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In Lonely Among Us (TNG 1x07) Picard is beamed into an energy cloud as pure energy. More than an hour later the crew uses his stored pattern to reconstruct him from the energy. This had the effect of resetting his memory to the point when the pattern was created.

Later on in Star Trek Nemesis Data sacrificed himself to save Picard. Could they have scanned for and collected his debris, then used the same technique as above by initiating a transport using his saved pattern to reconstruct a fully functional Data?

As Data is a machine, this seems like it would work to me. Am I misunderstanding how transporters work?

  • 2
    The writers try very hard to avoid making the transporter a deus ex machina, so you rarely see them use it to "work wonders". – bitmask Aug 5 '12 at 16:59
  • 4
    At least until they're halfway through the season and have written themselves into a corner. – John O Aug 5 '12 at 17:01
  • Isn't this really a duplicate of this one: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/12421/… ? – Tango Aug 6 '12 at 5:19
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    @TangoOversway I took them as different, one is about living beings and one is about specifically androids, since other types of technology can be replicated. Others may disagree. – Izkata Aug 6 '12 at 11:06
  • I am not too qualified for this because I am only on season 5 of TNG. But being an avid Voyager enthusiast I know that he does appear in the book "Homecoming" and it's sequel. – Sponge Bob Apr 18 '13 at 5:02
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Short answer: No.

Rationalization: In Lonely Among Us the energy field messed with the transporter system, allowing them to bring back Picard. (Translation: The transporters were exposed to the rare element of plotonium, allowing them to do what the plot needed.)

Long answer:

I'm going to my source for this, one I've cited here before, the Star Trek: The Next Generation Writers' Technical Manual, Fourth Season Edition. This was sent to me directly, in a pitch package by the ST:TNG Script Supervisor Lolita Fatjo, when I was invited in to pitch story ideas to the producers. This is one of the Writers' Guides sent to those who would be writing for the show and, in some ways, goes beyond canon because it defines canon. In other words, it tells the writers what they can and cannot do on screen.

On page 28, under The Transporter - Once and for All:

... The stream of molecules read by the pads is sent to the Pattern Buffer, a large cylindrical tank surrounded by superconducting electromagnetic coils. It is here that the object to be transported is stored momentarily before actual beaming away from the ship (or even within the ship). It is the Pattern Buffer and its associated subsystems that have been improved the most in the last half-century. While the actual molecules of an object are held in a spinning magnetic suspension (eight minutes before degradation), the construction sequence of the object can be read, recorded in computer memory (in some cases), and reproduced. There are limits to the complexity of the object, however, and this is where the potential "miracle" machine still eludes.

The Transporter cannot produce working duplicate copies of living tissue or organ systems.

The reason for this is that routine transport involves handling the incredibly vast amount of information required to "disassemble" and :reassemble" a human being or other life form. To transport something, the system must scan, process, and transmit this pattern information. This is analogous to a television, which serves as a conduit to the vast amount of visual information in a normal television transmission.

And from a little later:

Storing that information, however, is another matter. In our analogy, it would be like comparing a television (which is incapable of storing an image) to a videocassette recorder, which can store a relatively low-resolution recording of a television program. In order to store the patterns for a human being, one would have to record not only all the atomic and molecular configurations, but all the quantum and energy states of all the electron shells, and the brownian motions of every sub-atomic partical of every atom. While we cannot store all of this incredibly complex information, we can use it as it is being handled in real time.

(I've seen this with computer data in some programs I've had to write. Data came in so cast I could filter and pull what I needed, but I couldn't store it all (without filling my hard drive up).)

Also, more specifically addressing this, on page 12, it says:

Objects stored in computer memory have only a limited "resolution" so that one CANNOT store and reproduce a living being.

While Data is more object than living being, the complexity of a brain that stores a self-aware object would be more complex a pattern than the Enterprise computer could easily store without using vast amounts of memory -- which weren't available. (And there was no reason to assume they would need to restore Data before he transported.)

Also, on page 29:

One amazing exception to this process was witnessed in the episode Lonely Among Us, in which a slightly altered Captain Picard returned through the transporter; this can be assumed to have been a case of the transporter being affected by the electromagnetic forces of the cloud-entity (ah ha!).

(Yes, even the "ah ha!" is in the manual.)

So, no, Data could not have been restored from a transport buffer.

5

This seems like it would work to me. Am I misunderstanding how transporters work?

Sooooort of. Their inner workings haven't been well-defined when we get into details like this question, but over on this answer, I've listed some details from various episodes about how they work. To extract the important parts from there,

  • TNG 1x07, Lonely Among Us. Data uses a copy of Picard's pattern stored in the pattern buffer, and combines it with Picard's energy signature to create a new (living) body. Picard only has vague memories of the experience.
  • TNG 2x07, Unnatural Selection. Doctor Pulaski is reverted to a younger body through manipulation of the transporter. Her mind remains unchanged.
  • DS9 4x10, Our Man Bashir, shows that it's possible to store both neural patterns and transporter patterns for extended periods of time, given enough memory. But this is in the computer's memory - not in a pattern buffer.

Picard's memory loss at the end of Lonely Among Us wasn't because his new body didn't have the memories. I don't recall the reason being well-defined, but he did retain vague memories of that out-of-body experience once his body was recreated.

This would be because neural energy is separate from the physical pattern. It's too enormous to be stored regularly, as shown in Our Man Bashir when 5 people's patterns took up the memory of almost the entire station. However, if a neural pattern is available through some other means - such as Picard's "life force" returning to the ship in Lonely Among Us - then it can be reintegrated into a body.

Now, Data on the other hand can be turned off. His neural patterns completely stopped and stored to whatever in him qualifies as a hard disk. Theoretically, his physical pattern could have an entire copy of his version of his neural patterns, except for (possibly) two things:

  • (Modern) computers don't store their entire state to disk all the time. It changes too rapidly to be effective, so a hard power-off loses a lot of information. However, Federation computers may not suffer this problem - the Doctor has been turned off mid-sentence several times and suffered no problems because of it. On the other hand, he's entirely software and may have a built-in way of handling it, an android like Data may not.
  • To make an exact duplicate of Data's storage mechanism, the ship's computer would have to store at least the same amount of information that the storage mechanism does, or data would be lost. This is effectively the same reason living being's neural patterns can't be stored.

So:

  • Yes, it should be possible to create a physical duplicate of Data.
  • No, it is very unlikely his mind could be recreated in the same way. I don't recall Data ever "backing up" his neural net - and I doubt he would have, since if it was ever activated, he would no longer be unique.
  • 1
    I didn't recall him ever backing up his neural net either until I remembered that he performed a full backup into B-4 during the same movie he died in. – Kalamane Aug 5 '12 at 18:58
  • @Kalamane Technically, he copied his memories to B-4, not his "self" - something that was sort of brought up in TNG 2x04, The Measure Of A Man. The non-canon Countdown comic is where it's established that Data's personality was also transferred. But yes, I'd forgotten about that instance in general. – Izkata Aug 5 '12 at 19:09
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    Interesting you should bring up The Mesure Of A Man, which is all about making functional physical duplicates of Data. Except the only possible way seems to be by disassembling and completely destroying the android in the process. If the stored memory (and/or personality) is no concern, you'd think Starfleet's leading cybernetics scientist would come up with something better. – Damon Aug 11 '14 at 10:35

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