Or to put another way, why are the humans so important in the Star Trek universe when we are clearly so weak compared to other species?
This question was prompted by a couple of things:
- Star Trek is coming out on DVD, and Emily and I have it on our Netflix queue.
- Emily (my wife, in case you missed that point) has, never until recently, seen the Next Generation.
- Something my students brought up in class a few weeks ago (about who would win in a fight: the Federation or the Star Wars Empire)
And yes, I realize that this question is neither timely nor, strictly speaking relevant to Physics, but it’s holiday weekend, and I figured we could all use a nerdly break.
So, a couple of pertinent Star Trek facts:
- Humans are but one species in the Federation. According to the Star Trek Wiki, by the 24th century (the “now” for the rest of this discussion), the United Federation of Planets consists of over 150 member worlds (forgive the verb tense), not including colonies. That’s 150 planets, including Earth (which despite only having developed warp technology in the past few hundred years) which inexplicably is the home to Starfleet and the Vulcans.
- Vulcans have had warp technology for at least 3,000 years, and broke away from the Romulans only about 2,000 years ago. Moreover, they are stronger, smarter, longer-lived, and more disciplined than we (or the Romulans) are.
- Despite all of this, the Federation and the Romulans, Ferenghi, Klingons, and Cardassians (each of whom independently discovered warp technology hundreds, if not thousands of years before we did) each have a comparably-sized single-species empire:
These combined facts do not make sense to me:
- Why are the humans so special? 3,000 years of a head-start is an awfully long time. It’s roughly like putting King Solomon (wise though he may be) in charge of a modern U.S. government. Why are we so dominant? Why does Q think we’re so important?
- Why are the Vulcans so weak? Yes, I get that they aren’t conquerors, but presumably they should have a (non-military) territory comparable to that of the Romulans, and would have had to defend themselves more than once historically. And remember, they’re only one of 4 founding members of the Federation (along with us, the Andorians, and the Tellerites). How can the Federation and the Romulans be more or less evenly outmatched?
Help me, internet. You’re my only hope.