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Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 12 Season 4, Welcome to Westfield

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 11, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

As always, an episode synopsis will be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent

It’s Probably Safe and Not at All Laced with Drugs

Peter and Olivia are either brave or stupid.  I don’t think I’d ever drink anything Walter prepared in his lab, even if I watched him prepare it.

The Machine

I still can’t believe anyone would let Peter and Walter play around with the destroyer of universes machine.

Steel Frames?

Just a note:  I checked every pair of glasses I’ve had in the last 25 years (which I still have for spare parts purposes), and none of them have frames that are attracted by a magnet.

Electromagnetism, Where to Start?

Wow, I don’t really fell like writing a primer textbook on electromagnetism, electromagnetic fields, magnetic fields, magnetism, electromagnetic force, and electromagnetic interference, but holy cow, the writers need to understand that these terms are not synonymous and the concepts are not interchangeable.

Only in Bizarro Wolrd (or Fringe Land)


“Approximately three hours ago, every vehicle on this stretch of highway inexplicably lost power”


“Could be some sort of interference.  Are there any high frequency towers around?”

What is Olivia smoking?  If all it took to shut down vehicles and electronics was a high frequency tower, any future wars would have to be fought steam punk style.

It Must Have Been a Rental or a Cab

Luckily Walter just happened to find a car that still used steel hubcaps, and didn’t have aluminum wheels or aluminum or plastic hubcaps like most vehicles these days.

May the Force Be With You #1


“On the contrary, it seems that the electromagnetic force in this area was increased dramatically.”

I think Walter meant to say either the magnetic field strength or the electromagnetic field strength increased dramatically.

This is Heavy, Man (Or Not)


“I didn’t think that those levitating effects that the witnesses described were the result of a change in gravity”

Well, that fact that only ferromagnetic materials (and only fairly light ones at that) levitated might have been a clue to that as well.

May the Force Be With You #2


“It was strong enough to leave a residual magnetic force in all metal objects in the vicinity.”

As a scientist with expert knowledge in this field, Walter would never speak those words.  What he should have said was that the magnetic field was strong enough to permanently magnetize all ferromagnetic materials in the area.  It’s absurd and nonsensical to say a residual magnetic force was left behind, and it wouldn’t have magnetized non-ferromagnetic materials.

Olivia Dunham: Keen Instincts Finely Tuned by 4 Years on the Fringe Team

After finding the payphone out of order, having no cell phone signal, and having just left the scene of a strange electromagnetic phenomenon that lead to a plane crash, it should have occurred to Olivia that the area might be dangerous, and that it might be a good idea to run back to Peter and Walter and get the heck out of town ASAP.

Turn Around, Bright Eyes/ You Spin Me Right Round


“You must have gotten turned around some place.”

Um, how do you get turned around without making a turn?  No turn was shown, and you can tell from the sound inside the card that the car never slowed to make any turn.

I Need More Power!

Peter should be smart enough to know that you can’t just hook up a generator to a radio and boost the signal.  All he would have ended up doing is frying the circuitry of the radio.  Even if he tried to re-wire the radio, the components likely wouldn’t have been able to handle the extra power.

Apocalypse 101

I wouldn’t have given Walter a gun either, but I wouldn’t have left those two shotguns behind either.  You can always use a few extra guns in the apocalypse.  It’s always good to have a spare or two in case one breaks, or you lose one.  Also there’s the important concept of the hand out gun- a spare gun you can give to any new found survivors so they can help defend the group.

Guns for Beginners

If the teacher really had never used a gun before, one of the worst guns Peter could give him would be a hand gun.  It’s actually fairly difficult to be effective with a handgun, even at close ranges.  I don’t have a source handy, so take this with a  grain of salt, but most handgun fights take place at about 7 yards distance, and most shots miss. (think about that for a few seconds)  While a shotgun does not have the spray radius shown in the moves and video games (figure about a 1” diameter pattern for every yard from the muzzle for buckshot from 18” un-choked barrel), it’s still far easier to hit something with a (stocked) shotgun (or any long gun) than with a pistol, especially for a beginner.

But it Sounds Cool…

Of course, when possible danger approaches, Peter cycles the action of his shotgun.  Knowing he was headed into a dangerous situation, Peter should have already had a round in the chamber to allow a faster reaction time in case of surprise.  Either we wasn’t ready, or he just wasted a shell by ejecting it when he cycled the action.

Division Error

Walter’s hypothesis/speculation about rapid mitosis being responsible for the duplicate body parts was barely superficially sensible.  If it was accelerated mitosis:

-I wouldn’t expect new, duplicate parts so much as growth/ enlargement of existing parts.

-I really wouldn’t expect new tooth growth and especially not a complete duplicate set of teeth.

-I would think that the accelerated cell metabolism required for the rapid cell reproduction would require extra energy (food) intake to fuel it.

-If new teeth had grown in so rapidly, I would have expected severe pain from the teeth forcing their way through existing tissue to the open.

-I would also expect the possibility of quickly developing cancers from the extremely rapid cell division.

Was Causality Broken Too?

Peter to Olivia:

“Let Walter test your blood too.  It’s the only way you’re going to know for sure.”

Art this point, Walter has not yet established if there is anything special in the victim’s blood, so he doesn’t yet know of a way to determine if someone is or will be affected or not.

Biology 101


“I found 92 chromosomes in her DNA.”

Again, as a scientist with expert knowledge of human biology, Walter would not speak this sentence.  Chromosomes are made up of DNA, they are not found in DNA   Walter should have said he found 92 chromosomes in (each of) her cell nuclei.

It’s Easy if you Try

I don’t know how powerful amphilocite is supposed to be, but we can peg an extreme upper limit on it.  Amphilocite is likely a chemical energy source, which has a far lower energy density than a nuclear power source.  Antimatter-matter reactions are the highest energy to mass yields that are possible to get, and using Einstein’s E=mc^2, we can figure out how much energy would be released from 1 kg (~2.2 lbs) of antimatter reacting with 1 kg of matter, and that number is 43 megatons.

If amphilocite’s energy is chemical in nature (or even nuclear), we can expect it has an energy density several orders of magnitude less than antimatter, but even if it was antimatter, although 43 megatons is a huge amount of energy, it is still 7 megatons less than the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated.  Considering Jones collected about 100 pounds of ore, we can expect that 100 pounds yielded significantly lass pure material, so I can’t believe he could produce an amount of energy from it so large that Walter couldn’t have imagined such an energy source, even outside of amphilocite.

What’s Your Vector, Victor?


“The sum of opposite and equal vectors is zero.”

Actually, you can’t have two vectors that are simultaneously opposite and equal, as a vector has properties of both magnitude and direction.  If they are in opposite directions, than two vectors are not equal, though they can be of equal magnitude.  Again, Walter should know this and not speak this way.  The sum of two vectors of equal magnitude and opposite direction is zero.

Automobiles 101

First of all, is possible to have fuel injection without electronics.  The 1957 Corvette was available with a mechanical fuel injection system, and the WWII Messschmitt bf109 fighter plane was available with a mechanically fuel injected engine as well.  There were other even earlier instances of mechanical fuel injection

Secondly, though few cars in the 1970s featured electronic fuel injection, electronic ignition was standardized by Chrysler in 1973 and by Ford and GM in 1975, and so most cars from the 1970s would not function, contrary to what Olivia said.

Pepper Spray 101/ It’s Not aPhaser

At that distance, Peter would have undoubtedly gotten some pepper spray in his eyes and lungs, and, the rest of the people in the enclosed bus probably would have been somewhat affected by the spray as well.

Abandon Bus!

It looked to me like there was plenty of room on either side walk for that bus to drive on one of them and that it wasn’t necessary to continue on foot when road was blocked.

Blind Peter

Peter is still completely oblivious as to how his leaving might affect Walter, in spite of the fact that they are clearly growing closer to each other.

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19 Responses to “Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 12 Season 4, Welcome to Westfield”

  1. I have only one thing to object.
    Maybe Amphilocite is a stable matter-antimatter compound ( it’s not imposible, check
    If that’s the case, it will generate a really big amount of energy per gram.

  2. Daedalus said

    Let’s not forget Walter’s continued debasement of “exponentially” (now misused in other shows and even, ISTR, in news reports).

    The school bus could be EMP-proof, since it’s diesel and has no ignition system, but modern diesels tend to be fuel-injected. I was expecting the guy to show up with a tractor and a flatbed trailer. Now that would have been lo-tek!

  3. Karl Withakay said

    First, positronium is not stable; it self annihilates in a miniscule fraction of a second.

    I’m not aware of even a hypothetical way to have a stable matter-antimatter compound. Matter and antimatter don’t get along.

    Second, I showed exactly how much energy it would have if it is antimatter: 1 kg of antimatter reacting with 1 kg of matter would yield 43 megatons of energy, a massive amount of energy, but well within what we have achieved in a single device (the Tsar Bomba).

  4. FC said

    Even MY brain was unable to shutdown when Walter hypothesized “Accelerated Mitosis”. I’m sure Scott choked on whatever he was drinking at the time. Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be the case, the unification of the universes and the counterparts is a much more interesting problem. We’ve seen the effects of universe unification before.

    BTW, NO mention at all at what’s going with Olivia? From the very beginning of the episode they foreshadowed what was happening: The dreams with Peter, the recall of Fringe Adventures with Walter and Peter that did not occur in the Gold universe until the end where she seems to be completely “Blue” Olivia instead of “Gold” Olivia.

  5. [...] problems with this episode. Rather than beat a dead horse, I’ll just send you over there. Instead, I’ll focus primarily on the biological and medical [...]

  6. Karl Withakay said

    I thought about mentioning the stuff w/ Olivia, but I was suffering from Deconstruction overload and didn’t want be up past 1AM still writing the review.

  7. Karl Withakay said

    One highly hypothetical possibility for a stable matter-antimatter quasi-compound could be an anti-proton caged inside a buckminsterfullerene , the negatively charged anti-proton would/might be repelled by the electrons surrounding the carbon atoms in the buckeyball molecule and thus possibly suspended inside the molecule preventing it from interacting and annihilating with any protons. To utilize the energy of the antimatter inside the buckminsterfullerene, you just need to chemically break apart the buckminsterfullerene and release the anti-proton.

    You could use an antimatter nucleus that contained anti-neutrons (for more antimatter density), but any stray environmental neutrons or neutron radiation would penetrate right through the buckminsterfullerene and annihilate with the anti-neutrons if they hit them, so it would be safest to stick to anti-protons only.

  8. Karl Withakay said

    Doing some quick and dirty math, the energy density of this “compound” would be as follows: If one kilogram of anti-proton containing buckminsterfullerene material had its molecules broken apart to release the anti-protons, it would yield about 600 kilotons of energy if/when the anti-protons annihilated with regular matter. (Subject to late night back of the napkin math errors)

  9. Fairfax said

    Karl wrote: “One highly hypothetical possibility for a stable matter-antimatter quasi-compound”

    On the same topic, Stephen Baxter’s “Anti-Ice” is a steam-punk alternate history based on such a quasi-compound, and is great fun. The eponymous anti-ice is the vital substance, releasing its energy when heated above a crucial temperature, powering a Victorian moon landing and a Crimean War ended by an anti-ice weapon (with terrible consequences). I strongly recommend it to all those in need of diversion during the entropic suicide of Fringe.

  10. I think the plot points are interesting but they’re not really paying much attention to the science, medicine, et al. Writers are paid to write stories, not go over all the details. They may have science advisers, but in the end artistic license will prevail. It makes me glad the Big Bang Theory has a good science adviser the writers actually pay close attention to (as well as many “nerd” advisers!)

  11. johngaltx said

    Not to be a stick in the mud, but maybe in this GOLD universe the laws of physics, tenets biology and medicine are not the same as in the BLUE Fringe universe, or the Red Fringe universe. Maybe everything Walter says in true where he lives, and maybe not quite so true where other people live in their respective universes. These characters are not living in some far away solar system, they reside in a different universe, and possibly things there are not the way they are here. (I have to lead myself down this jagged path to be able to enjoy the weekly Fringe hi-jinks dreamed up by the scientifically challenged Fringe writers.)

  12. Arthur said

    A thought about the buckminsterfullerene concept.

    Let’s assume that the Buckminsterfullerene is a perfectly spherical shell. Then by Newton’s Shell Theorem the electric field inside of the fullerene would be exactly zero. (This is true even though the anti-proton could polarize the fullerene. There would be an inner shell of positive charge and an outer shell of negative charge, but the field inside a shell is still always zero.) It seems to me that the anti-proton would then be moving around inside of the fullerene in essentially free motion.

    Perhaps one could argue that the electron cloud would create a barrier so that the anti-proton could not make it to a nucleus. Considering that a free anti-proton would move at ~2km/s at room temperature, the number of collisions per second with this barrier would be very very large. My intuition tells me that eventually the anti-proton would tunnel through the electron cloud barrier, and possibly hit a nucleus. And even if one particular anti-proton doesn’t, surely one of the 10^23 anti-protons would. The explosion would make the nearby fullerenes unstable, and we’d have an uncontrollable chain reaction on our hands.

    Perhaps a heavy anti-nucleus would move slowly enough so that the probability of tunneling would be very small. But heavy anti-nuclei means heavy anti-neutrons….

    Any thoughts on where my logic might have gone off the deep end?

  13. Karl Withakay said

    Well, my response is even more speculative then my comment about buckminsterfullerenes was. (If only I was a physicist!)

    I don’t know if shell theorem applies to non-gravitational forces the way it does to gravity. Also, I don’t think an individual buckminsterfullerene can be treated as a charged conducting sphere. If it behaved like one, I don’t see how the C-C bonds could be maintained. The electrons can’t be free to distribute across the “outer surface” of the molecule as they are involved in the covalent bonds.

    I was operating with the speculation that the electron cloud around each carbon atom would repel the anti-proton and prevent it from reaching the nucleus of an carbon atom, keeping it essentially suspended inside the buckminsterfullerene. I have no idea what the cross section of the tunneling potential would be in that situation to know how dependable a barrier those clouds would be, assuming the anti-proton would really be suspended inside the buckminsterfullerene and not doing something strange like displacing one of the electrons & trying to occupy a spot in an electron shell of one of the carbon atoms.

    Of course, even if the concept was technically valid, the ability to actually enclose an anti-proton inside a buckminsterfullerene could be so problematic as to be unachievable in practice. It does make at least superficially plausible science fiction though, probably more so than quantum entanglement faster than light communication.

  14. Fairfax said

    Karl (13): “I don’t know if shell theorem applies to non-gravitational forces the way it does to gravity.”

    It applies to any inverse square law. However, the key point seems to be that the charge would not, in fact, be a spherical shell, as you state. Still, Arthur’s suggestion that the quantum tunnel effect would render the material unstable seems a strong objection, not least because the energy released would presumably lead to further containment breakdowns, followed by an explosion. Presumably this probability could be reduced by keeping everything extremely cold (I can imagine the Walter line: “It’s a good job I always keep liquid nitrogen on hand to make ice cream, otherwise I would have destroyed Boston — again!”). I’m a mathematician, not a theoretical physicist, however.

  15. Karl Withakay said

    However, the key point seems to be that the charge would not, in fact, be a spherical shell, as you state.

    That’s sort of what I meant by “the way it does to gravity”, though I should have phrased it better.

    The key to the quantum tunneling would be the probability of an event, and I don’t know what that cross section would be. It could be high enough to result in at least one event in one of the buckminsterfullerenes with any reasonable mass sample in any reasonable amount of time, or it could be high enough to require (on average) greater than the lifetime of the universe to happen. The other key is how likely it would be that a single event would lead to a catastrophic chain reaction, and again, I just don’t really have much of a clue, though those gamma photons would be pretty high energy. (High enough to induce pair production in the vicinity of the electric field of a nucleus, or ionize an atom if it interacts with one the orbiting electrons.

    For reference, the proton-proton reaction in the first step of the proton-proton fusion chain used in our sun is a very rare/slow reaction (~1 billion years for a single event), even at the temperatures and pressures present in the sun. If it weren’t, the sun would have burned out long a go. The sun produces a lot of energy because it has very many protons available to react. Without someone who knows the specifics of the physics involved chiming in, I don’t think it’s necessarily a foregone conclusion that the tunneling would actually happen in any reasonable time frame, though it maybe so. We are talking about roughly 10^23 particles here, give or take an order of magnitude.

    Understand, of course, that this is nearly all speculating on my part, which I normally don’t like to do, though it can be fun.

    If I had to guess, I’d say the whole encapsulated anti-proton idea thing probably wouldn’t work or be stable, and is only useful as a science fiction concept.

  16. Karl Withakay said

    Now that I think about it, stray background neutrons could still be a problem, even with only an anti-proton and no anti-neutrons.

    If a neutron (two down quarks & one up quark) hits an anti-proton (two up anti-quarks & one down anti-quark) it might be possible that you’d get annihilations of a down quark anti-quark pair and an up quark anti-quark pair leaving one down quark and one up anti-quark, which could result in a short lived negative pion. The negative pion would quickly decay into a muon and a muon anti-neutrino. The muon would quickly (but slightly less quickly) decay into an electron, an electron-antineutrino, and a muon-neutrino.

    The quark annihilations would likely produce potentially troublesome high energy gamma ray photons similar to how the proton anti-proton annihilations would, but of a bit less energy each.

    (Again, this is even more speculation)

  17. Arthur said

    The background neutrons would have to be moving at very high speeds to “see inside” the anti-proton. As a quick and dirty calculation you could compare the de-broglie wavelength of the neutrons to the diameter of an anti-proton.

    The proton has a diameter of ~1.5fm. Setting 1.5fm = de-broglie wavelength = h/p, and using the relativistic expression p = m*v/(sqrt(1-v/c^2) I found that the neutrons would have to be moving at least at around 2/3 the speed of light. (Subject of course to whatever mathematical errors I may have made along the way.)

    I’m not sure where to find the numbers on the background neutron radiation velocity distribution, so I don’t know what speed the neutrons actually move at.

  18. Marshall said

    “Just a note: I checked every pair of glasses I’ve had in the last 25 years (which I still have for spare parts purposes), and none of them have frames that are attracted by a magnet.”

    My glasses have steel in part of them, so it’s not entirely implausible.

  19. [...] episode is debunked at Polite Dissent and Cordial Deconstruction, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. [...]

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