From firstname.lastname@example.org@21:1/5 to All on Wed Apr 12 14:09:54 2017
The TNG TM asserts that in the 24th century impulse engines are able to move a starship with the puny power output of their reactors because the drive plasma is run through subspace coils which generate a field enveloping the ship that reduces its
effective mass. Ignoring the fact that a ship under warp or running its shields is generating multiple subspace fields that will interact, possibly with undesired results, it's a cute, more or less in-universe-consistent workaround of the Rocket Equation.
I recently got hold of a copy of the Haynes Manual for the various Enterprises. On page 21 it describes the impulse engines of the NX-01 as also getting around the Rocket Equation by using the same kind of driver coils in the plasma exhaust but instead
of decreasing the ship's effective mass, they increase the effective mass of the exhaust stream.
The TNG's description is matched in the Haynes manual, but I can't find any mention of when the changeover was made in the intervening iterations of ENT between Kirk's and Picard's.
Now, both methods clearly violate conservation of momentum, but that's what subspace physics is for; to justify pretty much every instance of violation of known physical law in Trek relating to travel over great distances without requiring impossible
amounts of fuel and energy. Somehow momentum is dumped into or extracted from subspace to get the plot, er, ship, moving.
I'd like to pursue that at some other time but right now I'm thinking about out-of-the-box uses for these effects.
For instance, it's mentioned on p. 122 in the Haynes manual that the ENT-D's saucer section impulse engine's subspace coils could generate the same kind of "warp sustaining" field used in photon torpedoes to maintain its velocity if the ship had to
separate while at warp. That's a not immediately obvious from "first principles", but is a "reasonable" extrapolation of Trek subspace physics rules.
It's also mentioned in the TNG manual that during the ENT-D's impulse engine design process an attempt was made to increase the exhaust stream's velocity to FTL by similarly imbuing it its own subspace field, but it didn't produce thrust because
Treknobabble. I suppose that makes a sort of sense, but I'm wondering what happened to the exhaust plasma after its subspace field decayed.
Did the plasma, presumably at millions (or billions) of degrees, suddenly emerge from subspace some millions of kilometers away from the engine test stand?
That sounds like a weaponizable oopsie to me. In fact, it sounds a lot like a potential starship-sized "lightsaber" of sorts.