On Wednesday April 6, Star Trek and math came together with a highly engaging spin at “The Math of Khan,” a talk given by James Grime, PhD, at New York City’s National Museum of Mathematics. The event was hosted by Connor Trinneer, Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Chief Engineer Trip Tucker—who was given a promotion on the spot when he was introduced to the crowd as the captain of the Enterprise. He seemed pretty happy about the upgrade!
We were on site to cover Trinneer’s intro, Grime’s presentation, and a quick video interview with Trinneer and a young fan.
Connor Trinneer warms up the crowd with imaginary phase-pistols
Trinneer’s opening remarks were a hit with the full capacity crowd, as he talked about the “disco” warp core he learned about on his first day on the Engineering set, and his propensity for adding in his own sounds–like any kid with a toy gun–whenever Trip was shooting a phase-pistol. (“Pshew pshew!”) While he finally learned to stop doing it out loud, he continued doing it in his “inside voice” for the run of the series.
He then introduced James Grime, encouraging the crowd to watch Grime on YouTube, and described him as “so charming, so smart, and so spot on.” Trinner stayed for the entire talk, then chatted with fans afterwards, answering their questions and posing for selfies.
Mathematician James Grime digs into the math of Star Trek
Mathematician/comedian/lecturer James Grime took the stage and dove right in. His presentation was a mix of perfectly chosen photos, video clips, and original graphics, looking at times when the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise from the original Star Trek gave stats or theories on various topics. He included McCoy’s estimates on interplanetary life from “Balance of Terror,” Spock’s tribble quantity analysis in “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and Sulu’s description of the rate of ESP power growth in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” examining the reality behind the scripted lines. He also determined the answer, once and for all, about whether or not red shirts are actually more likely to get killed than other members of the crew.
*The four computers are , Landru (“The Return of the Archons”), Nomad (“The Changeling”), Norman (“I, Mudd”) and M-5 (“The Ultimate Computer”).
Math Encounters meets Star Trek: the origin story
The event was part of an ongoing “Math Encounters” series at the museum. The museum’s executive director and CEO, Cindy Lawrence, explained why they decided to include Star Trek as part of the series.
I had a conversation with somebody over the summer about Star Trek and about whether there was math in it, and I thought, ‘What a great idea to have a talk on the math of Star Trek.’ I was soliciting different mathematicians to see if somebody could put something together, but nobody really had anything or had any ideas. And independently, the chair of our advisory council, James Tanton, said to me, “There’s a great guy who should give a talk about math, his name is James Grime.” And I went to his website, and one of the first things that popped out to me was a talk on the math of Star Trek. Literally, it was just weeks from the conversation I’d had about how that would be a great talk, to coming across James Grime. So then I just had my fingers crossed that he would say yes. And he did!
A young fan interviews Connor Trinneer
I brought my son Nathaniel, who has been watching Enterprise for the first time, and he asked Trinneer about the best episodes to watch, how to get his friends into the show, and the fun of being an action figure:
Read our interview with Connor Trinner from before the event, where he talks about playing George W. Bush, working with Tom Cruise, a clever way for him to appear on Star Trek: Discovery, and reminisces about his experiences shooting Enterprise. And don’t forget to check out James Grime’s website & YouTube channel, as well as NYC’s National Museum of Mathematics.