Deep Space 9, Season 6, Episode 9 - ‘Statistical Probabilities’
This episode introduces the ridiculous notion that clever people can predict the future with clever Maths, and it’s very special.
Most sci-fi relies on now-but-later ideas of how the world works, and fancy special effects, to entertain. This episode didn’t imagine now-but-later technology, with future-guns and future-ships. It imagined new Maths.
The Maths presented in the episode may not show a proper understanding of Maths, but it shows an understanding of something exciting - how much our Mathematical understanding of thee world can change things.
There once was a time when Mathematicians wouldn’t touch dice, because Mathematics shows a deterministic, pure, singular result. It does not deal with clumsy, real-world objects such as dice. It has a fixed answer, not a multiplicity of guess-work.
Then someone changed that, and used the basic fraction-knowledge to state that a six-sided die has a 1/6 chance of landing on a ‘1’, and the average results must be ‘3.5’, and so on. Once this basic notion entered the field, a lot changed. This now-obvious idea birthed Statistics.
Star Trek’s writers don’t know what kinds of Maths will exist in the future, any more than they understood how easy encrypted messaging would be. But they understood that something could still come from the field of Mathematics, and that it would seem novel to those living in the time.
The episode has more sci-fi mistakes than anyone could possibly list, but that doesn’t matter. The only take-away I recall from it, is that it pushed the boat out, in one particular direction, a little further than it has ever been before.