The non-science of Fringe: Over There, Part 2

August 9, 2010

Fringe : Season 2 : Episode 23 : “Over There, Part 2”

Walter and William conspire to save the universe.

Walter and William conspire to save the universe.

Season two of Fringe ends in style, with several tantalising storylines set up for September. Peter is saved from whatever that giant machine is, and things go back to normal – or do they?

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

Whatever Earth-2’s differences, it still has the Rocky Horror Show. Why Olivia-2’s ringtone for Broyles-2 is Science Fiction / Double Feature is less clear, though – perhaps a comment on Broyles-2’s extreme baldness?

High-energy particle accelerators are extremely large and immobile, major breakthroughs in Earth-2 notwithstanding. The device that Walter and William take from Harvard looks like a small electron accelerator, which uses magnetic fields to direct and accelerate a low-energy electron beam.

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The non-science of Fringe: Over There, Part 1

August 4, 2010

Fringe : Season 2 : Episode 22 : “Over There, Part 1”

Walter prepares to put on a show.

Walter prepares to put on a show.

In the first part of a two-part finale, Walter and a small team cross over to the Other Side to get Peter back. The wince-inducing mixture of psychic powers and multiverse-crossing aside, this was another enjoyable episode.

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

It’s always nice to see airships in an alternate future/universe, but Earth-2 might be lagging behind a little on aerodynamics technology – modern airships take advantage of dynamic lift as well as lighter-than-air gas, and have short wings.

Neither option is particularly plausible, Brandon, but either our cells would separate on a cellular level, or our atoms would separate on an atomic level. And where did that cup go that you hit? Even if intermolecular forces could be nullified, we would still be left with some kind of ultrafine powder.


The non-science of Fringe: Northwest Passage

July 28, 2010

Fringe : Season 2 : Episode 21 : “Northwest Passage”

Unsurprisingly, Peter gets embroiled in some local trouble.

Unsurprisingly, Peter gets embroiled in some local trouble.

Peter takes some time off from the Fringe unit, but trouble just seems to follow him around. Somehow, he manages to solve a major crime without the help of the FBI or Walter’s magical laboratory.

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

Saying, “These bad guys can extract information from your brain,” is too much of a stretch for Peter, and so he has to show the local police what he means. Except he just shows them what they’ve already seen (the back of Krista’s head) and explains it using words anyway.

Peter is presumably filing away at his bullets to convert them into hollow-point types, which will cause more damage on impact. Why he didn’t just buy hollow-point bullets in the first place is a mystery.

Potassium bromate (KBrO3) is a carcinogenic flour additive (delicious strawberry-flavoured death!), and is banned in Europe and Canada.

Peter’s method of tracking the killer using the timing of the victims’ adrenaline spikes is quite elegant, but ultimately implausible. Leaving aside the glaring issues of varying metabolic rates and times of death, he assumes that they were abducted violently (a shapeshifter could have taken on the image of a trusted person) and somehow has access to their adrenaline history (he would only be able to get a number for total adrenaline after death, not how that level had changed over the past few hours).


The non-science of Fringe: Brown Betty

July 21, 2010

Fringe : Season 2 : Episode 20 : “Brown Betty”

Peter and the Glass Heart.

Peter and the Glass Heart.

The much-hyped musical/storytelling episode turns out to be pretty watchable, if a little science-light. Olivia tries to solve the Mystery of the Glass Heart, and (surprise!) finds more than she bargained for.

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

Walter spells MnSO4 as “manganese sulphate”, ignoring IUPAC guidelines with British flair, but later spells H2SO4 “sulfuric acid”. This inconsistency is probably due to the Brown Betty.


The non-science of Fringe: The Man from the Other Side

July 15, 2010

Fringe : Season 2 : Episode 19 : “The Man from the Other Side”

Walter is escorted out of the danger zone.

Walter is escorted out of the danger zone.

The conflict between the two Universes ramps up, with a non-Agent crossing over amid strained relationships between Walter and Peter. How will this affect the coming collision? And why does everybody have metronomes or tuning forks around?

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

Nobody has enlightened us on Other Side operating protocols yet, but it seems odd that the two Agents would leave the third one to be found by the FBI when they could have destroyed it or taken it with them.

The Argus A2B is a real camera, but Agent/James betrays his lack of knowledge when he says, “35 mm” – the Argus A series cameras were not built to take any other film size.

Trigonometric equations are used to describe properties of triangles, which don’t really have anything to to with solar flares. However, they are used in astronomy to calculate stellar parallax and so could conceivably be some way of measuring the distances between Earth-1, Earth-2, Sun-1 and Sun-2.

Why Walter would need “Car Battery” brand car batteries as well as mains power is not clear, but it was not very smart of him to touch the Agent while it was still hooked up to all the zapping equipment (blown fuse or no blown fuse). Note that in Walter’s lab, the lights seem to be on the same circuit as everything else.

Newton had to fake his death to get into the morgue – presumably it would have been too much trouble just to clone someone else’s access card.


The non-science of Fringe: White Tulip

May 26, 2010

Fringe : Season 2 : Episode 18 : “White Tulip”

Somebody interrupts Peter's presentation.

Somebody interrupts Peter's presentation.

For me, this was easily the most enjoyable episode of Fringe to date – you would have had me at “Peter Weller” and “time travel”, but there was actually an engaging plot as well. The science (such as it was) consisted mostly of theoretical physics, most likely jargon-filled gibberish.

This episode is debunked at 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: Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver

April 28, 2010

Fringe : Season 2 : Episode 17 : “Olivia. In the Lab. With the Revolver”

Walter and Astrid perform one of their regular autopsies.

Walter and Astrid perform one of their regular autopsies.

Walter and Olivia’s joint past starts to catch up with them this week, in the form of a highly carcinogenic vampire. 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 Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

If the cancer cells near the point of origin have a different density to the cells farther away, then they will indeed refract light differently. However, Walter’s blacklight (a UV source) doesn’t show this. Refraction is a change in wave direction due to a change in velocity, and it would not be visible to the naked eye (it would also require specialised equipment to detect). The skin sample is actually exhibiting fluorescence (or perhaps phosphorescence), as it is absorbing invisible light (UV) and emitting visible light (the glow).

For background information on this topic, see the primer on energy levels.

Walter appears to be using a flatbed scanner to get some genetic information from the skin sample. I’m sure that I do not need to point out that this is ridiculous. It would have been so simple and science-y to have some funky needle array or perhaps a robotic PCR cycler, but instead we are expected to believe that different DNA sequences reflect light differently.

Heating up the skin sample to get a fingerprint does not make any sense – the organic material and oils that make up a fingerprint will be destroyed on heating, and the sample itself will change shape. A better idea would have been to go back to the blacklight and try some photography (some of the organic molecules in the print will fluoresce).

After I saw Olivia grab a candlestick to deal with her assailant, I started looking out for other references to Cludeo – no doubt there will be a lead pipe lying around somewhere else in the episode. Once she had disabled him, however, one would think that she could have asked him to describe just who recruited him instead of packing him off to coma land.