Star Trekkie … Star Trek … ish

June 15, 2009

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I love the new Star Trek movie. I’ve taken to checking its box office ratings on Monday mornings to see how it has shaped up against the competition after each weekend. The better it does, the sooner Hollywood will see fit to finance a sequel. I’m pleased with its progress. I’m eager to see where they go next with the plot when they aren’t shamelessly mining out Wrath of Kahn.
I always pay attention in movies to the way the timing they talk about stacks up to the actual run time that a scene gets. For example in a heist movie they may say that the police will show up four minutes after the first alarm is tripped but in actual fact the plot lags there so they pick it up and the police are banging on the door in 90 seconds or, conversely, they decided to get in some heavy character drama and stretch the clock to six minutes. I always appreciate it when a movie actually takes the time it says it will take and I understand that this involves a bit of a commitment on the part of the editors. I was ridiculously pleased therefore by the intro in which Kirk’s father has a meaningful last conversation with his wife and names their son in the 20 second period being counted down by the collision alarm.
But this brings up a nerdy complaint later: all this careful observance of timing goes out the window a few plot twists later when Kirk, Sulu and Red Shirted Engineer Olsen jump from space to stop the drilling device. They land on the thing and immediately remove their helmets and hats the better for us to read their facial expressions with. Shortly thereafter Kirk and Sulu fall/jump off the drill platform (what has happened to Olsen) and fall for 50 – count them, fifty – seconds until Checkov beams the back to the enterprise just before they touch the planet surface. It feels like a long time to fall. I feels like a very long time to fall. So I went home and looked up that good old kinematics equation: d = vt +at(squared). Their initial velocity is zero. They fall for 50 seconds. If we assume a gravity roughly compatible with earths – Spock never seems ill adapted to earth side or ship board gravity – we can use the one we’re used to 9.8 m/s/s or 32 ft/s/s. That gives us a fall distance of 80,000 ft. That’s nearly three times higher than Mount Everest. And yet there they were dancing around and engaging in hand to hand or sword to sword combat without breathing apparatus. Sigh. Well if action movies were realistic they would be much less interesting.


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