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The fine tuning problem 
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Jedi Knight

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I've heard of this in debates before, and in particularly it's used against the ICS. Basically it boils down to this: ICSers believe that with enough duct tape, anything in ICS and the movies can be made to agree. Detractors point out that for that to work, you will cause a fine tuning problem. In other words, certain variables have to be set at a very very precise number, and even a 1% change in those variables will completely break the solution. So if a someone argues that a weapon system must be 99.99999999% efficient for use to see no environmental effects due to that weapon, the fine tuning problem is invoked since even a tiny small change in the supposed efficiency of the weapon will cause drastic problems. Is this a valid line of argument?


Fri Nov 24, 2006 4:04 am
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Redshirt
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It is impossible to eliminate environmental effects from weapons that rely on "classical" effects (eg direct transfer of energy) rather than unexplained physics.

For anything that causes thermal damage, it might be theoretically posible to engineer a weapon that transfers all the bolt/beam's destructive potential into the target rather than the environment, but then the target has far too much energy that it will try to disperse elsewhere as rapidly as possible.

In the case of mechanical effects, you can't eliminate friction without reducing the destructive potential of the weapons (they'd slide right through the target!), and once you impact the target you're going to be getting concussive effects in pretty much everything it's in contact with - including the atmosphere.

Fine tuning would only work if you had the system in total isolation, but then if you remove the environment you can't expect any environment effects anyway.


Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:48 am
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Starship Captain
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Yes and no.

Yes in that logically, you're correct and the idea has merit.

No in that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (to coin a phrase), and so all that must be done to defeat the fine-tuning problem is to wank the tech that little bit more so that it simply doesn't break down by that 1% even when the entire ship is in the process of catastrophic failure.

A good example is the theory (reportedly from Saxton IIRC) that Trade Federation core ships seen shot down in Episode II are protected not merely by armor, but by an energy-absorbing armor which instantly and (almost) flawlessly collects the energy of incoming beams, converting the incoming beams into neutrinos which are then harmlessly radiated away.

The idea is one that is very good science fiction. However, it isn't Star Wars. As seen in the film, the beams cut into the core ship and knock it down. So in order for us to fail to see anything resembling even a Hiroshima-class event, we must assume that even as the hull is blasted away the system is still effective at absorbing and redirecting the energy into a neutrino surge, even though the beams are cutting into the ship and damaging flight-critical systems. Presumably the absorption occurs within the interior of the vessel as well, since of course a directed energy weapon in the megaton range (as claimed for the beams that shoot down the core ship) are able to impact within the interior of the ship without a hellacious blast flying out of the new hole, nearby windows on the hull, et cetera.

It is, of course, a daunting task to believe that even as the ship was being knocked from the sky its uberarmor system . . . where the armor and ship's innards had already been penetrated . . . would fail to fail, even a smidgen.


Fri Nov 24, 2006 1:08 pm
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2046 wrote:
It is, of course, a daunting task to believe that even as the ship was being knocked from the sky its uberarmor system . . . where the armor and ship's innards had already been penetrated . . . would fail to fail, even a smidgen.


To do that, you need to go further away from the spirit of SW, where tech is more advanced than us, but relies more on simplified concepts mostly with one large exception. Anyway, the way to get around it is by saying something, like the material that makes up the parts of the ship somehow generate a field that does the converting into neutrinos act automatically, separate from any active system that needs to be turned on before the conversion takes place. The active systems would just be the primary way to do it and the passive form is the back up. An idea for this is a field of exotic energy particles that does the conversion that are emitted from the center of the atoms/molecules of the material that makes up the ship. It's effective range is limited from the center of the atom/molecule and is only limited to certain types of energy and has a minimum intensity threshold where it won't convert anything below that threshold.

That sounds nothing like Star Wars. Nice idea, but it isn't SW.


Fri Nov 24, 2006 3:56 pm
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Starship Captain

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You know, now that I've given it more thought, my idea wouldn't work either. Because, if the field is emitted by the material of the ship itself, why is there any damage at all? Even large concentrations of neutrinos are not gonna cause the damage we're seeing. Unless the field emitted didn't extend as far as the effects of electrostatic repulsion, but that'd make the idea of the passive fields pointless.


Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:04 am
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Jedi Knight

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GStone wrote:
You know, now that I've given it more thought, my idea wouldn't work either. Because, if the field is emitted by the material of the ship itself, why is there any damage at all? Even large concentrations of neutrinos are not gonna cause the damage we're seeing. Unless the field emitted didn't extend as far as the effects of electrostatic repulsion, but that'd make the idea of the passive fields pointless.


I guess that is the fine tuning problem. ;)


Sat Nov 25, 2006 5:47 am
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Well, with the neutrino notion, you also run into the problem that neutrinos do interact weakly with matter, and enough of them will ruin your day. If you get to the point of, say, a 1e38 joule beam, the results are positively catastrophic.

The fine tuning problem seems to me like a specific example of something I've heard referred to before more often as the basic issue of consistency.

You may, for example, be able to explain together A with B, or A with C, but the explanations used now render AB an example of inconsistency with AC through the change in definition of A. With the fine tuning argument, you're saying that you could grab any random example C and the fit will fall apart because it is so sensitive.

Usually in cases like this, you can find a B and C within the same source such that A does not fit unless inconsistently treated within the normal framework of scientific thought. I've also found that a more detailed treatment of the original fit shows it to be completely implausible in the first place, as with the neutrino example.

The only problem with the fine-tuning argument is that logically speaking, there's always some explanation that will fit all the data points given. To put it mathematically in a form that you can recall, for any finite set of data points (x1...xn), there are an infinite number of curves (which could be parameterized in the form (x1(t)...xn(t)) that will intersect every point in the set.

In other words, it is always possible to somehow duct tape the ICS to everything. Indeed, I could run all the specifications through a "Wars to Trek word filter," changing all the ship names to random Trek ship names and somehow duct tape the ICS to everything in Star Trek.

The problem is not whether an explanation can be contrived; the question is whether a reasonable explanation can be contrived. In a testable form, whether or not the explanation is empirically valid, something that in mathematical terms relates to the number of degrees of freedom of your explanation as a formula.

To give a useful measure in layman's terms for things that aren't explicit: When you notice that each further example added contributes a fresh clause of explanation somewhere in your comprehensive theory of the way things work, the explanation is worthless.

And now I've wandered off topic and given you quite a lecture on the scientific method. I hope someone found that useful.


Sat Nov 25, 2006 6:37 am
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Your "lecture" brings us to the overlap between the 'fine-tuning problem' and Occam's Razor, though more specifically to the ICS vs. films issue.

To be sure, EU-philes have a whole bunch of extra points on the graph that the curve must meet up with, which is the primary point of departure. But even so, the points placed by the ICS caused the curve to become far more complex*. Sure, a handful of high-end outliers existed in the EU (events which the author had neglected to really consider or calculate), but most (especially early) EU had points that fell more or less within the movie line.

The methodological point of departure, then . . . as opposed to the epistemological one wherein the EU is included . . . was to dismiss the very concept of outliers and include the high-end events in the curve.

This very same methodology is not commonly applied for Trek. Even rabid Trekkies generally forego basing estimates and theories on "The Die is Cast" firepower, ST5 warp velocities, and so on and so forth, and if they were to try their rabid opponents would point to lesser examples as if they constituted disproof. To discuss the ICS and point to lesser examples as if they constitute disproof, however, is a mortal sin in those same circles.

But at this point, of course, we're retreading old ground, though the graph analogy is quite helpful in visualizing the point.


(* This required that more and more explanations be contrived for each event, though with the exception of events from the films where a blanket explanation was given (the power was always dialled down for some reason), no explanation was offerred because what the ICS said was gospel.)


Sat Nov 25, 2006 1:37 pm
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It's a hyperspace conversion of only lossely bound energy concentration masses above a minimum limit threshold! That's some advanced shit. :-p


Sat Nov 25, 2006 1:43 pm
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Jedi Master

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Quote:
This very same methodology is not commonly applied for Trek. Even rabid Trekkies generally forego basing estimates and theories on "The Die is Cast" firepower, ST5 warp velocities, and so on and so forth, and if they were to try their rabid opponents would point to lesser examples as if they constituted disproof. To discuss the ICS and point to lesser examples as if they constitute disproof, however, is a mortal sin in those same circles.


That is why I stopped debating with diehard warsies sometime ago.
When refusing TDiC figures, they say that dialogue isn't valid, and is superceded by screen evidence.
But then they go and use the Dodonna quote as a valid example of an ISD firepower, saying that even before the ICS an ISD was truly powerful.
Now there's a double standard if I've ever seen one.
Franckly, if we were using the same debating standards for Trek and Wars, we would likely arrive to this simple conclusion:
Capital ship to Capital ship, both universes are equal, but of course the Empire would cream the Feds, they have a sh** load more ressources then them.


Sat Nov 25, 2006 3:26 pm
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Praeothmin wrote:
But then they go and use the Dodonna quote as a valid example of an ISD firepower, saying that even before the ICS an ISD was truly powerful.


Even that old fallback doesn't hold water since it relies on the interpretation that General Dodonna only means "firepower" in relation to the DS superlaser, and not any other explanation. There is this quote from the ANH novelization following the infamous "carries a firepower greater than half the starfleet" line:


"Take special note of these emplacements. There's a heavy concentration of firepower on the latitudinal axes, was well as several dense circumpolar clusters."


This strongly suggests, if not outright makes it clear that Dodonna means firepower in context of the battlestation's TLs, not it's superlaser. For the Warsies to cling to the superlaser firepower explanation as if there could be no other explanation, simple or otherwise, is just dishonest.
-Mike


Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:28 am
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Mike DiCenso wrote:
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Praeothmin wrote:
But then they go and use the Dodonna quote as a valid example of an ISD firepower, saying that even before the ICS an ISD was truly powerful.


Even that old fallback doesn't hold water since it relies on the interpretation that General Dodonna only means "firepower" in relation to the DS superlaser, and not any other explanation. There is this quote from the ANH novelization following the infamous "carries a firepower greater than half the starfleet" line:


"Take special note of these emplacements. There's a heavy concentration of firepower on the latitudinal axes, was well as several dense circumpolar clusters."


This strongly suggests, if not outright makes it clear that Dodonna means firepower in context of the battlestation's TLs, not it's superlaser. For the Warsies to cling to the superlaser firepower explanation as if there could be no other explanation, simple or otherwise, is just dishonest.
-Mike


It’s not only dishonest but also tiresome. That’s why debating or reading others people debates can be so frustrating.


Mon Nov 27, 2006 1:58 am
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Jedi Knight
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I personally don't like to use arguments that need "fine tuning" since they rely on a lot of delicate assumptions. The less assumptions and the more mundane the ones that exist the better.

I don't think either the Federation or the Empire would be able to conquer the other. The Empire may or may not have an advantage in terms of capitol ship numbers, but the difference is most likely less than an order of magnitude either way. There is also the fact that there aren't any hyperspace roots in the Alpha Quadrent, so until the Empire maps out the Trek galaxy their mobility is severly limited and dangerous. Also for defensive purposes the Federation wouldn't stand alone.


Mon Nov 27, 2006 9:29 pm
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