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In the 6th season of The Next Generation, we learn that starships that undergo extended periods at warp will accumulate baryon particles, and need to be purged. The baryon sweep is lethal to organic matter (dramatically demonstrated in the episode), requiring the complete evacuation of the Enterprise.

Given the fact that Intrepid class starship utilizes neural gel packs, would a baryon sweep damage them? If so, how would they purge baryon particles?

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  • 5
    Take out the packs and then put them back in again I assume
    – Valorum
    Oct 24, 2019 at 12:42
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    The baryon thing has always bugged me as a technobabble... almost 100% of most matter, organic and inorganic is composed of baryons (by mass)
    – HorusKol
    Oct 24, 2019 at 12:46
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    How does the Intrepid class purge baryon particles? Very carefully. Oct 24, 2019 at 12:50
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    @PaulD.Waite I know - I don't quite understand why it's this one thing I get stuck on out of all the 7 seasons (and the other shows) - and it's one of my favourite episodes
    – HorusKol
    Oct 24, 2019 at 12:59
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    @HorusKol: it is a belter. It's frustrating eh: if they'd just made the technobabble more removed from, or more consistent with, actual science, then the whole thing stands up in comparison with Die Hard. Oct 24, 2019 at 13:01

3 Answers 3

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There's no on-screen information. The only Voyager reference to a baryon sweep is in VOY6x18 Ashes to Ashes, when Harry Kim says he requested them for his quarters at the Academy because he lived "across the hall from a slob". This is presented as sarcasm and teasing between two characters who demonstrate a playfully adversarial relationship.

In the baryon sweep's actual on-screen appearance (TNG6x18 Starship Mine), all living creatures are removed from the ship and sensitive electronics (in engineering, on the bridge, and in the main computer) are protected by field diverters.

Across the Sovereign, Defiant, and Intrepid-classes, a lot of technology was introduced or updated after TNG6x18 Starship Mine. There's really no way to tell if baryon sweeps are still a required procedure.

There are a few possibilities, but there's no on-screen evidence to tell which is the case:

  1. The bioneural gel packs, consisting of living material, need to be removed from the ship during a baryon sweep.

  2. Perhaps bioneural gel packs are not as sensitive as an actual person to the sweep, and a field diverter is sufficient to protect them in-place.

  3. It is plausible that Voyager doesn't need baryon sweeps due to her variable geometry pylons. The unpublished Voyager technical manual was apparently going to indicate this design feature was a solution to the subspace damage discovered in TNG7x09 Force of Nature, but it's plausible the same change had other effects on starship operation and maintenance.

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  • also if harry is asking for a sweep of his quarters that implies that you can sweep room by room, its possible they could have swept the ship themselves in stages by moving the crew around
    – Matt
    Oct 27, 2019 at 15:17
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Presumably there are several logical answers...

  1. Baryon sweeps can be conducted section by section by individual crews using hand held equipment rather than a massive array, though tedious and more time consuming.
  2. Voyager came across a society with similar sweeping arrays (Interstellar truck stop)
  3. Warp core technology aboard Intrepid class and succeeding starships are advanced to the point, Baryon sweeps are not necessary; allow more lightyears to be accumulated by the ship before the need arises.
  4. The most likely answer; Voyager did not reach the "Mileage" point that the ship required one. The Enterprise-D was launched in 2363 and did not receive it's first sweep until 2369; a six year time frame, in the TNG episode, Geordi remarks they've accumulated more flight hours in 5 years than most ships do in a decade implying the Ship was putting Double duty given it's status as flagship and the numerous long range missions it undertook. While Voyager was launched in 2371 and returned to Earth in 2378, 7 years, despite this they may not have accumulated the needed number of lightyears, Voyager "Cheated" having traveled several thousand lightyears without conventional warp.

    • In "The Gift" Kes whisked Voyager away albeit at high warp velocity shaving 9,500 lightyears
    • 300 lightyears were traveled using Quantum slipstream (Ep: Hope and Fear)
    • 2500 lightyears via a interspacial vortex (Ep: Night)
    • Approx 10,000 lightyears using an updated Quantum Slipstream flight (Ep: Timeless); subsequently abandoned
    • 20,000 lightyears (20 years) thanks to the theft of a Borg Transwarp coil (Ep: Dark Frontier)
    • 200 lightyears via subspace corridor (Ep: Dragons Teeth)
    • 600 lighyears via a space catapult (Ep: The Voyager Conspiracy) Voyager accumulated 33,600 lightyears of travel without using Warp drive.
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Baryon sweeps may not need to be done ship-wide in all one go, that is just the most convenient way to do it, especially for large ships. There is nothing in the lore preventing portable baryon sweepers. And there is a long tradition of background characters waving around machinery with no seeming purpose.

Also, this would be a problem for any high warp-capable culture. Facilities that specialize in baryon sweeps would not be difficult to regularly find.

As mentioned elsewhere, the use of bio-neural gel packs could remove the need for baryon sweeps, or prevent the use of ship-wide baryon sweeps. Field diverters are an option, but with them distributed throughout the ship hundreds of little diverters could be impractical, forcing labor-intensive manual sweeps.

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    Do you have any sources to back this up?
    – Sava
    Nov 12, 2019 at 21:39

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