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Let's take Earth for example. There might be thousands of drones on a Borg ship. But wouldn't a planet like Earth that has maybe 10 billion or more people on it pose a logistical problem.

I realize that as the collective assimilate more people, and create more drones that there will be more drones available to aid in the assimilation process. However the Borg ship is small compared to an entire planet and can only house so many people at a time.

It'd also take a significant amount of time to build an assimilation center, so to speak, on the planet.

It'd definitely give time for the citizens of the planet to revolt, find weaknesses in Borg technology (as Janeway and Riker/Data/Picard did fairly quickly), etc. Also bear in mind that for some reason a drone can adapt quickly to phaser fire, but not to a punch.

In Best of Both worlds the Borg had to actually board the ship and grab Picard to transport him out. So factor that in when considering an answer of they just transport the people up to the Borg cube. Even if that's your answer consider we're talking about a large number of people spread out over a large area into a relatively small area.

What is the process and how long does it take to assimilate an Earth size planet with a population of, let's say, 10 billion?

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If the Borg came to Earth today, with just 200 drones we can assume they will effectively take control of the planet within a month.

First we must assume the fact that the Borg are actually assimilating the planet, and that they have already been able to deal with the planetary/space level defenses. With that out of the way it's down to a ground war/assimilation.

If 200 drones infect just 1 person each a day, then give 1 day for infected people to convert to Borg, also figure no losses at just 1 person per each drone, in 29 days they will have infected 6.7 billion people. Obviously there will be some resistance, but there will most likely also be a planet scale assimilating cube, meaning thousands of drones, as well as orbital bombardments, etc.

Within a month I would say 99% of the human population would be converted, or dead. This rapid assimilation would be similar on all planets in which the planet's population was unable to stop the cube class vessels from reaching their respective planets. There are examples from the series where we see the Borg are actively assimilating civilizations. The collective bring many cubes, with 100's of thousands of drones.

cubes' crew compliments of 1 cube are estimated at being close to 130k, while spheres' crew compliments are estimated to be at 11k, and 11k drones was enough to completely assimilate the 7 billion on earth at the time of first contact.

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    I like the math. I need to consider your answer. What about the large area and distances that need to be traversed? Remember it's one thing to blow up a large area with a high powered weapon. It's another thing to kidnap a resisting person and then perform an operation on them. That takes considerable time and effort. – JMFB May 8 '15 at 17:03
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    to infect it only takes a single injection of nanites from another drone. we also have ships in space to simply teleport drones in and out of pockets of resistance. federation shields cant reliably kept out borg drones, so its safe to say that for MOST other species a similar thing will occur. – Himarm May 8 '15 at 17:04
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    remeber the drones dont have to walk from town to town, or even between buildings, they can simply teleport in, kill/assimilate teleport to the next place. teams doing this 24/7 my month estimate is grossly over estimating how long imo it'll take. even for places like earth, federation earth, any defensive structures will be destroyed prior to landing, any shielding device wont have the power needed to block the borg. – Himarm May 8 '15 at 17:09
  • @Himram that is incorrect. The process seems pretty involved if you remember the assimilation of Picard. They had him on a bed, they restrained him, they injected him which required direct physical contact. They had to bring him onto the ship. They had to install his prosthetics and mechanical devices. The had to install that devise in his head, his eyepiece, the body armor, etc. The nanites are one part of the process. They also have to regenerate and there are only so many stalls to regenerate in. – JMFB May 8 '15 at 17:27
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    @JMFB picard is the exception as he was not assimilated as a drone but as an equal to the queen. all others are assimilated through purely the nanites, the prosthetic are added by the nanites themselves en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Assimilation. we have many instances of crew members being assimilated rapidly in enterprise, as well as in the other series, during first contact the crew was being assimilated within hours on board of the ship. – Himarm May 8 '15 at 17:58
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I think the range would likely be so wide as to be impossible to say. So many factors would be vitally important, with varying effects.

For example, the level of technology would be hugely important. It might take substantially longer to assimilate a primitive race, because their pre-industrial infrastructure doesn't support easy adaptation to Borg standards. Ironically, the more primitive a species, the longer it might take the Borg to assimilate the planet.

enter image description here

(As a side-note, this also explains why the Borg don't time travel consistently, as they did in First Contact: because they prefer planets that are more technologically developed.)

Similarly, the race's reactions to assimilation would be hugely important. Assimilating the Klingon homeworld might take years, for example, because of fierce resistance and probable suicide pacts in the case of impending assimilation, while the Mizarians would probably apologize to the Collective for not standing in neat-enough lines while they await assimilation.

enter image description here

I doubt any race would be able to resist Borg conquest for more than a few years, but some might literally fall in days. And, of course, there's always the chance that some cultures would prefer death to assimilation, and simply light up their planet in nuclear fire.

Remember, the Borg don't really do anything particularly fast (except adaptation to attack), so if circumstances forced an assimilation to take 50 years, the Borg would likely just plod along, implacable as always, for the full 50 years. And then move on to the next world.

  • i would hazard to guess that for a race like the klingons the borg would probably just orbitally bombard them till only a few remained, why waste the effort. no reason to expend years to assimilate the billions, when we can basically kill off 90% from space. – Himarm May 8 '15 at 16:44
  • @Himarm Makes sense, but I don't think we've ever seen the Borg act like that. They seem like more of a juggernaut, unstoppably assimilating all in their path, rather than prone to cleverly making things easier for themselves. That's more of a Romulan tendency. – Nerrolken May 8 '15 at 16:45
  • if they did decided to assimilate them all, id say theyd bring lots and lots of cubes. millions of drones. luckily the borg have 100s if not thousands of cubes >.< thats always the scare thought, it took multiple fleets and picards intimate knowledge of the borg to take down 1 cube, we know for a fact they have 100s at this time in the delta quadrant because we see their looses to species 8472 to be in 100s of ships. – Himarm May 8 '15 at 16:47
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    @Himarm the Borgs philosophy is not to destroy and kill, but to assimilate and make that race's uniqueness and technology part of their own. They just don't indiscriminately kill people, that would be the opposite of their philosophy. – JMFB May 8 '15 at 16:48
  • @JMFB scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/71701/… my answer here agrees the borg dont kill to kill, however, the borg before assimilating a ship, typically disables the ship, beyond the point of resistance, then begins assimilation, if you have 8 billion klingons who are going to fight hand to hand to the death, to disable them to be assimilated, it might be logical to kill a large portion of their population. or to just bring overwhelming number of drones. – Himarm May 8 '15 at 16:56
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I think this is a question of efficient disbursement of borg nano-probes, the primary vehicle of assimilation. [1] When the nanoprobe supply is done, then assimilation is too.

While 7-of-9 had 3.6 million nanoprobes, it is likely that none were meant for assimilation by Season 7[2]. This suggests a healthy drone requires about 3.6 million nanoprobes to function in top level.

Given that a nanoprobe is about the same size as a red blood cell, it would have a characteristic length of 8 micrometers. The nano-probe has to have a size under 100 femtoliters to fit within the cell, as is indicated it does, for transport throughout the body. This means that all the nanoprobes in 7-of-9 comprise 0.0036 cc's of material. This also allows the inference that 1 cubic centimeter of nanoprobes could infect ~2700 people.

The volume of nanoprobes required to infect 10 billion people would be 3599971 cc's, about 3600 liters, or about 3.6 cubic meters.

This means that a properly equipped shuttlecraft with two drones, and a few cubic meters of nanoprobes could take over the world, a 11000 drone crew without a ship or special "assimilation reserves" of nanoprobes could not assimilate the entire world and bring them up to the level of health of 7-of-9.

It is also known that a single nanoprobe doesn't do the trick, and that mid-infection individuals, like Phlox, can resist and act outside the will of the collective during part of the assimilation process.

Bottom lines:

  • it depends on how much extra nanoprobes they bring along
  • it depends on what level of nanoprobes is required to convert an individual of the species
  • it depends on the nature of the species in resisting assimilation.

This would likely fit a Susceptible-Infectious-Recovered SIR mathematical model [3] and the existing body of work applying them to zombie apocalypse mitigation.

  • the borg dont need to bring"nanoprobes", they self replicate inside of the bodies of the drones. nanoprobes are inject by drones, then they replicate within the victim till conversion to borg is complete, this victim is now a full functioning drone who can now infect other. the supply of nanoprobes is a non-issue. – Himarm May 8 '15 at 18:29
  • And what are the nanoprobes comprised of? Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Hydrogen that make up most of organic organisms? They are substantially more advanced than "tritanium armor" - which means nothing carbohydrate/protein based comprises the nanoprobe. Nano-supercomputers? They are extremely rare and exotic materials. That is why "gold pressed latinum" bars make good trade on value for them. borgcollective.wikia.com/wiki/Nanoprobes – EngrStudent May 8 '15 at 19:33
  • en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Assimilation dont ask me where the nanoprobes get said material, the fact is they self replicate, end of story. your own link says that type 3-4 replicate and create more nanoprobes internally.... – Himarm May 8 '15 at 19:38
  • @Himarm, if it could be replicated then the Ferengi are wasting Latinum - whose value is in that it cannot be replicated. I find the idea unlikely. Also the assimilation article is non-canon. – EngrStudent May 11 '15 at 17:56

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