1 to the 4th Power Amplification in Star Trek Episode
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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.
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.
"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 by CBS.