The non-science of Fringe: Immortality

Fringe : Season 3 : Episode 13 : “Immortality”

Dr. Silva at work.

Dr. Silva at work.

Over in Universe-2, it appears that the Fringe team has just as much trouble with rogue scientists as their Universe-1 counterparts. Somebody is experimenting on humans, and since that somebody is not Walternate the government will be breaking down his door in short order. There’s actually some science to talk about this week – mostly historical, but I’ll take it.

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

Roxarsone, a common additive in chicken feed.

Roxarsone, a common additive in chicken feed.

Arsenic trioxide (As2O3), seen in the insect lab, is a highly toxic chemical with few direct uses. It is mostly used as a starting reagent to make other things – including several pesticides and animal feed additives, which the lab may have been testing.

Linnaeus-2 appears to have been just as adept as Linnaeus-1, creating an identical taxonomy. Coleoptera is a taxonomic order containing the beetles, and Archostemata is a small, relatively rare, suborder. Skelter beetles do not exist on Earth-1, as does not the Latin name Mansonium boogliosis.

Earth-2’s scientific history is remarkably similar to Earth-1’s. Jonas Salk developed the first safe polio vaccine, and Crick and Watson proposed the double helix structure for DNA. As a chemist, I cannot let a reference to James Watson arise without mentioning that he used (less charitable people would say “stole”) results obtained by Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, neither of whom were credited favourably in Waston’s account of the discovery. I found his book The Double Helix to be so unprofessional (filled with distasteful accounts of him avoiding work, playing tennis, chasing women and insulting his colleagues) that I gave away my copy in disgust.

Nitpick: Walternate refers to his lady friend as “Reiko” (which sounded like “Noriko” to me, but I’ll defer to the A. V. Club review), suggesting that she is Japanese. This conflicts with her Chinese accent (which may yet come to be known as the Memoirs of a Geisha effect) – perhaps China invaded and occupied Japan in Earth-2’s WWII?

On Earth-2, industrial freezers are made to lock people in! Fortuitously, Agent Lee finds a container of liquid nitrogen and freezes the door handle to escape – forgetting that using an asphyxiating gas in a closed space is a great way to kill yourself. Perhaps he was desperate, and reasoned that he’d freeze if he didn’t risk it. But if Dr. Silva was working alone and in secret, why did he need a sign on the door to remind himself how to get out?

Metrifonate, scourge of Earth-2 parasites.

Metrifonate, scourge of Earth-2 parasites.

Fringe first: a medicine question I actually have some experience in! Metrifonate is an anti-parasitic on Earth-1 too, and used to be used to treat schistosomiasis. The current treatment of choice is Praziquantel, which I had to take the last time I was in Kenya and comes in absolutely enormous pills.


One Response to The non-science of Fringe: Immortality

  1. Roger says:

    What they call beetles actually looks very much like cockroaches to me. And even though there are parasitic beetles, they certainly don’t live “inside” of other animals.

    Yes, I’m aware that it is a parallel universe… but even there the basic morphology of beetles should be the same if they even call them Coleoptera. Also, the morphology doesn’t look like an internal parasite at all, even if there were beetles living inside other organisms.

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