‘Star Trek’ — Master of the 47
By :John Latchem | Posted: 18 Jul firstname.lastname@example.org
The stars have aligned for Star Trek, so to speak.
The day Paramount announced its DVD and Blu-ray plans for the film (which hits disc Nov. 17), it was sitting at No. 47 on the all-time domestic box office chart.
But longtime fans will know that 47 is a significant number in the Trek universe and one of the franchise’s most enduring in-jokes.
The joke stems from an old Pomona College math class in which “47” was purported to be the most common random number in nature. The theory was a joke, but it caught on, and a Pomona College graduate named Joe Menosky went on to write for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” where he spread his love of “47” like a plague. It has since spread into other movies and TV shows (a partial list of which can be found on Wikipedia).
And now as a matter of cosmic coincidence, the film sits at this enchanted spot on the box office list. (Though its $252.5 million take is about $3.3 million behind Monsters, Inc., which it may well pass, but still).
It’s enough to really make us question our place in the universe.
OK, maybe not.
As an in-joke
There exists a 47 society, an outgrowth of a movement started at Pomona College, California, USA, which propagates the belief (or, to some, the inside joke) that the number forty-seven occurs in nature with noticeably higher frequency than other natural numbers, that it is the quintessential random number. The origin of 47 lore at Pomona appears to be a mathematical proof, written in 1964 by Professor Donald Bentley, which supposedly demonstrated that all numbers are equal to 47. However, the proof mentioned above was used by Professor Bentley as a "joke proof" to introduce his students to the concept of mathematical proofs, and is not mathematically valid.
Joe Menosky, who graduated from Pomona College in 1979 and went on to become one of the story writers of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "infected" other Star Trek writers with it. As a result the number 47, its reverse of 74, or a multiple of 47 occurs in some way or other in almost every episode of this program and its spin-offs Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. The number might be mentioned in the dialogue, appear on a computer screen a character is looking at, or be a substring of a larger number. Some examples are listed here:
In Star Trek Generations, Scotty manages to beam up only 47 El-Aurians before their ship is destroyed by the energy ribbon.
In the TNG episode "Darmok," Worf reports a particle gradient of 4/7.
In the DS9 episode "Whispers," the planet Parada 4 has seven moons.
In the Voyager episode "Non Sequitur," Harry Kim lives in apartment 4-G, G being the seventh letter of the alphabet. The intentionality of this reference to 47 was confirmed by Brannon Braga, the writer of that episode.
In the 2009 film "Star Trek," the Enterprise was built in Sector 47 of the Riverside Shipyards, 47 Klingon ships are said to have been destroyed by Nero's ship, and 17.43 of the Starfleet Code
From Star Trek, the 47 was carried on into modern pop culture and nowadays appears frequently in motion pictures, television shows and in music, contributing to the 47 society belief/myth.
In motion pictures
In the movie Hitman, the main character is known only as Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) (though this is based on the game character).
In the movie Lucky Number Slevin (2006), Nick Fisher's apartment (the one Josh Hartnett sleeps in) is Apartment 47.
In David Lynch's movie Inland Empire, Laura Dern eventually reaches a door with the number 47 on it. Also, the old Polish movie (that On High In Blue Tomorrows remakes) has "4" and "7" in its name.
The tale of the 47 Ronin is a historical Japanese story, based upon actual events that took place in year 1701 of the western calendar. It is mentioned in John Frankenheimers movie Ronin.
In the motion picture, The Sum of All Fears, a nuclear arm is sold for 47 million $US. The moment the bomb detonates '4007' is said.
In Matt Reeves' movie Cloverfield, the area where the tape is found is called Area 447. Also, when the main characters are looking for Beth McIntyre in her apartment, they pass apartment 47. 47 appears again on a subway sign.
In the film The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Steve Carell's character has a collection of 47 G.I. Joe action figures
In the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Cal Naughton, Jr. (John C. Reilly), drove car number 47.
In the film National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the president asks for page 47 of the titular book.
In the film Man On Fire, the kidnappers' debit card has the PIN "47,47".
In the original version of "The Omen", there are 47 crucifixes in Father Brennan's apartment.
In Bruce Almighty, a woman's prayer is answered when she loses 47 pounds on the "Krispy Kreme Diet".
In Hamlet 2, Steve Coogan claims to have been working on a play for "47 Billion hours".
In Monsters, Inc., a scene shows a nixie tube display of accident-free days which reads 47 before being reset to 0.
In Back to the Future, when Doc says he plans to time-travel 30 years ahead, Marty tells Doc he'll be "about 47".
In Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar is alerted to an Imperial Fleet in Sector 47.
In Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, during the robot attack on the airfield, a defense turret emerges labeled "T-47".
In the film Blackballed The Bobby Dukes Story, Lenny Pear (Paul Scheer)'s jersey number was 47.