The non-science of Fringe: The No-Brainer

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 12: “The No-Brainer”

Braaains.

Braaains.

Most maligned people will console themselves by complaining to their friends, but a skilled few will write computer programs to kill the loved ones of those that wronged them. In this post, I’ll be making the usual comments about how much suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy the show.

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

Random thoughts

If the victim’s liquefied brain could leak out of his nose (note: in the real world, it couldn’t have), why did Walter need to break through the ethmoid bone to sample it? Also, that must have been a pretty strong swab.

Can syphilis liquify the brain? Certainly not before some other symptoms show up, though we’ve been asked to accept stranger things in previous episodes.

Could a particularly nasty computer program “fuse” the platters of a hard disk? We’d need to achieve temperatures of around 660 °C to melt the aluminium, or (let’s be generous) 327 °C to melt the Teflon coating (which is only a few nanometres thick). Even assuming that there was some software-based way to generate these temperatures, which there isn’t, the computer would overheat and shut down long before the drive could fail.

What’s that you say, Astrid? A speck of dust is enough to make the “incredibly sensitive” platters unusable? Well then perhaps you should be looking at them in a clean room instead of poking at them in a dusty basement lab.

In case it wasn’t blindingly obvious, the brain cannot liquefy itself through overstimulation, though I don’t really want to think about the “subsonic aural stimuli” that were generated by the computer speakers.

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