The science of Breaking Bad: Granite State

October 29, 2013

Breaking Bad | Season 5 | Episode 15 | “Granite State”

It's over when I say it's over.

It’s over when I say it’s over.

Walt is disappeared out to rural New Hampshire, and quickly finds that he can have absolutely no influence over events back home. Out of options, he comes to a decision about his exit – but what is his plan?

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: 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.


The non-science of Fringe: Subject 13

March 2, 2011

Fringe : Season 3 : Episode 15 : “Subject 13”

Walter asks Olivia about her home life.

Walter asks Olivia about her home life.

Back to 1985! This week features exposition-a-palooza, with the backstory for how Earth-2 started on the path to wreaking revenge on Earth-1. The episode was enjoyable, but understandably 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

Looks like my theory about Walter’s lab assistant dying in the fire that Oliva started was completely wrong. How did that kid escape unburned when the rest of the room was so badly scorched?

The periodic table in Walter’s office looks a little “full” for 1985 – elements 110 and higher had not been discovered yet. It is conceivable that his table has placeholder entries for elements yet to be discovered (much like Mendeleev himself did for germanium, gallium and scandium), but I can’t read them (oh, for HD).

Citric acid.

Citric acid.

The molecule on the classroom blackboard (when Walter is in the meditation circle with the children) is an abbreviated displayed formula for citric acid. It’s hard to tell what the ball-and-stick drawing on the backboard in the office is, as there are no atomic labels.


The non-science of Fringe: Jacksonville

March 14, 2010

Fringe: Season 2: Episode 15: “Jacksonville”

Peter loses a contact lens.

Peter loses a contact lens.

After weeks of apparent inactivity, the much-warned-of reality collision begins! Olivia dredges up some long-forgotten abilities to save the day, and stumbles upon Walter’s Big Secret™. The usual medical impossibilities and plot deficiencies aside (which are reported on better elsewhere), this episode contained very little worth commenting on. Check back soon!

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

A small comet may indeed cause a tectonic event, but it would also kick up so much dirt and dust that there would have been a thick haze over the entire city. A small meteorite would have been a much more likely supposition.

If the search for Newton is so crucial, where is Nina with her CCTV-scanning “priority one grid search”?


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.