Vedant Misra

Vulcan elementary: anything but elementary

I watched this summer’s Star Trek movie again the other day.  It’s great.  It retcons  the Star Trek canon by having the characters time travel into a parallel reality, so even if The Onion were right in their prediction that Trekkies will find the new movie too mainstream for their tastes, they certainly can’t say the new film isn’t faithful to its roots. Some ten or fifteen minutes into the film was a scene that depicted Vulcan children at school, with each student confined to a personal hemispherical pod carved into the floor, onto the walls of which were projected lecture materials.  Judging by the dialogue from that scene, Vulcan schoolchildren are academic juggernauts.  The first shot of Spock shows him stating an equation from solid geometry,

Teacher’s Voice: What is the volume of a sphere? Spock:Four thirds pi times the radius cubed.

and a moment later, Spock states the definition of a public good (any good that, when used, doesn’t inhibit others from doing so as well — like national defense, or air, for instance)

Spock: Non-excludability and non-rivalry…

He ends a moment later by quoting Kantian ethics, part of which is concerned with distinguishing between various motivations for doing good things (that is to say, true good will is when one does something out of a sense of fairness or duty, not out of fear of getting caught):

Spock: …when it is morally praiseworthy but not morally obligatory.

In the background another student was heard talking about “quasi-hyperbolic” functions, referring presumably to the intemporal problem from behavioral economics, yet another, who seemed to be studying metric geometry, stated the definition of dimensionality as presented in 1918 by German mathematician Felix Hausdorff, and several students had skeletal drawings of organic compounds on their screens. Organic chemistry, behavioral economics, integral calculus, Kant, microeconomics, and solid geometry, all in the same place on the same day.  No wonder Spock turned out so awesome.  Invest in education!