The non-science of Fringe: There is More Than One of Everything

November 2, 2009

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 20: “There is More Than One of Everything”

Peter on a trip to the past.

Peter on a trip to the past.

Season one finishes off with a trans-dimensional bang, and quite the cliffhanger. This episode was refreshingly easy to watch.

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

Mr. Jones shot Nina at point-blank range – surely he could have killed her if he’d really wanted to. Perhaps he just reckoned without the Kevlar-coated ribs (which would probably not have worked exactly Wolverine-style as several layers are needed for decent bullet resistance).

Wait, Nina’s “priority one grid search” on Walter couldn’t have been used to spot a highly-conspicuous guy in sunglasses and bandages?

There are shades upon shades of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy here, with references to alternate worlds, weak points between them, children as a resource and the opening and closing of crossings.

So the fundamental constants aren’t as fundamental as we think? A gradual decay would have appalling repercussions, and this is a particularly unsatisfying explanation for the “weak” points between realities.

And, of course, there are no known parallel dimensions – though it’s nice to see this sci-fi staple getting another airing.

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The non-science of Fringe: The Road Not Taken

November 2, 2009

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 19: “The Road Not Taken”

Olivia and Charlie at the latest Pattern occurrence.

Olivia and Charlie at the latest Pattern occurrence.

Someone with the ability to generate and/or control fire was bound to show up in Fringe sooner or later, though this is overshadowed somewhat by Olivia’s dimension-hopping. 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.

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The non-science of Fringe: Midnight

October 29, 2009

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 18: “Midnight”

Olivia on another laboratory raid.

Olivia on another laboratory raid.

Another week, another serial killer with a need for body parts – this time with retractable teeth! The usual impossibilities aside, this episode was refreshingly easy to watch.

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

When Walter is examining the cervical vertebrae, he’s clearly saying “vertebrae” when referring to a single vertebra. Tsk.

Our vampire seems to kill one person a day in order to survive, and a person contains around 150 ml of cerebrospinal fluid. However, humans produce around 500 ml of cerebrospinal fluid per day, which makes Nicholas’s claim that he couldn’t provide enough for his wife unlikely.

Nicholas requests a spectroscope, which is a fairly archaic term for a general class of analytical instruments known as spectrometers.

Nicholas claimed that he studied at King’s College, Aberdeen. Unfortunately, this building contains the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy. Perhaps he felt that it would be a good foundation course for playing God.

“We are about to inject the infected rat with an antidote. Should it prove effective, it will no doubt work on humans as well.” Really? The vast archives of drugs which don’t make it to market say otherwise (something like 90 % of all new drugs will fail at the animal testing stage).


The non-science of Fringe: Bad Dreams

October 28, 2009

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 17: “Bad Dreams”

Olivia chases down her co-subject.

Olivia chases down her co-subject.

The impossibility of being able to infect people with your emotions aside, this episode was refreshingly easy to watch.

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

I like Walter’s old-school Geiger counter (he’s using a pancake probe), but I think they usually either click or beep, not both. There must be quite a lot of background radiation in the lab (or radon gas) for it to make so much noise, which makes Walter’s “not a rad” statement in need of an “above the background reading” qualifier. A rad is an old unit measuring how much radiation one had absorbed; it was superseded by the gray, and for Walter to get a reading in rads he would need to know Olivia’s weight. Geiger counters typically give readings in clicks (or counts) per minute, which can then be converted into energies and absorbed doses.

In the video at the end, did Olivia cause the fire that put Walter in the asylum? If so, it’s appropriate that she should be the one to bring him out.


The non-science of Fringe: Unleashed

October 28, 2009

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.

Read the rest of this entry »


The non-science of Fringe: Inner Child

October 23, 2009

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 15: “Inner Child”

Olivia and The Child.

Olivia and The Child.

More serial killers and mind-reading this week – all in a day’s work for our fringe scientists. This episode was refreshingly easy to watch.

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

The tunnels can’t both have been “sealed” for decades and also have a “low” oxygen concentration – the presence of rats and a human (?) down there, along with percolating water and the absence of plants, would have removed all the oxygen a long time ago. In any case, there have to be some gaps to the outside world for the rats to get in.

Haven’t I seen a fake-disabled person bundling a victim into a van somewhere before?

Walter’s natural history is only a little off – he’s right in saying that sharks sense their prey’s electromagnetic field (which all animals produce through muscle contractions), but it’s not through their own. They use passive electroreception via sensory organs called ampullae of Lorenzini, which are extremely sensitive to changes in electric field.

By this analogy, The Child might be able to pick up on thoughts and emotions (and apparently names and addresses) by sensing other people’s brain activity over extremely long distances. This then brings up the problem of signal-to-noise ratio, which would also be a stumbling block for Superman’s super-hearing.


The non-science of Fringe: Ability

October 21, 2009

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 14: “Ability”

FBI on the case.

FBI on the case.

How to defuse a bomb…with your brain! This episode was refreshingly easy to watch.

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

Mr. Jones is back, and apparently not in best of health post-teleportation. Judging by the hole in the hospital wall, though, the disintegration/reintegration has turned him into some kind of super-villain! Or perhaps a Goblin King (tenuous connection: David Robert Jones is David Bowie’s real name, and he played Jareth the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth).

Why would Olivia yell for a medic, and then attempt to perform the tracheotomy herself? I’m sure that the doctor would be better trained. And for that matter, it should be possible to keep an airway open no matter how quickly “scar tissue” is growing – just a matter of a longer hose or regular incisions.

“Ask yourself why Broyles sent you to the storage facility.” Could it be Cortexiphan, a chemical that prevents brain “limitation”? This is actually quite interesting, carrying overtones of synaptic pruning and neuroplasticity – if people could retain their brain’s malleability, would it result in enhanced learning abilities? Perhaps this is why Olivia is so good at remembering faces.