Thursday, June 18, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 014

Vulcan Prep Schools are Elevated Dungeons

Previous: Ban High-Speed Chases

In a gorgeous shot typical of the space CGI that almost makes me wish for a chance to have seen this in a theater, we wheel above the red planet Vulcan, then get a sweeping homage to the home of the negative magnetic corridor, Mintakans, and where the Gorn love to play – so popular, even Xyrillian holodeck programmers reproduce it!

Top marks to the creative designers of the stalactite buildings suspended from giant overhangs: totally impractical but totally cool looking! Unfortunately, they went for a blue sky – which I don't think holds a candle to TOS' psychedelic red pon farr background, but that's a minor and subjective quibble. Inside the stalactite and standing in a large video bowl, one young Vulcan recites the formula for the volume of a sphere: (4/3)π*r3. We zoom out to see many such video bowls and hear a variety of technobabble as adults pace the darkness above the students, but within the conversations, some real gems emerge: like the formula for dimensionality, a core idea in fractal geometry.

After 1977, when Benoit Mandelbrot published "Fractals: Form, Chance, and Dimension" it was rumored so insulting to mathematicians that his employer IBM, eventually bought all the remaining copies and aided the writing of "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" in order to reduce some of the damage, although from my recollection, it still had a few barbs leaning toward an effect like "Before I, the great BM, none of these mathematicians truly understood the importance of their own work" Still, it was a great work as I recall. His idea was that nature does not completely fill space as we prefer to represent on paper with lines, squares, and cubes. He suggested that a measure could be derived from a fractional exponent as is explained here. It is my belief that we will need a generative, fractal model of space-time as an observational consequence before reliable theories of faster than light transportation like a warp drive can plausibly be developed.

"Non-excludability and non-rivalry" are mentioned by another student. In Jeopardy, the question that would win us $500 would be "What are the defining attributes of public goods?" The next quiz response we hear is: "That which is morally praiseworthy but not morally obligatory", which is a fancy way of saying doing something admirable, and in a nice juxtaposition, we cut to a gang of older vulcan boys calling "Spock!" to which our future friend replies: "I assume you have prepared new insults for today?" "Affirmative" is the pointy-eared Malfoy's response, complete with robed Crabb and Goyle henchmen. It would have been an improvement to have some consistency between the color of the vulcans skin, especially lips, and the color of their blood.

Next: An Emotional Response


crone51 said...

I did fret over the fact that Spock looks a bit too rosy through the entire movie. It annoyed me.

My Spock was pasty and greenish. And sexier.

Steamblade said...

What I found mildly annoying in the scene was the English text. I realize we accept that the characters are speaking Vulcan, although we hear English. Seeing as how most of us wouldn't be able to decipher the formulas on the screen anyway, why not show them in a Vulcan script?

BurntSynapse said...

I didn't even catch that, but it's a fabulous idea! It would give a more alien feel and is one of those great details that really adds ambience. I love it, thanks!

Steamblade said...

Thank you, this is so much fun to read. I really look forward to each new entry. Please address that McCoy, a licensed physician, who after at least 11 years of school and training has to go to the Academy for at least 3 more years to join Starfleet as a doctor. I guess Abrams has never heard of OCS. Then winds up going from Cadet to Lt. Commander in an hour. Not to mention what they did with Kirk.

BurntSynapse said...

Steam, I appreciate the help - I wish there were more readers & logical critics like you helping! I am not familiar with the McCoy timeline and the 14 years to which you refer, I need to do some homework as well. I think the most errors occurred in the first 60 seconds, but as you mention, there are some real slaps in the face to audience members later in the film. All I ask is that they not violate the rules of the universe they set up, and if film makers do, I'm going to feel cheated.

Steamblade said...

As McCoy boards the SFA shuttle he states that he is a doctor. My thinking was four years of undergrad at Ole Miss, four years of medical school and at least three years, if not more, of residency and internship. Yet he appears to be going to the Academy as Fourth (or Third) Class Midshipman based on the fact that three years later he is still looks to be a cadet. If he already had his commission why would an officer wear a cadet's uniform? The only reason I can determine that McCoy goes to the Academy is so that Kirk can have a buddy and Bones can get him onboard the Enterprise. No logical reason mind you, but just to move their story along. Also, the writers seem to not grasp the concept of an academy-type institution. You don't "enlist" in an academy as Kirk seems to, you apply to one as Spock did. Not to mention that in the movie cadets seem to become higher ranking officers automatically aboard the Enterprise. Such as Cadet Uhura becoming Lieutenant Uhura on the ship. Not that we would know by her uniform, as female officer's uniforms do not display their rank. I understand that Pike gave her the position of communications officer but to jump three ranks automatically?

Steamblade said...

I must admit that I am making assumptions based on our my understand of our current military. I realize that Starfleet is a different entity but it has been portrayed in a manner that is usually similar in structure to the US Navy.

BurntSynapse said...

Good points. I'll compare your analysis with what is in those segments when we get to that point, which I believe will be pretty soon.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Oh, don't even get me started on how they handle rank in this movie. That is one of my biggest pet peeves in the whole thing.

However: McCoy's jump to Lt. Commander is actually pretty expected, and Uhura's promotion is not too surprising either. Military physicians usually start at Lt. straight out of OCS. McCoy is an experienced physician when he joins Starfleet, and also (if his expertise from canon is carried over) an experienced surgeon and an acknowledged expert in xenomedicine, making a one-level bump in rank based on his advanced training believable.

By the same token (and again assuming that her expertise from canon is carried over), Uhura has the equivalent of at least a Master's degree - and more likely one or more PhD's, if not post-doctorate level education - in linguistics and xenolinguistics, so a promotion out of the academy from ensign to Lt. is again believable.

No, the bit that gets me is taking anyone straight out of the academy, no matter how talented and no matter what his accomplishments, and making him a Captain, much less giving him command of the fleet's brand-spanking new flagship. Seriously, I could even have (just barely) swallowed making him a LtCmdr and giving him command of a destroyer or light cruiser, but Captain of the flagship? No organization with two brain cells to rub together, no matter how non-military, would do that.

John C. 'Buck' Field said...

Great observations and comments, Jake.

My apologies for the slow reply, I've been pretty busy on: