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Assuming the safety protocols are disabled, is there any evidence that a holographic warp core breach could destroy the actual ship? I can't find a canonical answer to this, so extended media is OK too.

I'm curious after watching the Voy: Worst Case Scenario, episode (S3:E25). This episode suggests the answer is no, but other episodes where damage to the ship with the safety protocols off implies - yes.

Edit: it doesn't have to be a ship the same size being projected, (so there isn't a power problem with the actual ship projecting a core with the same power output), it could be a runabout, or just a torpedo. We know that even a torpedo can destroy a ship if detonated inside.

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    I think safety protocols only apply to people/objects inside the holodeck. Remember that holograms cannot exist outside it (at least, not without extensive modification). Although, I struggle to think why the holodeck wouldn't just produce light, sound, and a bit of heat. It wouldn't produce an actual explosion. – Tim Feb 11 '18 at 22:46
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    interesting as in The Killing Game where the Hirogen turned the entire ship into a series of Holodecks, in the World War 2 deck blowing up the Nazi HQ with holodeck explosives exposed multiple floors of Voyager. however the Hirogen had outfitted more of the ship with holo emitters so the damage could have been because of the entire ship was a giant holodeck – Memor-X Feb 11 '18 at 22:49
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    @Memor-X Yeah, I suspect the Hirogen weren't that worried about keeping things contained. Also, we're talking conventional explosives (plastique) which plausibly the holodeck could have actually made, food replicator style. – Tim Feb 12 '18 at 2:00
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    @Tim, IIRC the holodeck produces light, sound, and force fields. The force fields enable it to produce the illusion of you touching some solid thing (or vice versa.) Hopefully, the designers have established reasonable limits on how much force the fields can apply. – Solomon Slow Feb 12 '18 at 15:07
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It's doubtful that there would be any actual explosive power in a holographic warp core breach. I'm pretty sure that anti-matter cannot be replicated, thus there wouldn't be anything to explode. Although, I cannot think of any canon references off hand to confirm. In this case, however, the most substantial damage that may occur would be to the holographic emitters themselves, if the system was rigged to overload at the time of the virtual breach.

Regarding the cited Voyager episode, the reason the holodeck explosives under sickbay did actual damage is because they were actual explosives, not holograms. The chemicals used in a World War 2 era handheld bomb along with a mechanical timer would be relatively simple to replicate, and with the safety systems disabled the holodeck would create real ones. Therefore, that bomb could exist outside of the holodeck and do real damage. Similar to when Picard shot up the Borg on the holodeck in First Contact.

As we see in TNG Encounter at Farpoint, simple objects are actually replicated and will physically interact with the real world.

RIKER: I didn't believe these simulations could be this real.
DATA: Much of it is real, sir. If the transporters can convert our bodies to an energy beam, then back to the original pattern again
RIKER: Yes, of course. And these rocks and vegetation have much simpler patterns.
DATA: Correct, sir. The rear wall.
RIKER: I can't see it.
DATA: We're right next to it.  (He throws a rock at it, and the image pixilates on impact)

  • I didn't think that the WW2 explosives were replicated (I assumed they were holographic), your points make more sense: So, if its not replicated it cant cause harm to the ship (even with the safeties off). I also don't think antimatter can be replicated so you have some excellent points. – Matt Feb 12 '18 at 0:37
  • You seem to focus on the components necessary for a warp core breach. This implies that holographic materials would create real explosions. However, that's not the case. In the TNG episode A Matter of Perspective, LaForge and Data run a simulation for a decent sized group that results in them deliberately triggering a large explosion. Everyone lives because the explosion was holographic as well. So, the holodeck's ability to replicate anti-matter is moot, otherwise participants would still die from a real explosion. – Ellesedil Feb 12 '18 at 4:29
  • Except that the holodeck safeties were enabled, so had an actual explosion happened the holodeck would have taken measures to protect the occupants, like the fire suppression systems. To quote your episode: RIKER: But the holodeck can't create anything dangerous. LAFORGE: Well, it didn't. When you get down to basics, the converter is nothing more than a complex series of mirrors and reflective coils. The energy from the field generator down on the planet simply reflects off of elements in the convertor which turns it into highly focused Krieger waves. – Xantec Feb 12 '18 at 4:56
  • What? That doesn't make sense. The fire suppression system in the ship has nothing to do with the holograms because the holographic station they were in was destroyed. Any fire suppression system would be a separate system. What they experienced was a holographic explosion. When people are injured by explosions, it's as much about the concussive force as it is heat. Additionally, your quote doesn't really apply here since it's in reference to something a bit different: damage that the real Enterprise-D was experiencing for reasons integral to the plot. – Ellesedil Feb 12 '18 at 14:26
  • @Ellesedil actually it does make sense, we know that water is replicated on the holodeck from TNG (so its real water), but you cant drown in it with the safeties on. This implies that the projectors do 'something' to stop the harm from 'real' dangers. – Matt Feb 12 '18 at 16:13
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No: the reason that warp core breaches can damage ships is that they release a huge amount of energy in a very short time. However, there is presumably a maximum power output for the holographic emitters of the holo-deck which would be much lower, firstly because there is simply no need to use that much energy for it and secondly because otherwise holographic emitters would be used as weapons.

That being said it could still be possible for a holographic emitter to do some damage to a ship especially if targeted at a specific sub-system.

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    +1, I like the logic behind your answer, but it doesn't have to project a ship the same size. Imagine a runabout being projected by a galaxy class ship. – Matt Feb 11 '18 at 22:59
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    @Matt: The size of the projected ship doesn't matter. The holoroom is only a few feet on a side. – Joshua Feb 12 '18 at 3:47
  • @Joshua the size IS important, the holodeck is large enough to project a warp core for a small ship like a runabout, shuttle or even the defiant's core. those ships have smaller cores than the room size, and are also less powerful than the warp core supplying the holodeck with power. So creating these cores would need less power than the ships core could generate – Matt Feb 12 '18 at 16:31
  • I'm pretty sure there have been episodes where the holo-emitters basically overload when the holodeck thinks it's supposed to destroy itself with the safeties off. ALSO, something to note on why the warp core breach itself is "so desctructive" -- antimatter. Part of Star Treks fantasy is that antimatter and matter can interact in a stable way. Technically, when antimatter and matter interact, it's not destruction - it's annihiliation. BOTH sets of material basically touch and cease existing, balancing each other's energy in ways explosions don't but destroying ALL effected matter. – RoboBear Feb 12 '18 at 19:40
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    @matt It's not about the size of the holographic warp core, it's about the energy release when one is breached. A real breach can output a huge amount of energy. A holographic breach could only output as much energy as the emitters can simulate before themselves overloading. Since the emitters are powered by a normal warp core (not a breaching, exploding one), they would be limited by that at the maximum. This doesn't mean they can't simulate something that could destroy the ship however. – IronSean Feb 12 '18 at 21:29
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As several other answers have explained, it is implausible for the holographic emitters which drive the holodeck to emit the energy levels which correspond to a warp core breach. Warp core breaches are matter/antimatter annihilation events, and therefore ridiculously energetic even by astronomical standards.

However, the question has now broadened to include other means of destroying a ship via hologram. It is absolutely possible for holograms to damage the ship, and even cause warp core breaches, at least indirectly:

WORF [OC]: Security to Doctor Crusher. Evacuate. Repeat, evacuate. Radiation emissions are indicated in Sickbay.
(As Beverly and her patient leave, a hole is burnt in the bulkhead under a desk. Later, the damage is being examined)
DATA: It is definitely the same radiation that penetrated deck thirty nine. Highly focused, very powerful but of unknown origin.
LAFORGE: If this should happen in the engine core or the anti-matter containment tanks, we'll be in big trouble, Captain.
[...]
LAFORGE: For the last several hours, the Enterprise has been experiencing unusual radiation bursts. We've identified them as Krieger waves.
TAYNA: Krieger waves? But that's impossible. From where?
LAFORGE: From right here. Inside the holodeck.
PICARD: We recreated your science lab in every conceivable detail. Essentially, what was in the original lab is here.
LAFORGE: Including the Krieger wave converter that Doctor Apgar claimed didn't work. Except it does work.
PICARD: Your field generator on the planet surface has been sending out harmless energy charges, which this facsimile has been converting into Krieger waves.
RIKER: But the holodeck can't create anything dangerous.
LAFORGE: Well, it didn't. When you get down to basics, the converter is nothing more than a complex series of mirrors and reflective coils. The energy from the field generator down on the planet simply reflects off of elements in the convertor which turns it into highly focused Krieger waves.
PICARD: And those same waves have been randomly striking different areas of our ship as we orbit the planet and our angle to the generator changes.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode 3x24 "A Matter of Perspective"

I'm assuming "the holodeck can't create anything dangerous" pertains to the holodeck's notoriously unreliable safety protocols, which the OP has asked us to ignore. Since both the energy waves and the converter are described as harmless, I see no reason a holodeck couldn't create one or the other (and indeed, it does create the converter half of this arrangement in the episode). Thus, a malfunctioning holodeck should be able to create both of those things, allow them to interact with one another, and potentially destroy a ship.

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I suspect that there is some confusion implicit in this question based on the use of the word "Holographic" which in normal usage refers to projected imagery only. In the Star Trek universe a hologram emitter can produce and manipulate fields of force that allow the images to interact with physical objects. The Doctor in Voyager is capable of manipulating the physical tools of the medbay and physically interacting with his patients, but can also pass through physical objects if he so chooses.

While the transporter effect is mentioned by Data in the conversation quoted by Xantec the fact is that it is much simpler and more energy efficient to have the fields of force produce the physical effects than it would be to create matter - with none of the apparent effects of transporters or synthesizers - and then manipulate that matter.

Given the ability to project and manipulate force fields in any way desired, the software backing the holo emitters would naturally be optimized to produce the smallest such fields required. If the Doctor wants to shake your hand all that is required is a field that is exactly the shape and size of the area you will touch, rather than attempting to produce a force field that is the size and shape of the Doctor's entire outer surface. This would require much less energy and much smaller capacity on the part of the projector.

It's reasonably safe to assume then that the total power of any single holo emitter would have a fairly limited total capacity for generating force fields. While we can't be certain of the total amount of force that can be generated we know that it must be fairly small - the Doctor is shown to be very strong but not capable of extreme feats of strength, constructs on the holodeck are capable of supporting the weight of several crew members, etc.

As mentioned in other answers there have been cases of holo explosions doing damage to the ship. In this case the holo emitters would be using their force field generation capacity to create the physical effects of the explosion by applying force in the appropriate places. The only limits then are the total physical power that can generated by the emitters and the range limits of the emitter's force field generators.

It's probably safe to assume that a warp core explosion would be outside the range of possible effects, but a lot of damage could still be produced locally. Not enough to completely destroy a ship, but enough to do significant damage. If the software was tuned to produce the largest possible amount of damage it could save a lot of the energy it would have used to push air around and so on to maximise the actual damage to the ship.


I may have misinterpreted the question. If the whole ship is a holographic projection then all limits go out the window. Yes, a simulated warp core breach can destroy a simulated ship. The projection itself can be modified in any way you want, only the effect of the explosion on the physical objects around it is limited.

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I'm going to approach this a different way. Others have discussed holosuite dynamite explosives, and holographic equipment for converting different emissions. How's about a holographic atomic (fusion) bomb?

Assuming that the holodeck could manipulate real hydrogen atoms to produce the required isotopes, input the energy required to create the fusion, and then detonate the bomb - I don't know what maximum yield a standard TNG holodeck could produce, but I suspect it is immense.

So I don't think you would need a warp core to explode a ship.

But if you wanted a warp core explosion, you could only get so far from first principles. Potentially, the holodeck could "project" the equipment needed to produce the antimatter from the base elements in the air (the large hadron collider is just a large tube with magnets) Assuming it can generate containment fields strong enough to keep the output, problem solved.

The biggest issue would be more exotic elements. A hydrogen bomb is easy - lots of hydrogen in the air. But holodecks cannot produce dilithium - which may be required as a fuel.

If you have all the required raw ingredients, who needs to project a whole ship? A warp core overload-based explosion simply requires a warp core. They will explode outside a ship quite happily, so no reason they couldn't explode inside a holosuite.

Another thought regarding the feasibility: Assuming that replicator, transporter and holosuite technology are reasonably similar in their basic principles, when we need to detonate a warp core, we have to eject it physically. There is no discussion of isolating a core component of the system via transporter and beaming it a large distance away from the ship.

Dilithium cannot be replicated (but I believe it can be transferred via transporter, at least in some stable form) so it's possible there is some other unnamed process - maybe even a pure form of energy - that is so unstable that the transporters, and certainly the holodeck transmitters, would be completely unable to handle it.


PS: I always assumed holodeck technology is primarily an advanced physics engine - if you're given a holo-projected revolver, even with the safeties off, the computer calculates the energies produced by the simulated gunpowder, the force of the simulated recoil, the heat and light generated by the explosion, and the pressure on the recipient's skin as the bullet pushes through them. Unless the safeties are on, in which case the computer determines a safe force to exert on human skin and then deletes the bullet (depending on the rules of that particular simulation - the user might want bullets to bounce off him or her, for example).

So I always assumed the holo emitters can produce certain forces and energies, but I'm not aware of them ever directly producing compounds, merely simulating them. I may be wrong though...


PPS: As pointed out, I've focussed on the "is it possible" whereas the question asks for evidence. It turns out that an impulse engine overload is directly compared to an H-Bomb's yield when destroying the "Planet-killer" - in "The making of TNG", a match is to nuclear energy as an H-bomb is to a warp core http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Hydrogen_bomb

Unfortunately, as other answers have shown, evidence is scant - yet supposition is plentiful!

  • The question was asking if there is "any evidence that a holographic warp core breach could destroy the actual ship?". Your answer has mostly focused on a hypothetical bomb which may or may not detonate and not whether a holographic warp core breach could destroy a ship itself. – Edlothiad Feb 12 '18 at 13:16
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Well, contrary to the other answers mine is different.

I think I found Canonical evidence that may indicate that a simulated core breach could damage a ship. Or more exactly, any sufficiently strong simulated explosion.

Now, seems that you are watching Voyager (me too :)), so careful as this is a spoiler from further ahead, on Season 4, Ep. 18: The Killing Game, pt. 1:

So, at the end of the episode a simulated explosion went off on Holodeck 1, as a resut of an incoming mortar shot (as they were on WWII setting). The safety protocols were off, as the Hirogen wanted it such way to be a worthy hunt. The moment the mortar exploded, it destroyed a considerable part of Holodeck 1... this clearly suggests that a stonger explosion, like a simulated warp core breach, could cause greater damage that could result in the destruction of the ship. In this episode, several holo-emmiters where installed through the ship, in which case it's even more likely that the ship could be damaged from such explosion.

Of course anti-matter can't probably be replicated, but the destructive force of an explosion (which can be measured in some unit like Newtons), regardless of the elements reacting, can be simulated with force fields and photons as that episode shows.

Maybe it doesn't directly replicate anti-matter, gun powder, or whatever, but the simulation can know the force such explosion should generate and apply the required force fields and adjustments to generate an equivallent force.

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