Posted by: movieotaku | May 9, 2007

Intelligent Deuterium Ore

This boner is one of my all time favorites. I forget the episode title* (you wouldn’t make me re-experience that pain just to find the title, would you?), but the episode involved Voyager looking for deuterium. The opening scene tells us they are in a new solar system looking for deuterium. They scan a planet and find “deuterium ore” which they go down to fetch only to find the deuterium is intelligent and capable of beating Ensign Kim up (to be fair, even my mother can take Ensign Kim).Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen. It makes up roughly 1% 0.01% of the hydrogen in the Universe. An alien visitor to our solar system has more than enough places to find deuterium: our Sun, water ice on Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede, the Kuiper belt, the Oort cloud, the list goes on. I’ve never heard anyone refer to hydrogen in nature as an “ore”. This episode sounds like someone read the technical bible Mike Okuda (who knows something) prepared for the Voyager writers, saw that Voyager needed Deuterium, then proceeded to write it like something from a very bad 30’s pulp-SF magazine.

Again, Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen!! It’s not a conventional metal or a mineral!

Updated 29 October 2001:

I originally wrote “1% of the hydrogen in the Universe”, but Lucius Chiaraviglio wrote to inform me that deuterium is slightly less than 0.01% of the hydrogen in the Universe. Taking a lesson from the Bad Astronomer, I decided to admit my mistake here and show the correction. Why? It shows that science in a collaborative process where people are constantly cross-checking each other’s facts, measurements and reasoning. This might help people get a glimpse of how real science and scientists do their work. Good work, Lucius!

Oh, I also realised I should have been more precise when I said deuterium is not a metal. Hydrogen (of which deuterium is an isotope) belongs to the metals side of the periodic table, but from what I’ve read over the years, most scientists consider hydrogen to be in a category all its own.

February 24, 2002

The episode title was “Demon” (Thanks to Kyle Creasey for the info)



  1. Even with only 0.01% of the hydrogen in the universe being deuterium, the fact remains that 0.01% of the hydrogen comes out to about 0.75% of the entire universe’s mass. In short, deuterium isn’t rare. The idea that a deuterium-fueled starship would run critically low on the stuff is quite possibly MORE bizarre than the idea of “living deuterium”.

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