1 to the 4th Power Amplification in Star Trek Episode
These tech-centric jokes,
song parodies, anecdotes and assorted humor have been collected from friends and
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offensive to the easily-offended, so you are forewarned. It is all workplace-safe.
While Melanie and I were watching the
Star Trek original television series episode titled "Court Martial," I
picked up on a funny technical faux pas. Kirk is accused of the negligent death
of a crew member with whom he has had a longtime difficult relationship. Believing
that the man is faking his own death to incriminate him, Capt. Kirk has the ship's
auditory sensors boosted "on the order of 1 to the 4th power" (14) in
order to pick up heart beats. After evacuating the ship of all but the courtroom
members and then electronically eliminating their heart beats, there is still one
remaining - the accuser's.
The problem/humor here is that 1^4=1, and for that matter 1 raised to any power
- even a million - still equals 1; ergo, there is no amplification at all! This
is one instance of many notable gaffs in TV and movie technical presentations.
February 25, 2019 Update
Note received from RF Cafe visitor Sam M.:
Hello Kirt: Yes, I heard that [1^4] gaff, too, and just as computer programmers
from the 1960's to about the 1990's couildn't speel vary wel, Sci-Fi (TV?) writers
have never been known as mathematicians; apparently the writing usually passes well
even if it only, and just, sounds fantastically dramatic. That's unless Mr. Shatner
mis-spoke by changing the script’s "ten"[one, zero] to a spoken, "one." The clarification
depends upon the availability of the original script (a writer's gag reel for instance).
I responded to him thusly:
Greetings Sam: Hmmm, I hadn't considered the possibility that maybe the script
was read and/or spoken incorrectly. There are many instances in the shows where
numbers are spoken as individual digits. Regardless, most Hollyweird actors wouldn't
know anything about numerical bases and exponents. Although I'm nowhere near as
much of a Star Trek fanatic as a true "Trekkie," I do appreciate the pioneering
concept in film of judging people/beings by their actions and not their appearances,
and the way Captain Kirk's moral compass is always firmly pointed in the right direction.
Thanks for writing. - Kirt B.
"Gentlemen, this computer has an auditory sensor. It can in effect hear sounds.
By installing a booster we can increase that capability on the order of one to the
fourth power. The computer should be able to bring us every sound occurring on the
ship." - Captain James T. Kirk, Commander of the Star Ship Enterprise.
Note: This video clip complies with Fair Use doctrine guidelines and is also
used as promotional material for the Star Trek television series produced
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