Math in the Movies


120px-enterpriseA recently ran across a great resource page of  “Math in the Movies” from MathBits.  This page lists clips of movies (with links if they’re available online) and worksheets that can be used in the classroom.

Two of the examples relate to Star Trek, which as you all know (right?) will be in theaters starting this weekend.  In Episode 20 (“Court Martial”) of The Original Series, James T. Kirk is accused of murdering Benjamin Finney, the Records Officer.  At one point late into the episode, Kirk uses the computer to hear the heartbeats of everyone on The Enterprise.  As he explains:

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.

One to the fourth power?  Not so impressive (and was I the only one thinking that you’d hear a lot more than heartbeats if every sound was magnified?  Wouldn’t breathing and moving be really LOUD?  But I’d better be careful with my critiques, because I’m a big fan of The Next Generation and a recent viewing revealed that it isn’t immune to problems either.)

The MathBits worksheet to accompany the scene is here.  They don’t link to a video clip, but you can see it on YouTube.  Actually, you can see the entire episode on YouTube:  the mistake starts at 38:10.

(Edit 5/9:  the embedding no longer works, but you can see the episode at this link.)

5 Responses to “Math in the Movies”

  1. Barry Leiba Says:

    In 2007, while I was watching reruns of “Star Trek: Voyager”, I did a series of posts on my blog about Technology in Star Trek (read bottom up, to get it in the order I posted it). I didn’t look at the math — in fact, I don’t think I covered any math at all — but I think you might find it amusing anyway.

  2. Ξ Says:

    Yes, I really like those posts! Incidentally we own the Science in Star Wars books [I’m not sure if that’s the title — there were two paperback books, geared towards kids.]

  3. jd2718 Says:

    it’s been, sadly, disembedded.

  4. Ξ Says:

    Thanks for pointing that out jd — I’ll change it to a link.

  5. HyperHacker Says:

    Why, I built a device that can amplify sounds by one to the power of any non-negative real number! It’s such a simple design, too. Let’s crank it up to 10,000!

    That’s odd… it must be broken.

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