Friday, November 5, 2010

Replicator or Not?

Something we should probably stop and think about before deciding what is in the ship is if your ship has what in Star Trek is called a replicator. In essence it creates things out of seemingly nothing. The technology behind the action shown on screen is that matter, usually waste or stored material is kept somewhere whether in a random shape of minerals or in pure energy form. When someone wants something they go to the replicator, input their desire, and matter is sent to that replicator to be changed into whatever the person asked for. On TV stuff seems to show up out of nowhere with no explanation of how it got there, although in the Enterprise series the engineer nearly tells school kids that bodily waste is broken down to be made into new food and materials. Here is an article on how such material may be in its early stages already. To use this technology you will likely need to decide the ration limit each person gets (does it exceed the daily replenishment amount?) and how much raw material is brought for emergencies such as broken parts or new crew members. Are your replicators strong enough to repair battle damage? How long does it take to replicate massive things? If you don’t want to store much or the ship only stays out a few days a trip it may be possible to not keep stores of extra materials. Personal waste can recreate the food needed and the broken parts can replace themselves by being put in the replicator and the material replaced. What if things get lost in space, either by needing to jettison cargo holds for faster flight or by holes in the ship from a battle. What will your crew do then? How will they get more spare material?
Keep in mind that though replicators are an awesome explanation in stories, they may be expensive to obtain or hard to maintain. If you decide not to have a replicator, or whatever you call it, you will need the cargo space for food, spare parts, and emergency supplies.

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