A recent still from Star Trek: Into Darkness shows Benedict Cumberbatch surrounded by redshirts. This, we surmised, could only mean one thing. Anyone with a hint of SF-savvy knows that the grisly fate of a Starfleet crew member clad in crimson is as certain as Cumbermouth's tubercle is sharply defined; in the Star Trek Universe, red means dead. Or does it?
Over on Significance, a magazine all about statistics, Matthew Barsalou has conducted a Bayesian statistical analysis of just how deadly (or not) wearing a red shirt truly is. Using a casualty figures complied by epic Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha, Barsalou set out to see whether wearing red in Star Trek: TOS is as hazardous has it's been made out to be. After much number-crunching, here's his conclusion:
Although Enterprise crew members in redshirts suffer many more casualties than crew members in other uniforms, they suffer fewer casualties than crew members in gold uniforms when the entire population size is considered. Only 10% of the entire redshirt population was lost during the three year run of Star Trek. This is less than the 13.4% of goldshirts, but more than the 5.1% of blueshirts. What is truly hazardous is not wearing a redshirt, but being a member of the security department. The red-shirted members of security were only 20.9% of the entire crew, but there is a 72.2% chance that the next casualty is in a redshirt and 64.5% chance this red-shirted victim is a member of the security department. The remaining redshirts, operations and engineering make up the largest single population, but only have an 8.6% chance of being a casualty.
In other words, he says, redshirts are safe, so long as they're not on security detail. Tons more figures, graphs, and analysis over at Significance.