From: dsew@packrat.aml.arizona.edu (David Sewell)
Date: 17 Oct 1994 21:04:10 GMT
Newsgroups: rec.arts.tv.mst3k
Subject: Question about the abbriviation "MST3K"
Lines: 77

In article <37sc9f$m75@paperboy.gsfc.nasa.gov>, T-Bone <burton@lobster.gsfc.nasa.gov> wrote:

>DynaYellow writes
>>"K" is the Scientific Notation for 1000. Hence, 3K is 3000. Neat, huh?
>
>No, the scientific notation for 3000 is 3E+03. K stands for "kilo", which  
>means "1000"; hence a kilobyte is 1000 butes, a kilometer is 1000, and a  
>kiljoy is 1000 Ian McShane impersonators.

There is some major confusion about terminology here that readers of this newsgroup need to be made aware of.

As a chartered newsgroup in the Usenet "Big 7" hierarchy, r.a.t.m is bound by both convention and (in most countries) common-carrier regulations to follow the International System of Units or Système Internationale (SI), codified and published in 1992 as International Standard ISO 31, Quantities and Units. The SI standard clearly establishes that mathematical prefixes representing factors of 10^6 and greater (M=mega, G=giga, etc.) are capitalized, while all other prefixes are represented by lowercase Roman or Greek letters. The SI prefix for kilo, 10^3, is accordingly 'k'.

'K' is another matter entirely. It is, of course, the SI base unit for thermodynamic temperature, or kelvin, defined as equal to 1/273.16 of the thermodynamic temparature of the triple point of water. Hence absolute 0 is by definition 0 degrees kelvin.

"MST3K", then, clearly means "Mystery Science Theatre, 3 degrees kelvin", i.e. -270.15 degrees Celsius, i.e. -454.27 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words you are suggesting that Mystery Science Theatre is extraordinarily cold. One should hope that was not your intent, but that is in fact what you convey through your inattention to terminological niceties.

The approximately correct SI abbreviation would be "MST 3k". [But see following paragraph for discussion.] "mst 3k" is also admissible, if it is desired to avoid confusion with the common abbreviation for Mountain Standard Time (to an Arizonan, for example, this would be a legitimate concern); however, since time zone abbreviations are not covered by either SI base or derived units, this is a matter that may safely be left to preference or convention. Given that "3000 Mountain Standard Time" is meaningless, there is probably little room for ambiguity and I would therefore encourage r.a.t.m. readers to use the capitalized form since it abbreviates a proper name which if spelled in full would also be capitalized. (As an aside, this might be the place to remind those who post MST 3k Comedy Central schedules during the summer months that the state of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time, except on the Navajo Reservation [but not on the Hopi Reservation within its boundaries], so that Mountain show times that apply to both Albuquerque and Tucson, for example, in the winter, will *not* apply equally to both while Daylight Savings Time is in effect.)

{DISCUSSION. Properly speaking, an SI prefix cannot stand by itself as a numeric value, or be attached to a numeric quantity as a postfix. The only thoroughly conforming SI abbreviation of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 would be

                              3 kMst

where we treat "Mst" as a derived unit expressing quantity of Mystery Science Theatre, and use the conventional capital + lowercase [+ lowercase ..] form for alphabetic SI units of more than one letter. Unfortunately the "mst3k" postfixual abbreviation has become a de facto standard through its admission into the Usenet naming hierarchy and is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.}

Perhaps if some people had a life apart from this newsgroup and the television show that it celebrates they would be less liable to errors in detail of the sort that a meticulous and scientifically sophisticated craftsman like Joel Hodges would surely deplore in admirers of his television program.

-- 
David Sewell  *  dsew@packrat.aml.arizona.edu   | "Upward, downward, the way
RADIOCARBON, Dep't of Geosciences, U of Arizona |  is one and the same."
  4717 E. Ft. Lowell Rd, Tucson AZ 85712        |           --Heraclitus
  Tel. 1-602-881-0857  Fax 1-602-881-0554       |
Back to the dsew Netwriting page
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.