Tag Archives: star trek

Biotic Potential – Unrestricted Growth

ImageLt. Uhura learned a lesson about biotic potential in Star Trek’s 44th episode airing on NBC December 29, 1967 when she accepted a tribble from the trader, Cyrano Jones. The tribbles are both endearing and incredibly dangerous as they invade the enterprise’s systems eating  everything and multiplying asexually at an alarming rate.

While they are getting unlimited food, their growth rate proceeds at their biotic potential, that is entirely unrestricted and proceeding at the maximal rate. While the environment supplies food in excess of what is needed and no other constraints are imposed, such as predators or lack of shelter, this rate of growth will be maintained.


“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” – BladeRunner

At this point we may observe a ‘J’ shaped growth curve that will either completely crash once resources are depleted, or the limitations of resources will impose themselves more gradually resulting in an “S” shaped curve.

Once one or more requirements become limiting, the rate of growth will reduce until it plateaus. At this point the rate of death is equal to the birth rate and the population will remain at a constant number. Without the input of additional food (or other requirements), the direction of growth will reverse and the population will enter the ‘death phase’ as deaths outnumber births and the population contracts.

ImageIn “The trouble with tribbles” the food never did run out, however, the population did come to a grinding halt (J-Shaped curve) once the tribbles got into a poisoned grain supply.



Which curve does this one look like?

Reverend Thomas Malthus was alarmed by the rapid expansion of the human population worldwide in 1798 and wrote his famous essay, An Essay on the Principle of Population, warning of the imminent tragedy that befalls populations that grow as fast as our own.

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Posted by on September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Both classes have quizzes tomorrow…

The theme of some of my extra credit questions (the non-science ones) is science fiction films.

These two films, released in 1979 and 1982 both begin with the exploration of supposedly dead worlds. In each film, something old and unexpected is awakened, but the similarities end there. I could easily call either of these films a favorite.

Star_Trek_II_The_Wrath_of_Khan_DVD_coverThe Wrath of Kahn has the benefit of using an incredibly clever recollection of an old storyline from the TV series. The original episode, space seed, introduced us to Kahn, a product of genetic engineering in the late 20th century. Kahn fled Earth after his failed attempt at seizing control of the planet for himself and placed himself, along with many of his men and women into cryogenic sleep. They are awakened after drifting through space for hundred of years and no sooner is Kahn recovered from his long sleep, does he take control of the Enterprise. Inexplicably, once Kirk takes back command, he decides to leave Kahn on a nearby planet.

The Film picks up after the federation rediscovers Kahn during a scientific exploration. I don’t want to spoil it or anything, but things went bad on the planet and Kahn is pissed.

Alien, on the other hand is an entirely different film. We are plunged into a very realistic future where a towing unit returning to Earth with a refinery full of ore respond to a strange transmission coming from an unknown planet. There they find some wreckage of a space ship with a mutilated body and some strange eggs. Head and shoulders above the subsequent installments, Alien was something new and unpredictable. A great, unique story, well acted, beautiful to watch and unrelentingly intense.


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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


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The word ‘desertification’ keeps coming to mind

Here I am moaning and complaining about the weather again. But I just can’t stand these deathly hot, dry days one after another after another.

I’m reminded of a Star Trek Next Generation episode where Captain Picard wakes up in another man’s life. In this life he’s married and a naturalist who discovers that his planet is suffering from a world-wide drought and, in fact, this life experience is a window into the culture of an extinct world. This isn’t a very good explanation – check it out yourself. The episode is called “Inner Light.”

Please don’t let this drought be the Midwest’s Inner Light. At least not while I’m living here.


OK, in other news, I just posted another article to AppCampus about how I think video games can be harnessed to improve education in the sciences (or perhaps any subject).

I also need to put together the work we did here on the Blackjack program (codecademy project) into a neat posting for that site’s message board. I think the whole code with sufficient notation and some commentary should be a valuable contribution there.



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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


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