Star Trek Trivia

Geeks Who Drink recently held a nation wide Star Trek Pub Quiz. I have made no secret of my love of Star Trek, so this seemed like an awesome opportunity. Unfortunately my regular trivia team was all unavailable, so I opted to go up to Portland alone and try and find a group that would have me, and fortunately I was welcomed onto an awesome team.

The crew

The intrepid crew of Team Screw the Ocampa

After a hard fought 8 rounds, and two tie-breakers, our team, Screw the Ocampa, was victorious! Curious to see how our team compared to the rest of the nation, I pulled the results from 27 other venues across the USA that were running the same quiz, which you can check out here. Of the 324 teams that competed, our team ended up with the 8th highest score in a 7-way tie for 14th place, putting us in the top 2.5% of the nation! The highest score came from a team out of New York, New York, which scored 85 out of a possible 88 points, and had the great name, There are 4 lights!!! While New York City may have been the venue with the highest score, the location with the highest proportion of high scores (>75%) was Tempe, Arizona, but they only had 6 teams competing. The city with the most teams was Austin Texas, but no team from that city scored better than 75%.

Fill in the rest of this caption later

The number of teams and distribution of top scores across the participating cities.

One of the hardest things about trivia, aside from the questions, is coming up with a team name. With 324 teams, there was a great selection of team names that were inspired by The Original Series (Spock On), The Next Generation (House of Picards), Deep Space Nine (My Nagus), Voyager (There’s a right way, a wrong way, and Janeway), and even Enterprise (Day TRIPPers)! There were some common themes amongst the names, with the most popular team name variant being anything to do with Red Shirts (e.g., Red Shirt Revenge, Red Shirt Insurance Policy, Redneck Redshirts etc.) which showed up 15 different times. The next most popular theme for a team name had to do with character names. No doubt the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy helped inspire some of the 11 different team names that featured Spock (e.g., Rock out with your Spock out (x2), Spock’s Beard (x2), Spock Stars etc.). Tied with Spock at 11 team name inspirations was Wesley Crusher (e.g., Shut Up Wesley (x8), The Wesley Crushers (x2), Wesley Crusher Sweater Collection etc.). Rounding out the team name mentions were Tribbles (10), Kirk (8), Picard (7), Pon-Farr (6), Gorn (6), Borg (5), Riker (5), Worf (5), Janeway (5), and Darmok (5). The majority of the team names play off general Star Trek Universe references, but there were quite a few names from other franchises, including Han Shot First (x2), This is the Place for the Stargate Quiz?, and my personal favorite Millenium Battlestar 5. 

The futuristic utopia of Star Trek promotes community, inclusiveness, and infinite diversity in infinite combinations. For me, being able to walk onto an established team and be so welcome, truly exemplifies that the ideals of Star Trek are thriving in its fandom, LLAP.

Receiving the traditional Klingon welcome greeting from Kaolin son of Kiln, who when not killing it at trivia also does Klingon karaoke.

Receiving the traditional Klingon welcome greeting from Kaolin son of Kiln, who when not killing it at trivia also does Klingon karaoke, check out Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive in the original Klingon.

The Cultural Reach of Star Trek Extends Far, Far, Away

Star Trek: The Next Generation is a great show, one that I feel was a great influence on my development, and I am by no means alone in thinking that, just take a look at the documentaries Trekkies or Trekkies 2 for more extreme examples. I find it fascinating how far reaching the influence of Star Trek is, as seen in art, pop culture, political discoursecurrent technologies and scientific breakthroughsBorg rats anyone?

  1. Bringing on the Borg rats?… It’s not a mind meld, it’s previous training to signal.
  2. The only thing worse than rats: telepathic borg rats
Socks of the future

Socks of the future

One particular area that has benefited from Star Trek aesthetics has been the clothing and fashion industry. The Star Trek brand has influenced the creation of amazing t-shirtswetsuitsbathrobes, and Spock inspired oven mittshoodies, and socks.

While these clothes and fashions are truly awesome, they pale in comparison to the fashion sense demonstrated on The Next Generation. Fortunately, there is a tumblr devoted to cataloging and critiquing the fashion sensibilities of the 24th century, aptly titled Fashion It So. Some of the more fashionable episodes that are reviewed include GambitThe Drumhead, and Dark Page.

Star Trek has not only assimilated into the fashion world, it has also made its way into the culinary world. Here are a few neat Star Trek inspired food items;

Plomeek tea, recipe available from Food Replicator

Plomeek tea, recipe available from Food Replicator

Star Trek not only inspired food products, but also food itself. Serious Eats has a great primer on the food of various Star Trek cultures, and the excellent tumblr Food Replicator provides recipes for some of the dishes, including Leola Root Soup and Hasperat, there is even a Star Trek Cookbook, for those more inclined to get their recipes offline. Characters in the Star Trek Universe have a unique relationship with food. With the use of replicators, they can have their stomachs desire in an instant, no need for prepping or cooking. This instant availability of food never seemed to diminish its enjoyment, but the enjoyment and simple pleasure of handling and preparing meals is largely absent in the Federation, with the exception of Deep Space Nine’s Captain Sisko, who grew up working in his fathers restaurant and frequently cooks real, not replicated, food for his crew. With the advent and steady improvements to 3-D printing, the replicator technology featured in Star Trek is becoming less far fetched, but hopefully we are far away from losing touch with our food.

Red Shirt Cologne instills confidence, showing the universe your strength, your valor, your devotion to living each day as though it could be your last

Red Shirt Cologne instills confidence, showing the universe your strength, your valor, your devotion to living each day as though it could be your last

With fashion and food choices covered, one of the last frontiers  Star Trek has influenced is the dating scene. There are at least three Star Trek inspired dating sites, Star Trek DatingTrekkie Dating, and Trek Passions. Regardless of how you get there, if you manage to find your imzadi, be sure to make a good impression with a Star Trek inspired cologne, scents include Tiberius, Pon Farr, Shirtless Kirk, Sulu Pour Homme, and Red Shirt.

Speaking of Redshirts, contrary to popular belief they all aren’t as doomed as we once thought, as long as the redshirt wearer is not in the security department. From a recent statistical analysis of crew member mortality from The Original Series;

Only 10% of the entire redshirt population was lost during the three year run of Star Trek. This is less than the 13.4% of goldshirts, but more than the 5.1% of blueshirts. What is truly hazardous is not wearing a redshirt, but being a member of the security department. The red-shirted members of security were only 20.9% of the entire crew, but there is a 72.2% chance that the next casualty is in a redshirt and 64.5% chance this red-shirted victim is a member of the security department. The remaining redshirts, operations and engineering make up the largest single population, but only have an 8.6% chance of being a casualty.

The study did not examine the impact of being named after a character on The West Wing on the likelihood of survival, but based on this hidden gem from Star Trek: Voyager, where it is revealed that the crewmembers who shared the name of characters from The West Wing all died on the way back to the Alpha Quadrant, it probably isn’t good. Speaking of casualties, you can brush up on your detective, and acting, skills with this How to Host a Mystery: Star Trek: The Next Generation game, which is reviewed below.

It is clear that Star Trek has permeated into many aspects of our culture. Its influence can continually be felt and seen all around us, and is only limited by our imaginations.

On Superman, Body Image, and Underwear

Today the new trailer for Zach Synder’s upcoming Superman movie was released.

The movie looks pretty awesome, and will hopefully answer the question of how Superman can have a beard?

May 28th 2013 Update: Gillette has unveiled a brilliant marketing campaign at, which reaches out to some unique experts (Bill Nye, Kevin Smith, Mayim Bialik, The Mythbusters) who offer up different theories explaining how Superman manages to cut his beard. While I think Kevin Smith is onto something, I have to go with Bill Nye’s theory, because he is Bill Nye.

Between this upcoming movie, Clark Kent’s very public quitting of his journalist job at the Daily Planet, and Superman’s recent trip to the Hayden Planetarium to visit with the awesome Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was helping Superman find his home planet, there is a renewed public interest in Superman.

Neil deGrasse Tyson helps Superman find his home, is there anything that man can't do?

Neil deGrasse Tyson helps Superman find his home planet of Krypton, and it is based in our own Universe! Is there anything that man can’t do?

Superman is a truly iconic figure, who has been in the national conscious for nearly 80 years, and is A Part of Our Heritage. During this time Superman has been idolized by boys and men alike, and a recent study sought to understand the effects of superheroes on male body image. The authors note that despite the pervasiveness of superheroes in our lives, little is known about their physiological effects, especially with respect to male body image. This is particularly concerning as superheroes’ bodies have become extremely muscular, sometimes with nearly impossible body dimensions, and that there is lots of research that indicates that exposure to muscular figures can make men feel bad, because by comparison their own bodies seem small.

This article takes a unique approach by examining if this effect holds true when the men have parasocial relationships (PSRs) with the superhero. PSRs are one sided pseudo-relationships developed over time with people or characters that might be seen on TV, movies, or comic books. Scientific American notes that just as a friendship evolves through spending time together and sharing personal thoughts and opinions, PSRs evolve by watching characters on our favorite TV shows, and becoming involved with their personal lives, idiosyncrasies, and experiences as if they were those of a friend. Research has found that when people develop a PSR, instead of comparing themselves and feeling bad when they do not measure up, they tend to assimilate the characteristics of character which they have developed the PSR, and in turn feel better when that character has traits to which they aspire.

The article, which has the awesome title “Batman to the rescue! The protective effects of parasocial relationships with muscular superheroes on men’s body image“, sought to investigate first whether exposure to muscular non-PSR superheroes would have a negative impact on male body image, and second, whether having a PSR with a superhero would moderate any negative body image feelings associated with exposure to muscularity. To begin to examine this effect the researchers recruited a group of 98 male undergraduates, and presented them with a manipulated image (either muscular or non muscular, see below) of Batman or Spider-Man.

Participants were presented either a muscular or non-muscular version of The Dark Knight and Spidey

Participants were presented either a muscular or non-muscular version of The Dark Knight and Spidey

Participants’ PSR with each of the superheros was assessed through a survey of how much they knew and liked each hero, and were they were divided into groups based on whether they had a PSR and with which hero. The participants also self-identified their muscularity using the Male Muscularity Scale, and their physical strength was determined using a hand-held dynamometer. Participants were shown one of the above images for 1 minute, after which they completed a body esteem assessment. The first interesting result was that there were no differences between Batman vs. Spider-Man groups, so the results were collapsed across the two versions of the study. The rest of the results tended to support the author’s hypotheses. Participants exposed to a muscular PSR superhero experienced higher body esteem than those exposed to a muscular non-PSR superhero. When a PSR did not exist, participants exposed to a muscular superhero experienced lower body esteem than those exposed to a non-muscular superhero. The results get more interesting when physical strength is factored into the study. Participants exposed to a muscular PSR superhero were stronger than those exposed to a muscular non-PSR superhero. When a PSR was present, those participants exposed to a muscular superhero demonstrated greater strength than those exposed to a non-muscular superhero.

To summarize, as the authors predicted, exposure to a muscular non-PSR superhero made men feel bad about their bodies. However, having a PSR with a muscular superhero not only eliminated the negative effects of exposure on body satisfaction, but also increased men’s physical strength. This research suggests that muscular superheroes change men’s body image and that the direction of that change is determined by PSR status.

How many of these Superheroes can you identify just by their underwear? Click here for the answers.

How many of these Superheroes can you identify just by their underwear? Click here for the answers.

The authors chose Batman and Spider-Man for their study, and given the wide reach of those two characters it was a logical choice. However I wonder if there would have been a different result if the authors choose to use Superman in their study. Particularly interesting would be if there was any difference on body esteem based on exposure to either the traditional Superman and the New 52 version of Superman. The most striking difference between these two versions is their underpants, or rather lack thereof. The traditional Superman was drawn with bright red underpants worn over top of his blue tights. This was partially due to the constraints of printing technology, and the conservative sensibilities of the 1940’s. The New 52 Superman and the Superman portrayed in the trailer above, both have no underpants on the outside, the implications of which are drawn out in the article The War on Superman’s Underpants, where the authors are troubled by the re-directed gaze and focus on a particular area of the underwear-less Superman. Despite the ridiculousness of it all, I think that Superman should have his underpants on the outside. Sure it may seem foolish, but underpants on the outside is a defining characteristic of so many superheroes, and makes a really easy costume for kids and adults alike. If we can suspend our disbelief and get behind the idea of an infant alien cast from his dying home, raised on Earth with super powers, surely we can embrace underpants on the outside.

Dry-Erase Boards: The Future of Science Videos?

A recent article at MotherBoard introduced the Imagine Science Film Festival by describing the failings of science films,

The phrase “science film” doesn’t exactly conjure up arthouse-level creativity. It probably brings up memories of 20 years out-of-date VHS tapes explaining photosynthesis (or whatever else your teacher couldn’t explain well-enough) in as dry a fashion as humanly possible, with perhaps some dry-erase/chalkboard illustration.

The article notes that we have graduated from the science films of old and entered a time where “mind-expanding science-meets-creative thinking films” are taking their place. One particular format seems to be particularly popular, dry-erase animation videos. These videos are like traditional slideshows, but there is more movement on the screen and they are often accompanied by cool music or voice over narration. These videos are able to introduce viewers to issues and topics in a very interesting and engaging way. Below are 5 examples of cool dry-erase videos/sites.

  1. Minute Physics: One of the first examples of the dry-erase board animation lecture style video that I came across, Minute Physics does a great job of tacking complex physics ideas, principles, and concepts, and presenting them in a fun way. 
  2. ASAPScience: Much like Minute Physics ASAPScience presents concepts in a very fun and accessible way, however they tend to veer towards less traditional, but by no means less interesting and important, topics, as seen below. 
  3. Risk Bites: An new entry into the dry-erase video lecture game that looks promising and covers a topic of particular interest to me.
  4. Feeding Nine Billion: Here is an innovative use of the format, describing and promoting ones research, while engaging viewers.
  5. Where Do Good Ideas Come From?  Once that research has been turned into a book, why not use dry-erase videos to promote that book?

While these videos are very cool and informative, they do lack a certain creative or artistic element, that the Imagine Science Film Festival is trying to promote. The creator of the festival, Alexis Gambis, comments on what he feels makes a bad science film, noting voiceover and animation tend to remove you from the science. The film below does rely on animation, but it does so it a very effective and creative way. And while it doesn’t speak much about the science behind autism, it certainly does a great job of depicting what it might be like to have autism, and that can be just as valuable as a dry-erase board presentation on the science behind autism.


Here is a video from Minute Physics showing his favorite online science resources

No laughing matter

This weekend the Emmy awards were handed out, and while there wasn’t much controversy over the recipients, (Jon Cryer not withstanding), comments made in a live blog of the ceremony by Nikki Finke caused quite a stir. In response to Julie Bowen winning for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, Finke snarked

Listen-up, Hollywood: Beautiful actresses are not funny. They don’t know how to do comedy…Only women who grew up ugly and stayed ugly, or through plastic surgery became beautiful, can pull off sitcoms or standups…Because it’s all about emotional pain and humiliation and rising above both by making people laugh with you instead of at you. So stop casting beautiful actresses when you should be giving ugly women a chance.

The hilarious and beautiful Elizabeth Banks, in my favourite comedy of all time, Wet Hot American Summer

The comment angered quite a few people, and the beautiful and hilarious Elizabeth Banks posted a great response to the comment. The comment by Finke resulted in several sites publishing lists of women whom are both funny and attractive. If you dare venture into the comments section of either of those pages, you will see not only a discussion of what/who is considered attractive, but also what/who is considered funny.

Attractiveness and humour, two very subjective things, or are they?

While there has been research into objectively measuring attractiveness, such as using pattern analysis and facial recognition software, or morphometric measures such as body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio, the objective analysis of what constitutes funny is much less developed. And maybe that is a good thing, E.B. White noted that “Humour can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind,” basically, to explain a joke is to kill it.

For a perfect example, see this paper in Review of General Psychology titled It’s Funny Because It’s True (because it evokes our evolved psychology), which analyses the intersection of evolutionary psychology and popular culture by dissecting the Chris Rock HBO Specials. The author notes that “the hilarity of Rock’s stand-up stems, in part, from his invocations of sex differences in the evolved psychological mechanisms underlying romantic relationships.” Hilarious. He then goes on to demonstrate the theory and evidence of evolutionary psychology that underpin some of Chris Rock’s routines on romantic relationships, by translating and dissecting Rock’s material into its psychology equivalent. It its about as funny as it sounds, well it actually is kind of funny. Continue reading

Round Up Ready – Jetsons Edition

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of The Jetsons, so to mark the occasion here are a couple of Jetsons related stories.

The beautiful, retro-futuristic world of The Jetsons, but what exactly lies below those clouds?

Why aren’t there more movies about the Olympics?

With the Olympics being a Global event of such cultural significance, it is not surprising that the Games should permeate into our popular culture. What is surprising is the almost small number of films about the Olympics. A quick search will reveal several top 10 or top 11 lists of the best Olympic movies, mainly with the same line-up of films, ranging from drama (Munich, Without Limits, Miracle, Chariots of Fire), comedy (Cool RunningsBlades of Glory (while technically not an Olympic film, it pretty much is), The Cutting Edge (while technically not a comedy, it pretty much is), and even documentary (Dare to Dream, or any Bud Greenspan retrospective), but you would be hard pressed to find a top 25, let alone a top 50 list.

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, its Olympic portrayal in movies time… Cool Runnings

So why are there so few Olympic movies? Is there something inherent about the Olympics that prevents them from being adequately displayed on the big screen? Why haven’t their been any feature films about the Olympic games past 1988? It would seem that at any Olympics there are stories just waiting to be made into movies, yet they don’t materialize–not even in tv movie format.

Is it because true stories are boring or not entertaining? If we already know the outcome, can there be any real excitement and drama? Sure there can, I have spoiled almost every book and movie I have read or seen in the past 5 years and have still enjoyed them plenty, and movies like Miracle prove that it can be done for Olympic moments and films.

Is it just that sports movies don’t translate well to film, whether they are true or fiction? Given the success of so many great sports film, I can’t believe that is a reason – see Top 25, and Top 50 Best Sports Movies.

Are the Olympic memories and stories too fresh to warrant the need film adaptation? Maybe the story needs to age, and perhaps get forgotten a little before it can be made into a feature film (2020 film adaptation of the Alexandre Bilodeau story?). With all the media coverage during the Games, and the production values that go into telling an athletes’ backstory, maybe we don’t need a movie to sensationalize the story, it has already been done. With all the coverage, the athletes have not only become household names, but household faces, which may limit our ability to accept an actor portraying our favourite athlete. Perhaps that is why the documentary format is so popular for capturing the Olympic experience, it allows us to relive our favourite moments, with our favourite athletes, in a very personal and visceral way, that is often lost in feature dramatic films.

Next week I’ll look into the portrayal of the Olympics in other cultural forms, mainly TV and literature, where it has seemed to fair much better. In the mean time, if you have any other thoughts on why there are so few Olympic films leave them in the comments.