The non-science of Fringe: Letters of Transit

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 19 | “Letters of Transit”

Walter wakes up in the far future, which bears an uncanny resemblance to downtown Vancouver.

Walter wakes up in the far future, which bears an uncanny resemblance to downtown Vancouver.

A dystopian future episode in fine sci-fi tradition this week, with pretty much no science to write about.

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent and Cordial Deconstruction, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

I’m sure we all know that matter-antimatter annihilations don’t happen as depicted, and I assume that Walter merely activated some sort of antimatter-powered disintegration device. For the sake of curiosity, though, how much antimatter would be required to demolish (not vapourise) a building? If we assume that a building can be brought down by the equivalent of 1 Mt (megaton of TNT), which is the yield of a typical conventional bomb, then we can work backwards to see how much antimatter would be required:

1 Mt TNT is about 4.184 x 1015 J. Using mass-energy equivalence for matter-antimatter explosions (E = m c2) gives a requirement of around 23 g of antimatter. Current Earth technology is capable of producing a few billionths of a gram annually, at a cost of a few hundred million dollars.

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2 Responses to The non-science of Fringe: Letters of Transit

  1. Uh…I just have to say that 1Mt of TNT will definitely demolish a building. Seeing as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were around 13 kt, a 1 Mt bomb will demolish the building…and much of the city around it in a 2 or so mile diameter.

    • John says:

      Oh yeah. Looking at my sources again, conventional bombs tend to yield around 1 t (not Mt!) so I’m out by a factor of 1,000,000. That means that we’d only need about 23 µg of antimatter to bring the building down!

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