STbtM 031: Cheating to Win
Previous: Kobayashi Maru Begins
Soon-to-be-suspended cadet Kirk orders "Alert medical bay to prepare to receive ALL crew members from the damaged ship." Uhura asks "And how do you expect us to rescue them when we're surrounded by Klingons, Captain?" "Alert medical," he repeats superciliously, and Uhura returns to her workstation looking furious.
McCoy reports: "Our ship's being hit. Shields at 60%." Kirk says, "I understand" and reaches under his seat to pull out an apple in homage to Wrath of Khan. "Should we, I don't know… fire back?" McCoy sarcastically asks. "No." "Of course not!" With klaxons in the background the simulator seems to shut down as everyone (but Kirk) bumbles around trying to figure out what happened. I was disappointed that yet again, without any apparent work, study, preparation or effort, Kirk was able to astound everyone around him with a computer subroutine that altered the simulation.
When power returns, Kirk says, "Hm…" then orders "Arm photons prepare to fire on the Klingon warbirds!" McCoy mentions "Jim, their shields are still up." "Are they?" Kirk asks, taking a big bite of the apple. McCoy rechecks his sensors and announces "No, they're not!" Gleefully, Kirk orders "Fire on all enemy ships, one photon each should do it – let's not waste ammunition." "Target locked and acquired on all warbirds. Firing." Granted, this is a simulation and an important feature of the Trekverse, so there's very little to which we might object. My impression is that this scene received good attention from the writers, as even uniform misogyny can produce contradiction free dialogue. Here, however we do have a problem with a status report of "Target locked and acquired."
"Acquired" means that we have sufficient information on enemy location to monitor or target them. "Lock" refers to some optimal targeting state in which directed weapons can adjust automatically to changes in source or target position, movement, or other factors without operator intervention. There is no reason to mention "acquired" if one has already announced "locked". This reminds me of a creationist I emailed recently, whose material included a criticism of evolution as being unable to explain the big bang. I responded that the big bang preceded the replicating entities to which evolution applies, so this objection was a bit like saying that a recipe for apple pie was defective if it didn't include "Step 1: Create the Universe."
We see the ships on the simulator's viewscreens blowing up, after which the tac officer announces "All ships destroyed Captain." Um, actually there are two ships still in the area, but that's splitting hairs and would spoil a pretty nice, funny scene.
Kirk immediately says "Begin rescue of the stranded crew… So, we've managed to eliminate all enemy ships, no one on board was injured, and the successful rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew is underway."
This was a very fun and satisfying moment in the film, and perhaps one of the better scenes… This scene does remind me of the Physics Olympics I attended at North Texas State University while I was in high school. I walked out of one competition where calculator use was tested. It turned out that a school in Azle, Texas had a class where math students trained for this exam, and when the test began I heard the kid next to me clattering away like a court stenographer, and when I looked, his right hand was a blur as he touch-typed some super complex (for me) equation without even looking at the calculator. I decided to exit the test right then and check out the water balloon catapults. Later, a test was passed out face down on tables, and we were told there were 6 problems on various physics topics. Our instructions were to answer all questions that we believed we could correctly solve in 30 seconds or less. There were time clocks on the tables and when we finished, we were to put our test into the clock on the table, and every answer we got wrong or left blank would add 30 seconds to the time so, we were told: minimize our total time, the lowest total wins.
Through the overturned sheet, I started reading the (backwards) question at the top of the last page while final instructions were given, it was a question regarding power output of a Carnot cycle engine with a couple of heat reservoirs, and although I did not know the appropriate formula, I realized that even if I were really good at these problems, there was no way to derive an answer involving a 2 stage solution with only 15 seconds to accurately complete each step.
The test was about to start. I glanced at the last question further down which was larger than the previous and realized that 30 seconds was almost certainly not a believable time for any of the questions, so I put my test in the clock just as the proctor announced "Begin!" The power to the clocks was turned on, and my paper was stamped "00:00" and I held up my test for collection by the proctor, who looked bewildered, along with my teammates. I waited 3 minutes, i.e.: 6 x 30 seconds. No one stamped a test, and I kept waiting. It was nearly 10 minutes as I recall before one of the best students stamped his test and walked out. I was not a gracious winner – and my gloating inspired the professors to retroactively change the scoring rules after the competition in a manner preventing me from walking across the stage to accept the blue ribbon. The advocacy of my physics instructor and his assistant did get me a first place ribbon privately, with their congratulations on quickly developing such an effective strategy.
We'll see how that old ability functions when StarCraft II comes out…