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Star Trek PhD Thesis Wins Academic Prize 348

An anonymous reader writes "A PhD thesis based on Star Trek has won an Australian university's top academic prize. Dr Djoymi Baker's 90,000 word dissertation 'Broadcast Space: TV Culture, Myth and Star Trek' was awarded the University of Melbourne's Chancellor's Prize for Excellence in the PhD. Dr Baker watched over 700 Star Trek episodes — more than 624 hours — to investigate the relationship between ancient mythology and today's popular culture. American academics thought her research was 'superlative' and suitable for teaching."
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Star Trek PhD Thesis Wins Academic Prize

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  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:37PM (#15996781)
    > Nothing for you to see here. Please move along.

    I'm a doctor, not an editor! Not kill I.

    It's an article, CmdrTaco, but not as we know it. Ahead mod factor five.

  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by mordors9 ( 665662 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:39PM (#15996790)
    Finally Star Trek is gaining the academic recognition it so richly deserves. Having Trekology as an official subject for a BS degree should be coming up soon at all major mail order universities. Live long and prospers.
    • Yep... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:45PM (#15996824)
      ...sounds like BS to me!
    • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:55PM (#15996888) Homepage Journal

      Finally Star Trek is gaining the academic recognition it so richly deserves. Having Trekology as an official subject for a BS degree should be coming up soon at all major mail order universities. Live long and prospers.

      Maybe some day those who embrace the Federation's Ideals can be accepted on a jury or even in public office.

      stardate 2006.828 i've successfully been elected to the town school board. the squabbling is terrible and nothing ever gets done. i've never felt in need of a phaser so much in my life.

    • Trek's been mined for college papers since Chekhov was in diapers. With -- what, 4, 5, six series, how many movies? -- from which to draw, you could prolly choose a thesis premise via a dartboard and still find enough material in the Star Trek mythos to hang it all on.

      The real, industrial-strength pseudo-scholars [tennessean.com] who want to watch TV rather than crack a book turn their tight-leather-clad attention spans toward Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

      And I know from pop culture pseudo-scholarship: I once got an "A" in my
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Azarael ( 896715 )
      Hey, there's some good subject matter in Star Trek, especially TNG. In my philosophy of medicine class, we had a medical ethics paper on the episode where Worf has spinal replacement surgery ;-)
       
      It may not be high art, but I bet their aren't that many shows that are worthy of serious academic study.
      • Re:Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

        by EvanED ( 569694 ) <`evaned' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday August 28, 2006 @07:55PM (#15997382)
        I've heard of "Measure of a Man" used in an ai class or something similar.

        (For those unfamiliar, this was an episode early on in the series. Some random character at a space station wanted to disassemble Data to study him. After talking with this dude, Data decided that he hadn't the proper background knowledge to be able to reassemble him when he was done, so refused to undergo the procedure. The guy got an admiral to order Data from the Enterprise to go with him for the experiments, so Data resigned Starfleet. Starfleet responded by claiming that Data was its property and didn't have the right to resign, so Data went to a trial/hearing type thing so that a judge could decide. Picard argued that Data had the right to resign, and Riker was ordered to take the opposite side. (They didn't have any actual lawyers at this space station, so the top-ranking officials acted, though Riker against his will.) The episode was essentially about what constitutes life.)
        • by Azarael ( 896715 )
          Yep, I recall that episode. I actually brought up that one in class once as another episode that we could have covered, that one would have been better for philosophy of the mind though. Still, a great episode.
        • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

          by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @10:45PM (#15997888)
          I've heard of "Measure of a Man" used in an ai class or something similar....The episode was essentially about what constitutes life.)

          Not knocking this; but this theme goes back to the very first SF story, Frankenstein (1818). And more recently, Isaac Asimov's robot stories in the 1940s and 50s. Trek is fun, but not highly original in its storylines.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          This was the first really good TNG episode. Unfortunately, it was spoiled somewhat by the final speech of the judge, in which she started to raise the question whether or not Data has a soul. A soul is a metaphysical construct that has nothing to do with the facts that were presented by either Picard or Riker, and does not belong in a court of law. The judge finally awarded victory to Data because she felt she was unable to decide whether or not he has a soul, so she gave him the benefit of the doubt. But t
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by volpe ( 58112 )
            But think of it: if it could be proven that Data actually has no soul, does that mean he would have been handed over to Starfleet and be dismantled?

            You pose that as a rhetorical question, but it seems to me it's a legitimate one. I take it that your answer is "no"? In that case, what other kinds of machines would not be allowed to be dismantled? Suppose you, Flyboy Connor, are the native English speaker carrying out the rules in a Chinese Room Experiment [utm.edu]. Someone submits to you a batch of symbols written in
            • Re:Finally (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Flyboy Connor ( 741764 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:40AM (#15998639)

              You pose that as a rhetorical question, but it seems to me it's a legitimate one. I take it that your answer is "no"?

              I would say that Picard's argumentation was that Data could not really be distinguished from a living, sentient being, so that the ruling should be in his favor. His vision was that if the judge would allow Data to be "enslaved" because he was ruled not to be sentient, the judge should be very clear about where the line is drawn, because that would open the door to the enslaving of all kinds of races.

              The supposedly rethorical question is not legitimate (in this episode), because the existence of a soul is not brought forth as an issue by either Picard or Riker. It should not play a role in the judge's ruling. The answer should be "no" with or without Data having a soul.

              And if you ask my personal opinion: I do not believe in the concept of a soul as a separate entity that occupies our bodies and can exist after death. So I say that I have no soul. And still I do not wish to be dismantled. The fact that I admit that I have no soul is no reason to dismantle me. The fact that I can express the genuine wish not to be dismantled should secure my rights in that respect.

              But if I was just an entity in a Chinese Room experiment, with no other desires and wishes than just to translate scribbles to different scribbles, it seems to me that I am not sentient. So, if there comes a day that I am reduced to that, please dismantle me.

    • Trekology as an official subject for a BS degree

      The way you Americans abbreviate Bachelor of Science is most appropriate, as your suggestion seems like complete BS ;)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:40PM (#15996797)
    ... did she successfully pass the Kobayashi Maru exam?
    • ... did she successfully pass the Kobayashi Maru exam?
      What the hell are you smoking? You can't "pass" the Kobayashi Maru, it's a no-win scenario. And no, cheating doesn't count either Jim.
    • by Coward the Anonymous ( 584745 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @09:33PM (#15997674)
      ... did she successfully pass the Kobayashi Maru exam?


      The fact that I know what you're talking about makes me want to cry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:42PM (#15996805)
    "A PhD thesis based on Star Trek has won an Australian university's top academic prize."

    Now all we need is a PhD thesis based on several years of reading slashdot.
  • Today's "true" myths (Score:5, Interesting)

    by w33t ( 978574 ) * on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:42PM (#15996809) Homepage
    It is nice to think that at least today we KNOW that our myths are made-up.

    But there are still some people who manage to insist they are real, actual events! - UFO religions like the Scientologists or heaven's gate.

    Nonetheless, despite the fact that our current mythology is fiction, Star Trek and the like are at least Science Fiction: not based upon the supernatural, but instead upon testable, and currently tested theories and ideas.

    Amazing: even as culturally advanced as we fancy ourselves, we still retain those ancient urges to believe in the fantastic. But
    perhaps that's because so much in this universe is actually fantastic; far more, in fact, than we ever imagined.

    It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the late, great Dr. Feynman: "Far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the
    past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if
    he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rakishi ( 759894 )
      Star Trek and the like are at least Science Fiction: not based upon the supernatural, but instead upon testable, and currently tested theories and ideas.

      Star Trek based on science? Muahahahah, *wipes eye* that was hilarious. It's like the definition of unrealistic and unscientific sci-fi, a fantasy series with a weak blanket of "science" shoved on top.
      • It's like the definition of unrealistic and unscientific sci-fi, a fantasy series with a weak blanket of "science" shoved on top.
        Have you ever watched "Star Wars"?
    • Amazing: even as culturally advanced as we fancy ourselves, we still retain those ancient urges to believe in the fantastic.

      In the past, myths were used to explain the unexplainable at he time: stars, weather, seasons, etc. Today, I believe myths have a different use. Despite the fact that we know they are made up, fantasy worlds such as star trek, star wars, lotr, help us to escape what amounts to the daily grind. We get up, go to work, go home, make dinner for most of our lives, with a week or two o
      • In the past, myths were used to explain the unexplainable at he time: stars, weather, seasons, etc. Today, I believe myths have a different use. Despite the fact that we know they are made up, fantasy worlds such as star trek, star wars, lotr, help us to escape what amounts to the daily grind. We get up, go to work, go home, make dinner for most of our lives, with a week or two of real vacation worked in per year. I think people enjoy these fantasy worlds so that they can place themselves in the world, and

      • Yep, it's mental. My characters in Everquest can run all day and night without pain and suffering or running out of breath on a couple of iron rations and a flask or two of water. I can't do that...
    • So Scientology is a "UFO religion"? Heaven's Gate, yeah... but I think that's the first time I've heard of Hubbard's club referred to that way. Who knows, it might catch on?

      Anyway... The scientific references in Star Trek (pick your series) are just as specious and mythological as the two religious movements that you cited. There is nothing, dear Trekkie, NOTHING about Star Trek that is inherently less fantastic, less supernatural, and more scientifically grounded than stories about Xenu, spaceships sha
    • by Rimbo ( 139781 )

      It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the late, great Dr. Feynman: "Far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the
      past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if
      he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?"

      That's an interesting question, and a good point: Is the "greater truth" not fact itself?

      But there are still some people who manage to insist they are real, actual events!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      Why do the poets of the present not speak of it?

      The Horses Name was Physics [barnesandnoble.com]

      The Horse's name was Physics,
      and they rode it well.
      The only difference was this:
      Some chose to flog the horse,
      some flogged themselves.

      A book of poems about the development of atomic theory from WWI to the atomic bomb, although it deals mostly with the personalities involved and not the atom itself.

      KFG
  • Is it published? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Associate ( 317603 )
    I did a cursory search for it, but only found references. Wether you like ST or not, it might be interesting given the title.
  • ...is the idea that you could learn much about the relationship between anything and today's popular culture from the Star Trek TV franchise, which had been struggling to remain viable on any basis but nostalgia for years before it finally died.
    • Star Trek was a huge cultural phenomenon for years after its cancellation. It was fans that got Paramount to wake up and make the first Star Trek movie. Terms like "Beam me up, Scotty" were part of pop culture well before the franchise was reborn in 1979.

      In this respect it is akin to Tolkien's works, which enjoyed widespread popularity for decades before Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies were a smash hit. The Rankin/Bass Hobbit movie and Bashki's ill-fated Lord of the Rings film didn't diminish the

  • by nebaz ( 453974 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:44PM (#15996818)
    But it is possible. There are (courtesy of tv.com)
    79 Original Trek Episodes
    178 Next Gen Episodes
    176 Deep Space Nine Episodes
    172 Voyager Episodes
    98 Enterprise Episodes

    Which totals 703 episodes. He didn't even need the 22 Animated Series episodes.

    Wow.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by pete-classic ( 75983 )
      She, if you can believe it.

      -Peter
    • by Otter ( 3800 )
      79 Original Trek Episodes

      Not 79 episodes, dumbass, there were, uh...

      Sorry, I'm not enough of either a Star Trek or a South Park dork to remember how that goes.

    • I love the animated series.

      Remember that one where Kirk meets the devil.

      The sort of thesis that came out of it was that there is no good and evil; just something else. I wonder how that fits with ancient mythology.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kaemaril ( 266849 )
      Wonder which ones she couldn't stand to watch?

      I'd wager 500 quatloos one of them was Spock's Brain :)
    • by The Good Reverend ( 84440 ) <michael@mic h r is.com> on Monday August 28, 2006 @07:21PM (#15997251) Journal
      To further that, something I calculated when Enterprise went off the air:

      Now that Star Trek's over, it's interesting to see exactly how much Star Trek there is (canon only, add 660 minutes/11 hours if you include The Animated Series):

      Movies:

      The Motion Picture: 132 minutes
      The Wrath of Khan: 113 minutes
      The Search for Spock: 105 minutes
      The Voyage Home: 119 minutes
      The Final Frontier: 107 minutes
      The Undiscovered Country: 113 minutes
      Generations: 118 minutes
      First Contact: 106 minutes
      Insurrection: 103 minutes
      Nemesis: 116 minutes

      Episodes:

      The Original Series: 79 (3713 minutes @ 47 minutes/episode)
      The Next Generation: 178 (8010 minutes @ 45 minutes/episode)
      Deep Space Nine: 176 (7920 minutes @ 45 minutes/episode)
      Voyager: 172 (7740 minutes @ 45 minutes/episode)
      Enterprise: 98 (4116 minutes @ 42 minutes/episode)

      Movies Total: 1132 minutes (18 hours, 52 minutes)
      Episodes Total: 31499 minutes (524 hours, 59 minutes)
      Grand Total: 32631 minutes (543 hours, 51 minutes)

      That's 22 days, 15 hours and 51 minutes of Star Trek. Not bad...
    • by gatzke ( 2977 )
      Feature length films?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:44PM (#15996820)
    Ph.D.

    Djoymi Baker watched 700 episodes - 624 hours without ads - of Star Trek and its spin-offs, dating from 1966 to 2005, in the name of research.

    But for me it would be:

    Anonymous Coward watched 700 episodes - 624 hours without ads - of pornography and its cum-shots, dating from 1966 to 2005, in the name of research.

  • Dr Baker watched over 700 Star Trek episodes -- more than 624 hours -- to investigate the relationship between ancient mythology and today's popular culture.

    Wouldn't reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces [wikipedia.org] been easier? This guy must've been a major slacker in school to watch that much Star Trek and still get a degree.
  • by LSD-OBS ( 183415 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @05:52PM (#15996863)
    Popular bittorrent sites have noted a huge spike in Star Trek episode downloads over the last 12 months...
  • by MavEtJu ( 241979 ) <slashdot@@@mavetju...org> on Monday August 28, 2006 @06:00PM (#15996910) Homepage
    to investigate the relationship between ancient mythology and today's popular culture.

    Star Trek? My bet would be that the first few seasons of Star Gate would give much more away on that.
  • by w33t ( 978574 ) * on Monday August 28, 2006 @06:06PM (#15996936) Homepage
    Star Trek "priest": "And Scotty beamed them to the Klingon ship, where there would be no tribble at all"
    Crowd chants: "All power to the engines!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @06:10PM (#15996962)
    Mirror of human values by Anonymous Cowards

    Abstract: In the spirit of the best human qualities, Anonymous Cowards seeking public yet anonymous recognition show formidable selflessness. By doing away with the link between benevolent exposure of ideas and karma gratification they elevate public commentary to a social reinforcement of Insightful, Interesting and Funny: all essential components of high achievements. This in turn strengthens the Blog medium with not only cohesive forces but justifies the Anonymous Cowards with legitimacy beyond what have been observed throughout the history of the Internets. Their willingness to start from scratch over and over yet still earn the respect of their peers hardly justifies the "coward" epithet and proves that comments, even at -1, are a gold mine for those seeking understanding of TFA.

    We will show that Anonymous Corwardiness is alive and well and that despite sometime adverse moderation, this modern tradition offers by its unique qualities a look inside the human soul.

  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @06:27PM (#15997027)
    What's really amazing here is that Djoymi Baker is female. Die-hard ST fans weren't known often for being of the fairer sex.
    • What's really amazing here is that Djoymi Baker is female. Die-hard ST fans weren't known often for being of the fairer sex.

      Until Voyager came along ...

    • Die-hard ST fans weren't known often for being of the fairer sex.
      True. But it's clear that she had to come from the subset of ST fans who are able to string words together into complete sentences, a skill that is almost unheard of among the majority of ST fans of the less fair sex.
  • And where can this thesis be read?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 28, 2006 @06:56PM (#15997160)
    to Truly understand the thesis, you must read it in its original Klingon.
  • Goes to show... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Temujin_12 ( 832986 ) on Monday August 28, 2006 @07:00PM (#15997181)
    ...how important intelligent communication is. While a topic like 'TV Culture, Myth and Star Trek', in my opinion, does not provide a revolutionary breakthrough in the study of humanities, the fact that she intelligently and effectively enumerates and supports her argument is enough to merit the award she received.
  • It keeps boldly going, and going, and going where no one has gone before: Aussie sheepskin...
  • trekspeak and submitted that, and probably still won!
  • Star Trek Inspirational Posters

    http://echosphere.net/star_trek_insp/star_trek_ins p.html [echosphere.net]

    Enjoy slashdotters!

    Please don't Slashdot this site, this guy needs donations.

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