The non-science of Fringe: Unleashed

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 16: “Unleashed”

Walter reflects on his experiments.

Walter reflects on his experiments.

A stark warning to all animal rights activists: sooner or later, you might break into a real-life Resident Evil. 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

Animals First! I’m sure that the talented folks at Fringe central could have come up with an activist group name that wasn’t a lazy rip-off of an existing one.

Walter’s “accelerated Darwinism” is highly impractical – to evolve new species by natural selection, one would have to raise animals and gradually change their environment so that the traits required for survival passed to their offspring. Even speeded up somehow, this would require immense amounts of time. It isn’t the same as the transgenetic engineering (is that even a word?) that seems to have been used here.

Forced evolution aside, this was a fun episode for natural history, with no less than five animals getting a mention: the tiger (Panthera tigris), python (Python spp.), Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum), giant ichneumon wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus) and common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus).

When Walter decides that he has to go it alone in the sewers, it takes Peter and Olivia quite a while to catch up with him. What was stopping them just going up to the surface and dropping down the next manhole past Walter’s barrier?

Trichlorimide

Trichlorimide?

Trichlorimide?

The “trichlorimide” that appears in this episode does not really exist, which is a poor slip by the writers. Imides (or carboximides) are a class of organic compound containing a nitrogen atom flanked by two carbonyl (C=O) groups, and the suffix is most commonly used for cyclic molecules. “Trichlorimide” would contain three chlorine atoms, which we might assume would be distributed evenly across the molecule – I would hazard a guess that this (fictional) molecule would actually be called di(chlorocarbonyl) chloramine. Trichlorimide does trip off the tongue a little more easily (Walter pronounces it more like “trichloramide”, though the label on the bottle is clearly “trichlorimide”).

In my opinion, there was a slight labelling error and what Walter was actually using was nitrogen trichloride, or trichloramine. This is a smelly, poisonous, explosive yellow liquid, which is plausible given its appearance and storage.

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3 Responses to The non-science of Fringe: Unleashed

  1. Hexadecima says:

    Trichloramide is, indeed, a medically-used name for nitrogen chloride:

    http://web.gideononline.com/abstract.php?module=toxagents&disease=1869&view=General

  2. Kristoffer says:

    Acetamide is only with a single carbonyl group.

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