Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is buried in adorable fluff balls in the classic 1967 episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles," on <em>Star Trek: TOS</em>.
Enlarge / Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is buried in lovable fluff balls within the traditional 1967 episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” on Star Trek: TOS.

Paramount/CBS Television

Chalk this one as much as enjoyable scientific papers we inexplicably missed final yr. A group of undergraduates on the University of Leicester within the U.K. calculated the expansion charge of the fictional Star Trek critters referred to as tribbles. They printed their leads to a brief paper within the college’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating simply how lengthy it might take for there to be sufficient tribbles to refill the USS Enterprise.

First aired on December 29, 1967, “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode was written by David Gerrold, then a 23-year-old faculty pupil in California. He initially envisioned it as a cautionary story of ecological catastrophe—impressed partly by how shortly rabbits multiplied once they had been first launched to Australia in 1859, a area the place that they had no pure predators. However, over a number of rewrites, the tone developed to include extra humor—a lot to the dismay of ST:TOS creator Gene Roddenberry, who thought the episode lacked gravitas. Roddenberry was in the end confirmed unsuitable. The episode continuously ranks among the many high ten finest episodes of ST:TOS, if not the whole franchise.

In the episode, the Enterprise is charged with guarding a cargo of “quadrotriticale” grain to Sherman’s Planet. While on shore depart, Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) is given a purring ball of fluff referred to as a Tribble by interstellar dealer Cyrano Jones (Stanley Adams) and brings it aboard the ship. The tribble shortly reproduces, and its offspring reproduce in flip.

While the crew initially finds them lovable, McCoy and Spock categorical concern that the critters will multiply so quickly that they’ll eat all of the out there meals on board. Those fears become legitimate, when Kirk discovers the tribbles have been gorging themselves on the quadrotriticale grain shops that they had been charged with guarding. On the plus aspect, the tribbles’ pure aversion to Klingons helps unmask a Klingon in disguise aboard the Enterprise, Arne Darvin (Charlie Brill).

It’s a comparatively easy calculation involving an exponential method, best for inventive homework issues. In the episode, Spock estimates that every tribble (born pregnant) may give beginning to 10 offspring in 12 hours, and pegs the variety of tribbles on board after simply three days at 1,777,561. The college students assumed Spock’s evaluation was right, and their calculation additionally assumed no tribbles died. They additionally estimated that it might take 18.Four x 109 tribbles to completely fill the USS Enterprise. Under these situations, they concluded that, given the speed of exponential progress, it might take 4.5 days for tribbles to fully fill the ship.

Of course, within the episode, the tribbles don’t develop exponentially unchecked, as a substitute starting to die out as a result of they’ve been feeding on contaminated grain, courtesy of the aforementioned undercover Klingon. That may warrant a follow-up paper. “A further calculation including a ‘death term’ could be done, to find out how long it would take for the population to become extinct, if there was an unlimited supply of toxic grain,” the authors wrote.

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