The science of Breaking Bad: Blood Money

August 13, 2013

Breaking Bad | Season 5 | Episode 9 | “Blood Money”

Walt surveys his life that was.

Walt surveys his life that was.

After an agonising wait, Breaking Bad returned to our screens last weekend to wrap up season five and remind us why we started watching it in the first place. As Hank pieces together the true picture behind the Heisenberg meth empire and Walt brazenly confronts him about it, Jesse starts to break down over the things he’s been party to.

This episode is reviewed at Emilia Jordan and the A.V. Club, and you can read more about it at AMC and IMDb.

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The non-science of Fringe: Worlds Apart

March 19, 2013

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 20 | “Worlds Apart”

The Fringe-2 team's final exit. We'll probably see them again.

The Fringe-2 team’s final exit. We’ll probably see them again.

A race against time to stop Jones and the Cortexiphan Globetrotters, with pretty much no science to comment on. I suspect the two finales will be the same, but don’t let that stop you from watching them.

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.


The non-science of Fringe: Letters of Transit

February 23, 2013

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 19 | “Letters of Transit”

Walter wakes up in the far future, which bears an uncanny resemblance to downtown Vancouver.

Walter wakes up in the far future, which bears an uncanny resemblance to downtown Vancouver.

A dystopian future episode in fine sci-fi tradition this week, with pretty much no science to write about.

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

I’m sure we all know that matter-antimatter annihilations don’t happen as depicted, and I assume that Walter merely activated some sort of antimatter-powered disintegration device. For the sake of curiosity, though, how much antimatter would be required to demolish (not vapourise) a building? If we assume that a building can be brought down by the equivalent of 1 Mt (megaton of TNT), which is the yield of a typical conventional bomb, then we can work backwards to see how much antimatter would be required:

1 Mt TNT is about 4.184 x 1015 J. Using mass-energy equivalence for matter-antimatter explosions (E = m c2) gives a requirement of around 23 g of antimatter. Current Earth technology is capable of producing a few billionths of a gram annually, at a cost of a few hundred million dollars.


The non-science of Fringe: The Consultant

January 13, 2013

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 18 | “The Consultant”

Olivia and Lincoln - partners again?

Olivia and Lincoln – partners again?

When “accidents” in one Universe cause the same people in both Universes to die, it’s time for the Fringe teams to spring into action and figure out what’s going on. Turns out it’s Jones again, but he’s going to have to manage without some of his high-level collaborators next time.

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’s comments on the Universes vibrating at either a C or a G was oversimplistic – if we assume that the Universes do have some kind of fundamental frequency (and similar things have appeared in sci-fi before) then he could have talked about waves and constructive/destructive interference causing the Fringe events and allowing crossovers. Instead, we got tuning forks.

Here’s what must have been going through Peter’s head when he found the suitcase in the taxi: “OK, so David Robert Jones has managed to link the two Universes somehow. He has achieved this using some kind of device, which is probably in this suitcase. He’s fairly clever, so he must have planned for the possibility that one of the devices would be recovered. Could he have booby-trapped it? No, it’s probably fine.”

Whatever the difference between the Universes, minimalist Swedish design is still tasteful. I believe that Olivia’s kitchen is ÄDEL by IKEA, in brown.

Literary references abound this week, with Walter mentioning “the dog that did not bark” from the Sherlock Holmes short story Silver Blaze and Olivia using a Banquo’s ghost-esque trick to force Nina to reveal her hand.

Are there no telephones on the Bridge or Liberty Island? Rather than rush down there in person to stop Broyles, a call would perhaps have been faster.

Given Broyles’s knowledge of the Walters, surely he would have approached them first to seek a cure for his son? Jones may be a top-notch scientist, but his price is pretty high when there are clear alternatives to exhaust first.


The non-science of Fringe: Everything In Its Right Place

January 4, 2013

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 17 | “Everything In Its Right Place”

Lincoln, perhaps in his right place.

Lincoln, perhaps in his right place.

A fun procedural this week, as Agent Lee shows the Other Side how it’s done. Absolutely no science to talk about here, so tune in next time.

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.


The non-science of Fringe: Nothing As It Seems

December 18, 2012

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 16 | “Nothing As It Seems”

Walter, Astrid and Lincoln check on how this person got past the TSA.

Walter, Astrid and Lincoln check on how this person got past the TSA.

A blast from the past this week as the porcupine monsters from The Transformation reappear and turn out to be connected to a David Jones plotline.

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

It was kind of hard to go along with the science (again) this week, and criticisms of it have been dealt with elsewhere. Not much that hasn’t been said before.

The glyph that appears on the boat door and on the cult members appears to be the Cuneiform sign NE, which in Sumerian means “fire”.


The non-science of Fringe: A Short Story About Love

November 23, 2012

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 15 | “A Short Story About Love”

Peter geeks out over Observer-gear before continuing his treasure hunt.

Peter geeks out over Observer-gear before continuing his treasure hunt.

Peter treks off to track down a cryptic message from September, while the rest of the team deal with yet another serial killer (this time one who only targets the male parters in blissful couples). It’s OK though, he’s doing it for love!

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

We’ve seen misinformation about slowing down video footage in Fringe before (season two, episode eight). This episode is no exception – there’s no way that a normal camera would be able to record frames fast enough to capture something that people couldn’t see.

Anson’s dehydration apparatus is quite similar to alkaline hydrolysis equipment. Why wasn’t the Fringe team called in after the first murder, though? Do women get killed after their husbands show up mysteriously dessicated on a regular basis?

The Chemistry of Human Scent is not a real book. The pheromone story makes quite good science fiction, though – but surely there must have been an easier way for Anson to recreate those feelings of love or get those pheromones? Anyone skilled enough to extract and purify them from an entire human should be able to multiply up a small sample or synthesise replacements.