According to Tom Paris, the Inertial Dampeners are the only thing keeping the crew from becoming "stains on the back wall" when the ship accelerates to super-luminal speeds.

If the Inertial Dampeners are capable of, as their name implies, absorbing that much inertia then why do the crew get thrown around every time the ship encounters a subspace disturbance, tractor beam, or photon torpedo? It seems to me the only time the Inertial Dampeners are ever actually called out as being useful is when it comes to moving about the galaxy - and even then, they're only really highlighted for when they're not working.

Of course, the Star Trek Shake (WARNING: TVTropes link!) is a fairly well-known means of emphasizing the importance of certain events in the show. But I was wondering if there's ever been an attempt to explain canonically why the Inertial Dampeners seem to be ineffective against these smaller shifts?

  • 1
    Canon is tough here... Tom Paris is an idiot. They never accelerate to FTL, it's always instantaneous. And it probably involves no inertia. Even on the show as bad as it is, they usually only experience being thrown around when at sublight.
    – John O
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 15:13
  • Possible duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/7069/… Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


I believe it's summarised in the TNG Tech Manual as being due to the predictability of the jump to warp/impulse in that the inertial dampeners can apply the opposing force at exactly the same time as the jump occurs giving a net outcome of 0. There is some small systematic delay in the system being able to calculate and apply the appropriate opposing force, which would explain why it could not compensate for an unplanned impact such as weapons fire or spatial turbulence etc.

  • 2
    +1, and I think it is compensating for unplanned impacts, just not nearly as well as when it has an exact calculation like with the jump to Warp. Most of the jerks the ship makes when they're being attacked (as seen from outside the ship) should be throwing the crew into the walls and ceiling; instead, they're just tossed to the ground.
    – Izkata
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 1:28
  • Very scientific and well-explained answer! Commented May 6, 2020 at 16:07

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