular band, such as "Microwave.")
Finally, at the bottom of the long-range sensor display is the text output area. This is where the computer (if it's working!) will place its textual interpretation of the sensor information received. As shown in the Excessively Complete List of Star Trek Phenomena above, the computer will "know" for example that if verteron particles are detected near a star, there's probably some kind of technologically advanced civilization there because verteron particles can only be produced artificially. A good computer would then provide a text cue to the player that maybe there's someone interesting enough to visit there.
I've put some examples of this kind of interpretive text into my sample display output, but don't take it too seriously as a suggestion for what you might actually see in the game. It's just intended to give you some ideas of what the game might provide -- for example, stars could be hotlinks, which when you click on them bring up any available library data about that star system and its component worlds and lifeforms.
(Note that this business of "interpretation" by the computer might be an area where the ST:O's developers don't want to go too far -- perhaps it should be left up to the player to become competent at taking "raw" sensor information and using the computer to analyze that data. In other words, maybe interpreting sensor data should be something that the player can do. Alternately, maybe the player's character has skills that, if you improve those skills, your character gets better at turning raw sensor data into usable information.)
Sensor Display Operations
The sensor schematic area can be zoomed in or out using the "+" and "-" buttons to the left of the sensor schematic area. When this action is taken, the sensor cones shrink or grow appropriately, and the green range bands will move to indicate to the player the changing relative distances of sensor information. (I've also indicated that there might be a text field in the schematic area to indicate the actual zoom amount, but it might be better placed elsewhere.) Between the "+" and "-" buttons is a "=" button, which immediately zooms the long-range scan display to the "1.000" zoom factor, showing the entire scan area.
While long-range scanning is being performed, there are four scan modes:
1. Normal: passive scans of local and forward area for normal particles and broad-spectrum energy sourcesPlayers will be able to shift back and forth between these scan modes. When a player switches to long-range scans, the sensor schematic begins in Normal mode. If the player clicks and drags the mouse in the sensor schematic area, this creates a highlighted "sensor box" and places the display in Target mode wherein more detailed information about any object in the sensor box area is displayed.
2. Target: passive and/or active scan of specific location for normal particles and broad-spectrum energy sources
3. Detail: passive and/or active scan of general area for normal and exotic particles and narrowband energy sources
4. Pinpoint: passive and/or active scan of specific location for normal and exotic particles and narrowband energy sources
Alternately, while in Normal mode the player may choose to click on various particles in the particle selector area. (Note that the diagram is incomplete; there should also be ways to select and deselect all particles from being sensed.) The player may also click and drag a box around any portion of the electromagnetic selector area. Either of these actions will cause the long-range display to enter Detail mode, in which the entire scanning area is watched for specific types of particles or electromagnetic energies. (But note that information from this selected area may still be incomplete if it is not within the range of the ship's active sensors, as shown by the medium-gray sensor cone.)
From either Target mode or Detail mode, the player may enter Pinpoint mode by performing the other kind of selection. If in Target mode (i.e., a sensor box has been drawn in the sensor schematic area), selecting a particle or EM band to watch for will shift the long-range scan into Pinpoint mode. The same is true if some particles or EM bands are being watched in Detail mode and a sensor box is drawn in the sensor schematic area.
Finally, the player may have the option of selecting, configuring (possibly), and launching a probe to obtain detailed sensor data on a detected object. As I imply in my diagram, the player would press the "Probe" button, enter any config changes, select a target object, then confirm the probe launch. It might be fun to watch the sensor data change in real-time as the probe streaks toward its destination. Once there (assuming it's not destroyed en route), all sections of the long-range sensor display would be updated as though the ship itself, with all its sensors, was at the targeted location.
Short-range and Internal Scans
In Pinpoint mode, it may be possible to obtain detailed long-range scan information. However, to obtain the most detailed and completely analyzed information, the player will need to switch to short-range scanning.
This can be done in several ways:
1. Click on the "Short-range" button on the left-hand control panel.I haven't put together a diagram of what the short-range display might look like. (I might do that eventually, or not.) I would expect, though, that it would show the area near the ship in a schematic way (not a photo-realistic way -- that's what viewscreens are for!) in one area, and have a large text area for showing detailed high-level information about any objects selected.
2. Right-click on an object in the long-range schematic area and select "Short-range detail".
3. Double-left-click on an object in the long-range schematic area.
For example, the short-range scan is probably how Data was able to quickly determine how the Earth in Star Trek: First Contact was populated: "Approximately nine billion... all Borg." Short-range scanning would also be useful for studying newly encountered starships to determine something about the species operating them, as well as their technology level and their weapons and defenses, although this last would typically be a scan performed by a ship's Tactical officer.
Lastly, there is the internal scan. This is another type of scan that would normally be performed by a ship's Tactical officer, but it's something that an Ops officer might need or want to do as well under certain circumstances.
Internal scans are typically performed to locate intruders, or to isolate the location and/or type of some kind of anomalous energy or particle reading coming from somewhere inside the ship. Probably the best way to represent this (as noted earlier) would be to display a top-down (plan) and side (profile) view of the ship's Master Systems Display (MSD) diagram in a schematic area, along with the particle and EM detector/selector tools from the long-range scan display plus some kind of lifeform analysis tool. These would allow the player to pinpoint the location and type of pretty much any person or thing on board one's ship, such as an intruder or a subspace microfracture or other bit of treknobabble. Again, the game might let the ship's computer perform the analysis of returned sensor data, or it might let that be something that players or player characters are enabled to do.
The point behind all of this was not to try to create an absolutely complete working gameplay system for how players will use sensors in Star Trek Online.
Instead, I had two goals:
1. Collect all the known Star Trek phenomena (and some of the tools) in one place.More than anything, what I'm hoping is that putting all this information in one place will inspire some of you to come up with more specific ideas for gameplay. How could a system like this be used for exploration? for diplomacy? for combat? What kinds of missions could be written that take advantage of such a system?
2. Suggest a visual mechanic for selecting and displaying information on many of these phenomena.
How should this system allow players to do science? How should Science or Medical character abilities affect the kinds or qualities of scans that can be performed? What about Engineers and Tactical officers? What are some ways that they might be able to use a ship's sensors?
I hope that someone out there will enjoy the information and ideas I've put together here, and will carry on with your own ideas.
Thanks for reading!