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March 12, 2014 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Robot Jackalope -- "a blog about design, programming and general geekery" -- tackles The Geometry of Starship Design -- the USS Enterprise
posted by ricochet biscuit (42 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
However, Matt Jeffries had a very clear vision. He wanted 11.1875″ because this number precisely reflects the negative space equal to the phi dimension of the main saucer hull.

Perhaps you could respect his vision by writing an equally clear sentence.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:39 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


The golden ratio is not particularly pleasing, and many oft-claimed examples of its use in design are contrived.
posted by Jpfed at 7:41 AM on March 12 [8 favorites]


I'd be more convinced if he used something other than the dorsal view of the Enterprise. He seems to treat the main hull as if its entire length consists only of what is visible from above.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:50 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


JPfed, that Baywood link goes to a search page?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:55 AM on March 12


This reads like something from those people who claim that the speed of light and the mass of the Higgs boson are encoded into the dimensions of the pyramids.
posted by echo target at 7:59 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Great, now do the Bistromath.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:02 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


Sorry, it was supposed to go here.
posted by Jpfed at 8:04 AM on March 12


Interesting, I didn't know this.

Golden Ratio fans may also like the fact that 9 volt battery dimensions are very close to phi proportions. The width is close to one inch, the depth close to .61", and the height close to 1.7". I have no idea if this design was intentional or accidental.
posted by Tube at 8:05 AM on March 12


Now build me a spaceship from a 9v battery. /Goonies.
posted by arcticseal at 8:14 AM on March 12


1 : 4 : 9 or go home
posted by COBRA! at 8:26 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


It is neither golden, nor a ratio! Discuss.
posted by thelonius at 8:26 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


I've always thought that the original, pre-refit Constitution-class Enterprise was simply the most beautiful, elegant starship in all of visual SF. But I'm super-impressed at his bonus evaluation of the Klingon D-7 cruiser (also basically the K'tinga-class).
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


Now I understand why all my drawings of the Enterprise (No bloody A, B, C, D) sucked in fourth grade; I didn't learn about infinite series until college.
posted by Rob Rockets at 8:30 AM on March 12


I think one can solve x2 = x+1 without infinite series.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:33 AM on March 12


The first thing you need to understand is that the golden ratio is represented by two numbers [...] 1.618033988749895… and it’s inverse 0.618033988749895…. If you add both numbers together, you’ll almost reach 2.

That's not even close. What's much more relevant is that their difference is 1, so that f = 1 + 1/f.

I'm not sure - a lot of these ratios seem to be fits after the fact. What about the vertical profile?
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:34 AM on March 12


Klingons are really big into the Golden Ratio, except they call it boch mI’.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:48 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


Whether or not Matt Jeffries actually used the Golden Mean, this is perfect support for my argument that the Original Enterprise looks better tab the NewTrek Enterprise (looks like a coffee maker) and the NuTrek Enterprise (simply clunky and inelegant).
posted by happyroach at 8:52 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Looking over his pictures, I'm reminded of a story that Jean Shepherd told about being in K-Mart on Route 22 in New Jersey and spotting a lawn ornament display that included "Seven Dwarfs Lawn Ornaments - ¾ LIFE SIZE".
posted by plinth at 9:01 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


TNG Enterprise was a rejection of rectilinear design that had dominated the late '70s and '80s - industrial design before the late '80s took the rectilinear precision of '60s design (Old Trek) and sucked the life out of it, cast it in cheap plastic and put a fake chrome finish on.

TNG was introducing graceful curves and organic shapes that would be DONE TO DEATH over the next twenty years, and established it as the design language of the future - it was of a piece with things like the Pontiac Banshee IV and the Canon T90.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:13 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


This reads like something from those people who claim that the speed of light and the mass of the Higgs boson are encoded into the dimensions of the pyramids.

I kinda feel that too, but I think I chalked up those feelings to the fact that the author made the rather bold move of opening with a Gary Busey anecdote.

The more I think about it, though, it's an interesting way to prepare the reader in a manner that counteracts their preconceived notions about what they think they will be reading. As I clicked on that link, my mind had called up all the relevant topics to my brain and started making assumptions about the article, the author, the tone, etc. So even before I started reading I had already formed a preliminary opinion about it. Then it starts with a Busey anecdote, and my mind is caught off guard - my brain was ready for critical thinking and judgement, and the Busey thing just throws a monkeywrench in that process. Reality is rather unpredictable when Busey is involved. Then his argument starts, and I find myself without the mental baggage I had just prepared in that couple seconds before clicking the link. It was like a palate cleanser, but for the mind.

That moment of confusion may have made me more open to considering his argument in full before coming to a conclusion of its value rather than judging it in comparison to my own opinion with each point as he made it.

It's an interesting tactic.
posted by chambers at 9:14 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


So, basically, one should start their dissertation with a Busey anecdote.
posted by oddman at 9:27 AM on March 12


One should start everything with a Busey anecdote.
posted by Mogur at 9:41 AM on March 12 [4 favorites]


Poor Andrew Probert.

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the universe that likes the design of the Enterprise D*. Fans don't like it, the VFX technicians didn't like it, and designers don't seem to like it either.


*Six foot shooting model only. Sorry four footer.
posted by whittaker at 9:42 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the universe that likes the design of the Enterprise D*.

I like it! Although I like the refitted version in All Good Things and then the Enterprise E a little better.
posted by COBRA! at 10:38 AM on March 12


The Enterprise-E is nice, but the tendency to show more welded plates annoys me, as did the NuTrek shot of a starship being built on the surface of the Earth. If you're already established in space and you're building a ship which isn't meant to land, it's insane to build it at the bottom of a gravity well. Go build it out in the asteroid belt or Jupiter or Saturn orbit where the raw materials are, using zero gravity construction techniques which would be really cool -- imagine building a hull by liquifying your alloy and then inflating it with controlled explosions or even steam pressure for example.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:59 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]


it was of a piece with things like the Pontiac Banshee IV and the Canon T90.


And had the interior of a Radisson Suites from 1991.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:59 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]


And had the interior of a Radisson Suites from 1991.

Other way around - it's surprising how quickly and completely tastes changed in the 87-91 timeframe.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:18 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]


respect his vision by writing an equally clear sentence

Or using the correct possessive its instead of, wrongly, the contraction it's everywhere. It's a distracting form of stupidity.
posted by lathrop at 11:49 AM on March 12


Still, nothing will ever beat the Minbari ships from B5 for gorgeousness.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:56 AM on March 12


One should start everything with a Busey anecdote.

That's what Gary told me this one time we were diving off the Great Barrier Reef.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:13 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Still, nothing will ever beat the Minbari ships from B5 for gorgeousness.

I think the Protectorate ships from Duck Dodgers, of all things, give them a run for their money. It's basically a Dusenberg Midnight Ghost in spaceship form.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:47 PM on March 12


Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person in the universe that likes the design of the Enterprise D

I feel like it's too much saucer, not enough nacelle. I get that it's supposed to be a "city-ship" and carry families and housing and whatnot in the saucer section. It just feels too front-heavy.

Enterprise E (Sovereign Class) seemed to rectify the proportions a bit, and even though it still has an oval saucer, they stretched it forward, giving it a sleeker look.

The Constitution Refit is still the best, IMO.
posted by Fleebnork at 12:53 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


Just in case anyone here has a trillion dollars laying around and wants to build their very own starship: BuildTheEnterprise
posted by lharmon at 1:11 PM on March 12


I'll give him a solid mmmmmmaybe on the Enterprise, but not on the Klingon ship. He's working with Illustrator, where you can easily blow up and move around ellipses. It strikes me that with enough futzing around you could 'match' any complex shape you wanted.... is there any way to disprove an analysis of this type? Besides, marking out all those ellipses by hand, simply to find some X-Y coordinates, would have been strangely tedious.

(On the other hand, his pages make me appreciate Jefferies's designs more. I don't know if he was the first to get away from the endless rocketships, but it was a very effective way to signal that they were from three centuries on.)
posted by zompist at 2:26 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


I think if you consider on the one hand a model adjusted so it doesn't fit the golden ratio, and on the other a pair of wooden sticks tied together with string that fit the ratio exactly, and ask yourself which is the better looking starship model, it becomes pretty clear how important -or not- the ratio really is.
posted by Segundus at 2:45 PM on March 12


I think the Protectorate ships from Duck Dodgers, of all things, give them a run for their money. It's basically a Dusenberg Midnight Ghost in spaceship form.

Link? I'm curious now...
posted by Wolfdog at 4:09 PM on March 12


Here it is... tho on review, that car is seriously gorgeous and would make about the best spaceship ever, but it's not the model. The Protectorate Ships are more like racing plane-rocket hybrids with a dose of cinema Star Trek (little windows for scale).
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:00 PM on March 12


Before I started reading the article, I figured the guy was probably on to something. Lots of people think that people find the Golden Ratio appealing, so it seemed plausible that the designer of the Enterprise might've been one of them. But then I got to his first big motivating mystery:

Matt Jeffries was a very exacting designer. He specified the center point distance between his engine nacelles to be 11.1875″. I used to do a lot of graphic production work and I can tell you I have never come across this number. Why on earth would Matt spec a dimension with 4 numbers after the decimal point?

Why on earth? Because it's 11 3/16". We're talking a precision of a sixteenth of an inch, not a ten-thousandth of an inch.

The more I read here, the less I believed the argument. There are dozens of measurements that could be considered, meaning hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of pairs of values that could be compared. I'd be shocked if you couldn't find ratios that were close to φ... or 1+2φ±¼"... or any of another half dozen related numbers that he comes up with... or any of another hundred or so comparably plausible "related numbers" that he could have come up with.

I bet it'd be pretty easy to find just as many golden ratio connections in the Enterprise D.

I suppose it could be worse. Usually I see this kind of logic applied to conspiracy theories. And it's always nice to see a bit of recreational math, even if the arguments being made are pretty thin.
posted by ErWenn at 6:45 PM on March 12 [2 favorites]


The Kingdom Bible Version
Using the Exclusive Golden Ratio Format
Edition 7.0


Apparently, this can be used to refute the Bible Wheel. Dueling numerologies! Holographic generating sets! Wow!
posted by Wolfdog at 3:57 AM on March 13


It was like a palate cleanser, but for the mind.

Rich in smooth handwaving, with crispy nuggets of innaccuracy, the article has a pleasant nutty theory flavor, with no bitter truther aftertaste.
posted by otherchaz at 8:42 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]


I do not love the Enterprise. Meh it's a ship.

But oh how I have longed for a B'rel class Bird of Prey.
posted by winna at 8:56 AM on March 13


But oh how I have longed for a B'rel class Bird of Prey.

Star Trek Online is free to play these days.

Feel free to say hi, I'm @Fleebnork
posted by Fleebnork at 2:08 PM on March 13


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