The Real Danger in Being a Redshirt

It's common knowledge that you don't want to wear a red shirt if you are serving under Captain Kirk in Starfleet. Redshirts are usually security officers who accompany an away team down to a new planet, and they often get killed right off the bat. Earlier research shows that indeed, more red shirts were killed during the series than crew members wearing any other kind of uniform. But mathematician James Grime looked at the numbers in a different way. He gave a lecture called "Star Trek: The Math of Khan" at the Museum of Mathematics in New York, in which he used the statistics of the entire Enterprise crew, not just those who appeared on the original series, and not just those who died. He asserts that the idea that you are more likely to be killed if you are a redshirt is not true.

That claim, in fact, is false — more "redshirts" died on-screen than any other crew type (10 gold-shirted, which are command personnel; eight blue-shirted, who are scientists; and 25 red-shirted, Grime said), but that calculation fails to take into account that there are far more redshirts on the ship to start with than any other crew type.

In other words, we're looking at the probability that you are a redshirt if you die (58 percent) — what we want to know is the probability that you die if you're a redshirt, Grime said.

Grime used the "Star Trek" technical manual to find out how many of each crew type there were, which painted a different picture: out of 239 redshirts, 25 died, which is 10 percent. Out of 55 goldshirts, 10 died, which is 18 percent! So you are more likely to die as a goldshirt, Grime said.

It appears we've been led astray by the fact that the TV series only followed the top command of the Enterprise- those who appeared on the bridge. Of course, in the 1960s, the idea that other things went on in a fictional universe that didn't appear on camera was absurd. Grimes also covered Vulcan reproduction, computer paradoxes, and the Drake Equation. Read about Star Trek Math at Space.com. -via the A.V. Club


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Tantalizing, but no data given. I cross-checked with http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/database/redshirt_deaths.htm , which reports 8 yellow/gold shirt and 26 red shirt deaths, compared to the 10 and 25 reported at this link. Where do the differences come from? Was Commodore Decker (of the Constellation, in The Doomsday Machine) included by mistake? Also, that Ex Astris Scientia link points out that in season 1 some of the yellow/gold shirts were effectively acting as security officers (Sturgeon and Green in "The Man Trap", Lang in "Arena") and that "it is possible that the red color for this department was not yet set in stone at the time".
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