The non-science of Fringe: The Equation

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 8: “The Equation”

Olivia on the final chase.

Olivia on the final chase.

The Shadowy OrganisationTM has to solve some complicated equation, but for some reason cannot bring its immense manpower and computing resources onto the task. This episode was refreshingly easy to watch.

This episode is debunked at Popular Mechanics, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Using flashing lights to hypnotise people is just about plausible – we know that strobe lights can induce seizures and light trances, and that perception of colour is both a physiological and psychological response. It does seem to be an extremely roundabout way of immobilising someone to kidnap them (or their child), though, especially as everyone remembers what the hypnotiser looks like.

“Can you convert that into standard musical notation?” Why, of course – all scientific equations have musical equivalents! While there are some parallels between music and mathematics, you can’t just arbitrarily convert one to the other – it’d be like saying, “Here’s a paragraph from Shakespeare’s King Lear. Can you convert it into an architectural diagram?”

By this point, Fringe is reading minds on a weekly basis and so immersing someone in a Matrix-style constructed reality only warrants another reminder that this really is impossible.

The visual equivalent of the escape pod was a nice touch, but perhaps a tad impractical. If the whole area was bathed in light, as we saw, the hypnotiser (and any allies) would risk getting caught in the trance.

Once again, normal computers don’t beep to remind you that you just did something – when you walk into a room full of computers, you only hear the tapping of keys and the hum of cooling fans. The same generally applies to lights and remote controls, which are extremely noisy in this episode.


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