The non-science of Fringe: Os

Fringe : Season 3 : Episode 16 : “Os”

The Fringe team investigates flying thieves.

The Fringe team investigates flying thieves.

It was only a matter of time before Fringe got round to anti-gravity, and they explained it away quite neatly without having to resort to improbable physics (it was the other universe, innit). Also, William Bell is back and possessed of a new, youthful body. Will Peter ever be able to find Olivia attractive again? Tune in next week!

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

Walter quotes from the Tragedy of Icarus, but I have no idea which translation/version. I thought that Peter would have made a quip about Icarus falling to Earth instead of floating, but we a rather flat observation from Broyles instead.

Osmium is extremely dense, but it’s not correct to say that it’s the “heaviest” element. Atomic weight typically refers to the weight of the atomic nucleus (i.e. the number of protons and neutrons a nucleus contains), and not the bulk weight of a sample of specific volume. The heaviest naturally-occurring element is plutonium, which is technically unstable but has such a long half-life (about 80 million years) that it is still found in nature. Other than this slight misnomer, all Osmium-related fakts corect for a change.

I know that we are supposed to suspend some disbelief when thinking about the impossibilities that appear on Fringe, but if the blood test on the dead thief didn’t show any osmium (or lutetium) until the effects of the serum wore off, it must have been physically changed into something else. Of course, they might not routinely check for heavy metals but one would think that they’d be as thorough as possible.

Osmium normally melts at about 3300 K, and I’m really confused about why it was necessary to reveal that it now melted at 77 K in reverse. We were already on board with the whole “Universe-2 is messing things up” concept, and this just added a whole new layer of ridiculous.

Lutetium is found on Earth (rather than in meteorites), though it is quite rare, and 176Lu is often used to date meteorites due to its very long half-life, but meteorites would not be considered a good source. Krick appears to be using a UV light and what is probably either a Geiger counter or a magnetometer to find it. These would not be great tools with which to detect a specific element, because so many elements and minerals fluoresce, affect magnetic fields (meteorites usually have a high iron and nickel content) and/or are radioactive. It’s possible that Krick is using a UV light and some kind of spectrometer to look for lutetium’s characteristic absorption lines, but it would be almost impossible to do that in the open air with so many other light sources shining into the detector.

How much Os/Lu would be needed to lift a person? Even assuming that they combine with things in the body (which they must, otherwise all the syringes and containers would be floating off), probably a lot more than the 10 ml or so we see being injected. And another thing: If the Os and Lu return to their normal states when the serum wears off, and the body of the first thief is too heavy for Walter and Astrid to move, how can Krick carry and use the syringe so easily if the serum is the only source of the metals? Something doesn’t quite add up. Let’s just say that it’s Universe-2 “returning” the gravity that it borrowed (physics is a bitch, right?).


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