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1 to the 4th Power Amplification in Star Trek Episode

Engineering Humor - RF CafeThese tech-centric jokes, song parodies, anecdotes and assorted humor have been collected from friends and websites across the Internet. This humor is light-hearted and sometimes slightly offensive to the easily-offended, so you are forewarned. It is all workplace-safe.

Humor #1, #2, #3

1 to the 4th Power Amplification in Star Trek Episode - RF CafeMorse Code "CQ" Call on Star Trek: The Space Seed - RF CafeWhile 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). - Sam

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 by CBS.



Posted  September 16, 2014

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