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Death By Lens Flare: Drink Into Darkness

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The latest installment of Star Trek warps into theaters this weekend, compressing decades of canon into an action-oriented thrill ride. Regardless of whether or not you like what J.J. Abrams has done with the franchise, he has left an indelible lens-flared mark on it. Among Trekkies like myself, there is a game going around capitalizing on Abrams’ flare for flare.

Let’s play Drink Into Darkness.

Lens flare typically occurs when you film an intense light source, and some of that light reflects and ricochets off the imperfections of the camera lens. It’s easy to create when shooting something like the Sun, but you can also induce it artificially with extra lights and mirrors. Abrams admits that he used extra flashlights and mirrors to create the numerous flares in 2009′s Star Trek. In fact, he used this technique so many times that he created his own meme.

To play the game, get to your local theater and surreptitiously bring in your favorite drink. We are going to take a sip every time we see a lens flare. If the 2009 movie was any indication, you are going to have a lot of fun playing Drink Into Darkness, or die.

Set Phasers to Stun

Now, I assume that anyone who chooses to play this game will drink responsibly, but what if you didn’t? What if a person actually took a sip of alcohol every time they saw a lens flare in Star Trek Into Darkness, as per the game stumbling around social media?

First, we have to assume a few variables. As alcohol content and body weight play huge roles in determining how drunk you get, I’ll use average US male and female weights, as well as an average beverage with 12% alcohol by volume (like wine). We’ll be conservative and only take a sip (a teaspoon) each time we see a flare. Next, we need the number of lens flares. One intrepid Trekkie counted 1,013 lens flares in the first film, so we’ll go by that standard (others have counted less, but let’s party). Lastly, it depends how fast you play the game, so we’ll assume you start at the beginning of Darkness and stop 127 minutes later.

With so many lens flares, you are going to get wasted, but we have to calculate just how wasted. Using our variables, we can plug them into the formula that the American Prosecutors Research Institute uses to determine blood alcohol content (BAC) in DUI cases.

Laying it all out over the course of the film, you get a graph that looks like this:

With so many lens flares, you’d be sipping on your drink about eight times per minute. At this rate, neither men nor women would make it out alive. But because body weight plays a big role in BAC, men would at least make it past the first act before their breathing fails. Men make it 85 minutes before trekking into darkness while women only make it about half that. That’s what happens when you beam over five liters of alcohol into your system.

People have made it past the 0.5% BAC cut-off that I used here–some even past 1%. But the 0.5% rule holds generally; if you don’t die outright you will probably be poisoned.

Of course, I am assuming a constant stream of flares, a certain kind of beverage, and that you are dumb enough to keep drinking even when you can’t feel feelings anymore. You could always just stop in the safe range, but then you still have a lot of “not the Star Trek I know and love” to get through.

If you are dead-set on playing Drink Into Darkness, a Trekkie who wants to get tanked, you will end up a literal die-hard fan.

Image Credit:

Screenshot of a beaten-up Kirk from the Memory-Alpha Wiki, Graph by me.

Kyle Hill About the Author: Kyle Hill is a freelance science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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