The science of Breaking Bad: Ozymandias

September 18, 2013

Breaking Bad | Season 5 | Episode 14 | “Ozymandias”

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

There are no winners in this week’s episode (with the possible exception of Uncle Jack and his crew) as all of Walt’s decisions and lies finally catch up with him, ripping everyone’s world apart. There is a little science to talk about, if you spotted it before everything kicked off.

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: The End of All Things

October 22, 2012

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 14 | “The End of All Things”

Olivia takes Mr. Jones's test again.

Olivia takes Mr. Jones’s test again.

Peter gets an update from September and tracks down Olivia, while Mr. Jones stays one step ahead again. A fun episode but, in line with the show’s more sci-fi-y direction, actual science-light.

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

Peter’s recovery of images from the memory card in Olivia’s apartment is just about plausible, depending on how much time elapsed between the installation of the camera and the recovery of the card (assuming that the entire card is overwritten hourly – though the amount of use this could be to a surveillance operation is questionable). There isn’t a magnetic “memory” as there is with magnetic storage, but the differences between the way solid-state drives physically store information and the way access to it is managed can create “ghost” copies.

Nice shot Olivia, but I would have expected you to shoot the Universe-crossing equipment. Sure, it could have ripped a hole between realities but that sort of thing hasn’t stopped you before.


The non-science of Fringe: 6B

February 21, 2011

Fringe : Season 3 : Episode 14 : “6B”

Amber, the glue that binds reality together.

Amber, the glue that binds reality together.

Earth-1 (several decades later than Earth-2) is finally starting to come apart at the seams, with mysterious ghostly goings-on in an apartment building. Who you gonna call?

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 not sure if the glowing-door-outline counts as a Door of Doom, but it certainly reminded me of Dana’s apartment in Ghostbusters.

Walter requests that Peter grab a “digital spectrometer”, which is kind of a pleonasm because almost all modern spectrometers use digital processing and display. Spectrometers measure electromagnetic radiation, but are generally only useful in controlled settings (such as a laboratory) as they require quite strict sample preparation procedures. By way of counterpoint to all this digital technology, Walter also brings along his ancient Geiger counter (he calls it a radiological survey meter), which I believe is a Victoreen Fallout Detection Meter from the Cold War. This may be the same instrument he uses in Bad Dreams (season 1, episode 17).

As other Futurama fans have pointed out, coin flips in Universe-2 have the opposite outcome.

Ah, quantum entanglement. No, it does not really apply to people (for one thing, there is no information exchange) – but I feel that Walter was just using it as a metaphor for how the two Universes are linked.

If distance makes no difference to the universe-ripping, the FBI could have just forcibly removed Alive from her apartment and convinced her that she wasn’t seeing her husband once outside, without risking two of their least-replaceable agents.


The non-science of Fringe: The Bishop Revival

February 7, 2010

Fringe: Season 2: Episode 14: “The Bishop Revival”

Also, they have the Ark of the Covenant.

Also, they have the Ark of the Covenant.

From a highly contagious and indiscriminate infection last week to a minutely targeted biochemical weapon this, the Fringe team are completely on the back foot when it comes to actually preventing mass killings. Oh, and Earth-2 move over – the Nazis are back! Actually, they never went away (maybe they were hiding in the hollow earth?). 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: 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.