-4

In Star Trek: Discovery, "Perpetual Infinity, Michael Burnham and the Discovery crew manage to trap Michael's mother in a containment field. It was set up like a dome around her. Here's a pic:

Star Trek Discovery Containment Field

The containment field is barely visible. Here's a better one:

Star Trek Discovery Containment Field Failure

Michael Burnham's mother was not in a room. So how did she get oxygen? It would be impossible for oxygen to pass through the containment field, and that would mean that it had to come up through the floor. Would that mean that there were air vents in the floor? I remember in an episode in Star Trek Voyager, the EMH Doctor, or just "Doctor" contained someone in med bay in a containment field of the exact same shape. He ordered the computer to put a different gas inside the containment field. The containment field was not connected to the wall or ceiling. Yet the gas entered the containment field without it being lowered. 1980s-90s Star Trek shows have carpet on their ships, and there would have been no space for air vents in the floor. So where are the air vents, and how do they get oxygen or other gases into containment fields?

Anyways, back to the question. Where are air vents located, and how do they get it to contained objects/organisms?

  • 3
    Why do you assume that a force field that's transparent and can be talked through is gas-impermeable? – Valorum Apr 16 at 17:54
  • 1
    Unless you haven't seen anything like that happening, which is impossible because they've shown it onscreen so many times. – Sovereign Inquiry Apr 16 at 18:15
  • 2
    @NKCampbell - TNG: Brothers – Valorum Apr 16 at 18:21
  • 2
    A 2m high hemisphere holds 16700 liters of air. At 8 liters per minute, that would last 35 hours. Why is more oxygen needed? – jejorda2 Apr 16 at 20:25
  • 2
    This is about as safe as it gets for online places, I think. Of course there are some crazy people anywhere, but Stack Exchange is pretty strictly moderated and any blatantly offensive behaviour (like death threats etc) is usually shut down quickly and the offenders banned. Don't worry about that. – Rand al'Thor Apr 17 at 8:45
5

The question mainly revolves around how it is possible to get breathable atmosphere into sections contained by a force field. You assume that air vents are needed for that, therefore you ask where they are located, but I think that this assumption is not correct.

There are different types of force fields

Thoughout the canon, we see that there are loads and loads of different types of Force Fields. The accepted answer to this question provides us with an overview over the varying degrees of force fields that we see in the canon. In at least one case, it was explicitly mentioned that the force field was erected to keep oxygen out:

SEVEN: Let's play another game. Let's imagine that the oxygen on the bridge has been depleted.
TRAJIS: What?
SEVEN: What do you suppose the results might be? Computer, seal the bridge with a level three forcefield.

(Voy: One)

There are also different scales for different types of field (Dampening Fields, Biohazard Fields, Containment Fields and so on).

I recommend reading the answer to the other question, it's really good! The main implication I want to point out is that if you need a certain level of force field to hold an atmosphere (Level 7 for the atmosphere in Voy: Demon, for example), it's implied that lower level force fields won't be able to properly do the job, potentially leaking the atmosphere.

There are different shapes of force fields

Force fields are what makes holograms "touchable". If I recall correctly, holodecks use a combination of replicators and force fields, which makes it entirely possible that every fabric the characters touch or breathe through is not a force field, but an actual replicated piece of cloth - however, it's obvious that force fields are much more than just two dimensional "windows" with energy.

It's established in Discovery, Season 1, Episode 2, that at the era of Discovery, the computer is able to change the shape of a force field:

Burnham escaping from the brig

In this image, you see the computer opening a big hole into the force field.

The implication is that it's not far fetched to assume that it's possible to erect force fields with enough holes in it to let air pass through it.

This specific field served a specific purpose - which wasn't to isolate Burnham's mother

Now that we have established that force fields come in many varieties and shapes, let's take a closer look at the force field in question.

The main point of this force field was to keep Gabrielle Burnham from being pulled back into the future. While the episode offers a lot of technobabble as an explanation, nothing in this episode indicates that in order to do that, Gabrielle needed to be isolated completely and 100% from her surroundings. You can even see in the picture you have posted that this containment field has some kind of honeycombed structure - it reminds me of a Faraday cage, which protects you from thunderbolts even though it has big enough holes in it for you to safely breathe.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    great answer, very specific – user126198 Apr 17 at 13:41
  • 1
    Thanks so much! That was the answer I was looking for. It was an amazing answer. – Sovereign Inquiry Apr 17 at 14:26
  • 1
    i.stack.imgur.com/5qdv5.png - VOY: Repentance – Valorum May 3 at 0:00
4

In the TNG episode - "The Hunted" air-vents are shown releasing a sedative gas:

enter image description here

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I can't see the picture because I'm on a school chromebook, but I'm assuming they're coming from vents near the ceiling? – Sovereign Inquiry Apr 16 at 18:18
  • 3
    @MarkusRutledge - Your strong assertion that these forcefields are gas-impermeable needs some sort of reference to back it up. – Valorum Apr 16 at 18:39
  • 1
    @Valorum there is some evidence in the canon, e.g, force fields protecting against vacuum or diseases, or containing a micro-atmosphere. I suspect they work with the power of plot, though in this specific case, multiple other explanations are possible. – Philipp Flenker Apr 16 at 20:45
  • 1
    @PhilippFlenker - Different fields seem to have different characteristics. For example some are capable of keeping out virii and some aren't. – Valorum Apr 16 at 20:55
  • 1
    @PhilippFlenker two examples: TNG S2: The Child and S2 Unnatural Selection – NKCampbell Apr 16 at 21:13
2

It's reasonable to assume forcefield tech has small vacuoles, small enough for atmospheric exchange, but not for something the size of a person to fit through. Afterall they can also talk thru the forcefield and that requires soundwaves traveling thru a fluid/atmospheric medium to transmit sound. Light can also penetrate the forcefield. Force fields were also capable of selective positioning, allowing the majority of it to cover 90%, while a smaller portion was deactivated to allow transport of food, drinks, and other items. So they may include small holes for ventilation.

What really brings to mind is WHY use forcefields at all, they require constant energy, they fail in case of incident or power failure. Brigs using conventional doors are safer. In the voyager episode "Repentance" a ship attacks Voyager carrying a group of prisoners, the force fields fail permitting the prisoners to escape, while the cells are made of "Tritanium" bulk heads, strong stuff. But use forcefield doors.

As for airvents, duct work exists on ships. In the Voyager episode "Learning Curve" Tuvok and Neelix look up at the ships vent port. enter image description here

| improve this answer | |
  • There's also TOS "Obsession" with an air vent apparently connected to space. Because the cloud creature gets in through it. – Organic Marble May 3 at 11:42
  • All the answers work. I think people can stop down voting my question now. – Sovereign Inquiry May 3 at 16:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.