Cordial Deconstruction

Observations from our shared single objective reality in a materialistic, naturalistic, & effectively macro-deterministic universe.

  • Recent Posts

  • Comments Are Welcome

  • Recent comments

    R Johnson on Traces of Liquid Nitrogen
    World marks 50th ann… on World marks 40th anniversary o…
    Karl Withakay on Deconstruction Review of Fring…
    rich on Deconstruction Review of Fring…
    D. Fosdick on My Reflections on Mark Cuban’s…
  • Categories

  • Archives

Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 20 Season 4 Worlds Apart

Posted by Karl Withakay on April 27, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

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

Old School Walter

It makes sense that since Walter’s been institutionalized until fairly recently, he hasn’t had much opportunity to learn PowerPoint yet, and he is instead using a Kodak carousel slide projector.  For the real youngins out there, before there was PowerPoint, you used either a carousel slide projector or an overhead projector for presentations.

Brane Freeze

There’s a few issues with the concept of gravitationally collapsing the two universes into a singularity.

First, even if the two Earths were brought together, they wouldn’t have enough density or gravitational force to collapse into a singularity, and if you combined both universes, pretty much the only things that would instantly collapse into singularities would be neutron stars and certain white dwarf stars of sufficient mass.

Also, just collapsing the two universes into one (probably*) wouldn’t cause the entire resultant combined universe to collapse gravitationally into a singularity, at least not instantly, though it might make the resultant combined mass (or altered curvature) of the new universe large enough to eventually result in a Big Crunch.

What it sounds like what he is describing is more like the brane collision model of the creation of the universe which isn’t really gravitational collapse.

* Who knows what new physics could arise from such a collapse?

How Much Does a Grain of Sand Affect a Desert?

Contrary to what ancient people may have believed, the world does not equal the universe.  The visible universe is about 46 billion light years across, which is unimaginably larger than the tiny Earth.  Amphilocite may contain a lot of energy, but come on, how can Jones collapse two entire universes just by linking/ collapsing a few points on one planet orbiting a nondescript star among over one hundred billion stars in a nondescript galaxy among over a hundred billion galaxies in the visible universe?  It’s a small wonder some other world’s version of Walter didn’t destroy the whole universe already a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Are There Roaming Charges?

Cell phones and ear cuffs from both sides have functional signal in the bridge complex.

Convincing Proof

Maye Nick would have been more likely to believe Olivia if she had brought Fauxlivia into the interrogation room to show Nick that both sides were cooperating and no longer at war.

It’s Nice Out; Why Not Walk Instead?

Having one Fringe unit standing by in one location waiting to drive vehicles to the site of the next “attack” doesn’t seem like the best way to make sure you get there in time.  How about having multiple units spread across the city waiting for Astrid to call in with the location?  How about having helicopters with assault teams circling the city waiting to swoop down on the suspect when his location was discovered?

The Fringe Division(s): Guardians & Protectors of Two Entire Universes

Even if I trusted Nick 100% (and I wouldn’t), I surely wouldn’t leave him in the custody/protection of only one lone agent.  I’d at least be concerned Jones might try to capture/kill him and would have him under the guard of at least half a dozen agents.  Also, since I wouldn’t trust him or his cortexiphan enhanced abilities, I’d have him locked up (and possibly sedated) as well.

Time Convergence of Reality and Fantasy

At 47 minutes into the episode, the countdown clock in the episode was at 47 minutes.  Nice touch.


Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 19 Season 4 Letters of Transit

Posted by Karl Withakay on April 20, 2012

A Dreary Blue Episode

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

Opening Theme Fringe Terms






Private Thought

Due Process


Free Will


Presumably in the Observer Controlled Future (OCF) of 2036 , all these concepts are mostly unachievable fringe notions.

You Look Like You Could Use a Few Pieces of Joe

In the OCF of 2036, liquid coffee hasn’t existed as a drinkable beverage for a long time.  Now coffee is consumed as “Coffee Chews” which are chocolate covered coffee beans.

From the packaging:

Nutritional Information

Serving Size: 1pkg (50g)

Calories                        480 Cal

Calories from Fat          0

Total Fat 2g                  0%

Saturated Fat 1g         0%

Cholesterol 0mg           0%

Sodium 105mg 10%

Carbohydrate 45g        15%

Fiber 0g                     0%

Sugars 30g

Protein 0g

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Ingredients: Coffee Beans, sugar, brown sugar, glucose, modified corn [starch], wheat flour, water, treacle[…] palm oil, artificial flavor, […]artificial color (FD&C B[…] monoglyceride.

Coffee Talk

I’m not sure where all those Calories come from.  Carbohydrates (sugar is a type of carbohydrate) have  4 calories (kcal) per gram.  Doing the math results in 180 calories in one 50 gram serving.  Somewhere an extra 300 calories have been added that is not accounted for in the rest of the nutritional information.

Also, there don’t seem to be any chocolate in chocolate covered coffee beans according to the ingredients list.

Nutritional information is still based on a 2000 calorie diet in the OCF.

“Old fashioned” one dimensional UPC barcodes are still used on food packages and it appears that two dimension barcodes never caught on for UPC labels.

Cardboard packaging is still used for candy treats like chocolate covered coffee beans.

More OCF of 2036 Notes

The Brooklyn Bridge road deck is destroyed, but the towers still stand.

Central Park has been razed and paved over.

Some Loyalist forces carry FN P-90 personal defense weapons, originally designed in 1990.  (This is not necessarily surprising.  In 2012, the US military still uses the M-16 rifle, which was originally designed in 1957.)

Closed captioning refers to an unnamed Observer in the OCF of 2036 as a Neo Observer.  I assume that means they are new Observers rather than Observers who watch the central character of The Matrix trilogy.

Quotes of the Show

Shortly after being called Prisoner by a Loyalist trooper, Walter says,

“I am not a number.  I am a free man!”

While bluffing their way past the same trooper, Walter also says,

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

And after succeeding at tricking the trooper into letting them pass, Walter says.

“Move along.”

For the Search Engines

Neurotrophins are indeed growth factor proteins.  Apparently in the OCF of 2036, synthetic ones are florescent yellow-green.

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Television | 24 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 18 Season 4 The Consultant

Posted by Karl Withakay on April 16, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

Sorry for the delay, I was out of town on vacation with friends this weekend.

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

I Knew it Wasn’t Mass Effect, but…

I did note that what happened to the jerk business guy looked a lot like he got hit by the slam power wielded by a biotic from Mass Effect.

Good Vibrations

I have neither the time nor patience to go into much detail regarding exactly how absurd the whole idea of everything in our universe vibrating with a C note and everything in the Alterverse vibrating with a G note was, but it was really bad in many ways.  To point out just a couple of quick points, everything in the universe doe not resonate with the same frequency, and matter is generally not vibrating with frequencies in the audible range.

Do their Planes Not Crash That Often?

I don’t see how having satellites that intercept and record all commutations to and from airplanes eliminates the usefulness of black boxes in airplanes.  The two different types of black boxes serve several important functions.  The cockpit voice recorder records everything that is said by anyone in the cockpit (what the crew are saying to each other), not just communications with the outside would.  The flight data recorder records instrument readings and control inputs of the aircraft (what’s going on with the aircraft).  Together the information from the black boxes is vitally important to be able to determine the cause of accidents and understand what was going on in the cockpit and with the craft in the time leading up to and during an accident.  I’m pretty sure that we also record all communication between aircraft and the towers, but that information is likely less useful that the black box data in most accident investigations.

Another note:  I guess if a plane in the Alterverse looses its radio before crashing, they just chalk it up to an unsolvable mystery and move on.

Nice Twist

It was a  nice twist that Colonel Broyles turned out to not be a shapeshifter and there was a different explanation for his actions.

Stranger Danger

So the wife of the head of Fringe Division just welcomes into the house any stranger who claims to be friends with her husband, and lets them hang out unsupervised with her son?  WTF?

Doing the Right Thing

I wonder, did Colonel Broyles turn himself in at least in part because when Jones ordered him to plant the device on the bridge (the device saving his world), he realized that there would be no point in saving his son’ life if his world was destroyed?

Alternative Football League Notes

In the Alterverse, the New York Jets NFL football team are still called the New York Titans, which means that there can’t be a Tennessee Titans NFL team.  If the Houston Oilers did move to Tennessee, either they retained their name, or they chose one of the other names they considered using: Bobcats, Stallions, Toros, and Apollos.  If the Oilers did not move to Tennessee in the Alterverse, then perhaps a different city (Los Angeles or Toronto) got an NFL expansion team in 2002.

Oops, It probably Won’t Matter, but…

Fauxlivia forgot to turn the camera back on in Meana’s cell

Now With More Drama!

Instead of immediately putting out a warrant for Colonel Broyle’s arrest and flagging his Show Me, the Fringe team takes the time to travel to Liberty island to apprehend Colonel Broyles in person, why?

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 17 Season 4 Everything In its Right Place

Posted by Karl Withakay on April 7, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

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

What’s With the Cow Clothes?

What was the deal with cow wearing boots and cow sized FBI jacket and ball cap?  At first, I though maybe NerdLee was having a weird dream.

How Badly Did Astrid Screw Up in the Past?


“Not to diminish Agent Farnsworth’s assignment, but liaison duty is more of a formality, part of our mutual cooperation agreement.”

and also Broyles in response to NerdLee after NerdLee explains why he thinks it’s useful for him to do the job:

“You’re more important to me here on this side.”

Here we have more evidence that Astrid is assigned menial and unimportant duties not considered worthy of even relative newcomer agents.

Absolutely No Texting While Driving

…But video playback on the driver’s information console is just fine.

Universal Differences

In the Alterverse, the fictional Gotham City billionaire playboy turned superhero is Mantis instead of Batman.  Does that mean that Mantis exists as some alternate character in the Alterverse?

Also in the Alterverse, it seems that Millard Fillmore is on a fairly high denomination of currency.  Considering that we have already seen that Newt Gingrich is on the hundred, Fillmore seems likely to be on the fifty or perhaps they still issue five hundred dollar bill in the Alterverse.

Foreshadowing or Telegraphing?

I’m not sure how the writers could have made it any more obvious that Captain Lee was going to die and be quasi-replaced by NerdLee (who will probably end up in a relationship with Fauxlivia).  If you hadn’t already figured it out before the conversation between Lee and NerdLee about how irreplaceable Lee was, that conversation should have sealed the deal for you.

Gun Notes

With all the differences between the universes, it’s interesting to note that the tactical team in this episode was carrying the exact same HK MP5 submachine guns equipped with ACOG scopes, tactical lights, and laser sights that the team in our universe used in last week’s episode.  Fauxlivia used some variant of Kalashnikov type rifle to take out the sniper.  Based on the size and shape of the magazine, it was likely chambered in 7.62X51mm /.308 Winchester.

It Didn’t Go Wrong This Time, but…

Isn’t it about time both Fringe teams got together and hammered out a shapeshifter protocol?  You know, with obvious things like never leave a wingman/ team mate, and if a team mate is ever out of sight of another team member, they need to be examined to be sure they weren’t replaced.

Minor Computer Pet Peeve

“If we can hack this mainframe…” Not all big, important , or powerful computers are mainframes.  Mainframe computers are mostly used in large scale business applications, and they aren’t nearly as widely used as they once used to be.

Where is Mentat Astrid’s Mojo?

Shouldn’t Menat Astrid have been able to put together all the pieces and figure out that Colonel Broyles is a shapeshifter by now?

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 16 Season 4 Nothing As it Seems

Posted by Karl Withakay on March 31, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

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

Probably Not, But…

Would anybody else not be surprised if Olivia’s shrink turned out to be a doppelganger?

Note: Agent Must be Restricted Exclusively to Fringe Cases

Olivia’s eroding memories of her life from this timeline seriously compromise her value as an FBI agent.  It’s not particularly unlikely that a defense attorney would discover her memory issues during deposition, and use her unreliable memory to get any testimony given by Olivia thrown out of court.

Plot Convenience Theater #1

Was the whole point of the birthday presents was just to give Peter an excuse to hug Walter, thus symbolically and literally embracing this timeline and its inhabitants as his own?

Quote of the Show


“I like porcupines.  It [sic] shows that God has a sense of humor.”

How Many Supervisors’ Dogs Did Astra Back Over Anyway?

I have previously speculated that Astrid must have done something really bad in the past to be relegated to her current assignment, and this episode just reinforces that opinion.  Astrid has several years of seniority in the Fringe division over newcomer NerdLee, but Nerdlee is given temporary lead of the team instead of Astrid while Olivia is away from the team.

Oh Yeah, by the Way, Maybe I Should Have Mentioned Before That There Might Be Another Monster Out There

Peter remembers the details of the case in his timeline down to the flight number, but doesn’t bother to mention that that Marshal had an also infected partner until they are at the TSA, wasting valuable time in tracking down the 2nd dangerous mutant-hybrid porcupine man.  Did it not seem important to mention that little detail back in the lab?

NerdLee, Prototypical Perfect Fit For Fringe Division

NerdLeee waits for about five seconds after knocking on the door before deciding to break in without a warrant.  How many people answer a knock on their door in less than 5 seconds?  Maybe the person was asleep or in the bathroom or basement.  My rec room is in the basement, and it takes me about 25 seconds to get upstairs and answer the door, and that is assuming that I instantly drop whatever I am doing to go answer the door.

Call Einstein, Somebody Broke the Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy

The guy from the plane turned into a giant porcupine man in the TSA bathroom and apparently grew much physically larger in the process without consuming anything to account for the increased mass.

Onion Rings and Cheesecake?

Fat craving, infected NerdLee craves bacon, onion rings and cheesecake, but not peanut butter.  Peanut butter is pretty high in fat, why is he not interested in peanut butter?  If he only craved animal fat, why the desire for onion rings?  Did he only want onion rings if they were fried in animal fat?

Sure Looks Strange to Me

What’s better than a killer mutant-hybrid giant porcupine man?  A flying killer mutant-hybrid giant porcupine man.  However, for a creature of that size and weight it would probably need much larger wings to generate enough lift to fly.  It wasn’t likely built of the lightweight, hollow bone construction that birds have, so the wings would need to proportionally much larger than bird wings are.

Does Walter Still Own Massive Dynamic in this Timeline?

Because he could be rich if he isn’t already.  His ability to simulate the final product of the porcupine man infection from nothing but a blood sample from NerdLee is nothing shot of miraculous.

But It All Looks Cool

The team that went after the second porcupine man was equipped with HK MP5 submachine guns equipped with Trijicon ACOG 4X scopes (which they were not using), visible laser sights, and tactical lights (which they were also not using).  Although the four power magnification ACOG is an excellent combat scope and can be used in close quarters combat, it is not ideal for such short range situations, and a 1X/no magnification red dot sight is much better suited for such close ranges.  Also, if the team was going in dark like they were, it would make more sense to use invisible infra red laser sights and compatible infra red night vision systems.  I’ll give them a pass on the whole laser beams being visible (like a phaser beam) rather than just seeing the end point since that’s typical Hollywood.  I’ll also give them a pass on using laser sights, since this context, where the darkness and wearing of the bulky night vision systems makes sighting through the weapons’ sights problematic, is one of the few situations where laser sights are actually somewhat useful.

Exclusively for the Search Engines

My Google-fu returns no hits on “sleeping Indian defense”.  Admittedly, I did a simple search and didn’t spend any time on variations of the search terms.

Plot Convenience Theater #2

If you want to go in silently, then use earpieces/headsets for your radios; don’t cut yourself off from team communication.  Also, if you’re really concerned about going in silently, silence your cell phone, or there’s no point in going in silently.  Obviously the whole point in turning the radios off was to make it difficult for Olivia and Astrid to relay a critical piece of information to NerdLee.

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 15 Season 4, A Short Story About Love

Posted by Karl Withakay on March 23, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

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

Down the Rabbit Hole or Not?

Interesting that at the start of the episode where we later learn (or confirm) that this is Peter’s native world, the song White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane was playing in Walter’s lab.

Someone Read an News Article They Didn’t Really Understand

While researchers at MIT have been able to create a one trillion frame per second video that allows them to capture the motion of a light pulse, it is not a device that can be used to slow down existing video from other sources, nor can it see individual light particles as Walter described.  Half of slow motion video is playing back the video at a slower frame rate than it was recorded at, but the other half is that the slow motion/ high speed video is recorded at a much higher frame rate than normal video, in order to capture motion that would not be recordable at the regular frame rate.  It’s not at all difficult to play back video as slowly as you want; the problem is recording the video fast enough in the first place.

Look at it this way, the video from that nanny-cam bear would have been recorded at a standard frame rate, likely no more than 60 frames per second, and so a frame of video would be captured every 1/60th of a second.  If an observer moved rapidly across the picture in less than 1/60th of a second, he either wouldn’t even be in the picture, or would just be a blur across the frame, no matter how slowly you played the video back.

Also, even if Walter had a one trillion frame per second video recording from the bear, if he slowed it down to play back at 60 frames per second, it would take 528 years for Walter to watch just one second of video, and he would need a the same amount of memory in the bear as would be required to store 528 years of video recorded at regular speed.  The video of the light pulse recorded by the MIT researchers represents just a miniscule fraction of a second of real time action.


After Walter removes the message lens (for lack of a better description) form Peter’s eye and analyzing it, the following conversation takes place:


“I suspect that this message, if left alone to run its course, would have fully dissolved, taking its place firmly in your mind’s eye.”


“You think this would have etched itself into my brain?”


“Organic ocular suggestion.  You wouldn’t be aware, but you be irritably compelled to visit.”

On one hand, it seems like the idea behind the message lens was that being overlaid over his eye, it would present the address as a subliminal message.  His conscious mind would not notice the address, but his subconscious mind would see it.  This idea is fairly implausible as the address would be way too close to his eye to be in resolvable focus, but this is science fiction after all, and though it’s pretty outlandish, it’s not that bad of a science fiction element.  But from what Walter says, it sounds like he is saying that the process of the message lens dissolving is what would cause it to be absorbed into Peter’s “mind’s eye”, which might be worse than the time Walter captured the last image seen by a murder victim.

Pull My Finger

I’ll just quote Wikipedia here, “…no pheromonal substance has ever been demonstrated to directly influence human behavior in a peer reviewed study.”  There is as yet, no conclusive support for the existence of human pheromones.

Extra, Extra, Read All About it!

Some of the headlines on the newspapers on the wall in September’s apartment were:





Home Sweet Home

As many of us have suspected, this is indeed Peter’s world, and this is his Olivia.  It remains to be seen how or if it will all be reconciled.  Will Walter forever be without the last four years he and Peter shared together?  Will Olivia loose her memories of her relationship with Nina?  How will the Alterverse come into play for all this?  Will there be a season five?

Not E’l Nina

Blair Brown herself has dubbed the evil Nina “Meana”, so when she appears in future episodes, I will use that moniker to refer to her.

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 14 Season 4, The End of All Things

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 24, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

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

Dumbest Quote of the Show


“You know that’s impossible”

Why would anybody that has seen even a small fraction of the things the Fringe team has dealt with ever say that anything was impossible?

Now We Need a Name for Evil Nina

It seems that this is the Nina from the Alterverse and not a shape shifter, though it’s still possible that it is a shape shifter that has replaced the alternate Nina.  Until someone comes up with something better, I will call her E’l Nina for Evil Nina.

Can You Lend Me a Hand?

Did Jones replace E’l Nina’s hand with a robotic prosthetic just to make her match Nina?  How devoted a follower is E’l Nina?  Are we sure she’s not a shape shifter?

Storage Terminology Nitpick

Peter twice referred to the flash memory card as a disk.  It would be OK to call it a drive, but a flash memory card is not a disk.

Did You Wipe When You Were Done?

There’s a problem or two with Peter’s recovery of older images form the flash drive.  The first is that flash memory is different from magnetic disks.  If you completely over-write a magnetic disk, it is can still be possible to recover the old data because there may be a residual magnetic signature of the old data left behind, much like with a palimpsest as Walter mentioned.  This is why a “government level wipe” requires multiple passes of over-writing every bit of data on the drive, although now even that is considered insufficient and it is recommended to degauss the hard drive, effectively destroying it. (Note:  Some maintain that one pass is sufficient with modern drives.)

However, a flash drive is a bit different, and I don’t know if transistor based flash memory can have residual traces of over-written data like magnetic disks can if you completely wipe and over-write the entire drive even one time.

Even if you could recover residual data from a flash drive like you can with a magnetic drive, Peter stated that the drive recorded in 60 minute loops*, and this is the second problem.  If we assume that 60 minutes was all the flash card had room to hold and not that it had room for hundreds of hours of video, but for some reason was configured to only buffer 60 minutes, then every hour, the entire data set would be over-written.  The drive would receive the equivalent of 24 full pass wipes every day, and it would be essentially impossible to recover any data more than a few hours old.

*  I’m guessing that the purpose of the local storage of the video loop was to buffer the recording in case the connection to wherever the camera was sending its data was temporarily interrupted so that no data would be lost.

Mama Said Knock You Out

Another minor nitpick:  Did you ever notice that nobody ever seems to suffer from post concussion syndrome (other than maybe a headache immediately after regaining consciousness) after being knocked unconscious in the movies or on TV?

Clear As Mud

It seems the show is being deliberately vague and ambiguous as to whether this is or isn’t Peter’s Olivia.  Peter seems to again believe it is not, but September never stated that it was not Peter’s Olivia or that this wasn’t Peter’s native/proper multiverse.

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , , , | 11 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 13 Season 4, A Better Human Being

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 18, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

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

Spur Your Memory

As far as I know, DNA profiling done for criminal investigations doesn’t involve photographically imaging the chromosomes.  If we accept that that the Fringe team does produce images of the chromosomes, then it’s plausible that Walter would remember and recognize the “chromosomal spur” from Shawn’s chromosome images.

A Stand of Truth

Calling a chromosome a “strand of DNA” is roughly analogous to calling a ball of yarn a strand of yarn or a spring a strand of wire.  A chromosome is a piece of coiled DNA that is technically a strand of DNA , but when I hear the term strand used, I usually think of something that is unwound.

I  Spy With My Little Eye…

Apparently Walter can eyeball two DNA profiles at different times and determine from memory that they share a single common parent and only a single common parent.  You certainly couldn’t tell that from images of the chromosomes, even if you over-layed the two images.

Far More Likely Than Winning The Lottery, but Still…

Before the learning of the Doctor’s genetic involvement, Walter should have been very suspicious of 4 different half siblings sharing a common, rare chromosome.  If it is rare, we can assume the common parent carried only one copy of the rare chromosome, and had a 50% chance of passing that chromosome to any individual offspring.  The odds that 4 children of that parent would all inherit the rare version of the chromosome is 1 in 16 or 6.25%.

You Keep Using that Word.  I Do Not Think it Means What You think it Does.

“There are many cases of siblings communicating non–verbally, typically identical twins, but not always.”

Yes, deaf siblings do it quite often.  It’s called sign language.  Most siblings, even the ones who can hear and speak will frequently use non verbal communication, such as facial expressions, hand/arm gestures, groaning, sighing, poking, shoving, etc.  Depending on how you define verbal communication, writing, emailing, texting, Facebooking, and Tweeting could all be considered non verbal communication as well.

However, if Walter is talking about telepathic communication, The James Randi Education Foundation will pay one million dollars to anyone who can demonstrate such an ability under controlled testing conditions using a mutually agreed upon protocol.  The paranormal challenge has been in place since 1964, and has been worth $1,000,000 since 1996.  To date, nobody has ever gotten past the preliminary test.


I’m not sure what the point of looking at Olivia’s hair sample under a microscope was.  Can you see evidence of cortexiphan in a hair sample under a microscope?

Cool Science

“Many forms of non-verbal communication exist in nature.  Eels use electrical pulses.  Whales use echolocation, elephants use seismic vibrations.”

Electric eels (which I learned while writing this are not eels, but knife fish) produce two different types of electric discharges.  One is high voltage used for hunting and defense, and the other is a low voltage discharge thought to be used for both location and communication.

However, I think Walter is confusing whale sounds (which includes echolocation) with echolocation used by toothed whales, dolphins, and porpoises.   As far as I can tell, echolocation is not used for communication.

While elephants do use the soft underside of their feet to detect low frequency sound, I’m not sure that these sounds could reasonably be called seismic vibrations, as seismic means relating to or caused by earthquakes.  The next time an earthquake happens, be sure to shush the elephants.

Actually, if you think about it, non-verbal communication is really the norm in nature, as only humans use verbal communication, whereas all other forms of communication used in nature by other life forms and humans are non-verbal.  In fact, up until a few million years ago, all communication used on Earth was non-verbal.

Are We So Sure the Drugs Were Bad?

Yes, he didn’t have schizophrenia, but maybe the drugs did help Shawn maintain his identity and protect him from succumbing to the collective identity.

Typically, but Not Always

Recombinant DNA is usually made of DNA from two or more different species, but it doesn’t have to be.

Where Did You Go to Evil Medical School/ Did you Go to the Same School as Walter?

“I promised them successful pregnancies and healthy babies, and that’s what I gave them.”

The good doctor doesn’t seem to understand what was fundamentally wrong with what he did.  What he did was illegal and unethical for numerous reasons.  First and foremost from an ethical viewpoint, he violated informed consent, which is one of the most fundamental concepts in medicine.  In medicine, a patient must be properly informed of the nature and risks of what is being done to them so that they make an informed decision of whether to consent to the treatment or not.  You’re especially not allowed to experiment on people without their knowledge.  Oh yeah, and there’s all those laws he broke as well.


Dr. Owen Frank:

“I attempted to re-introduce abilities that we humans have long since evolved away from, the hard wired instincts that we share with other animal species.”


“And that would include telepathy?”

Frank nods and grunts in acknowledgement

A few points here.

First, species don’t generally evolve away from traits that confer a survival benefit.  If humans had evolved away from a trait, it would have likely been because that trait was no longer beneficial.

Second, why would you want to re-introduce hard wired instincts?  Surely one of the advantages of being human is to be able to think rationally (though you might not know it during an election year) and not just react instinctively.

Third, is either Olivia or the doctor saying that

A.) Humans once had telepathic abilities,


B.) we shared those abilities with other animal species?


Considering the doctor has no regard for ethics or the law, I guess I can’t really harp on him for sharing confidential medical records with the Fringe team without either a warrant or signed consent of the former patients.

Is it Live, or is it Memorex?

So, was Nina pretending to be held prisoner with Olivia, or is the Nina running Massive Dynamic a shape shifter?

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

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.

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Science, Television | Tagged: , , , | 19 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 11 Season 4, Making Angels

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 3, 2012

A Gold/Yellow Episode

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

Peter Being Selfish Again

I suppose it’s never occurred to Peter how it might affect Walter if and when Peter manages to get back to his time line.  I’m not even saying that it should be motivation for not trying to get back, just that at lest Peter might try to empathize a little and try to understand why Walter is being so short with him.

Mentat Astrid is Now Rain Man Astrid

I agree with Polite Scott that the other Astrid has gone changed from a mentat into basically someone with a form of autism spectrum disorder.  As much as I want to find her new found sensitivity and vulnerability endearing, I prefer Mantat Mentat Astrid.

Never Send the Fringe Team to the Congo

Once again, we have a mysterious, unexplained death due to an unknown cause where the body manifests strange signs such as bleeding from the eyes (a common symptom of hemorrhagic fevers, like Ebola), and there is no biological containment set up, no safety procedures, and no protective gear of any kind beyond gloves used.  Sooner or later, these guys are going to get themselves and a lot of other people killed.

Tears of Ra?

My research on Google and Wikipedia revealed nothing about any poison/ potion called the Tears of Ra used to euthanize pets.  All references to the Tears of Ra I found were in regards to bees being born from the tears of Ra or some variation of that.  (I did find one reference stating that humans were supposed to evolved from the tears or Ra, but no references to any potion or poison.)

Quote of the Show


“So you’re saying it’s magic?”


“It’s science, just unusual science.”

Mentat/Rain Man Astrid Makes a Mistake


“He’s not my son.”

Mentat/ Rain Man Astrid:

“As I understand it, in another timeline, he is.”

Actually, in another time line, he is Walternate’s son, not Walter’s.  In that time line, Walter did raise him though.

Choose to Believe?

Mentat/Rain Man Astrid:

“In that case, wouldn’t it be preferable if you chose to believe he was your son, and then you could love him and be happy?”

You may think I am being pedantic, but I would have phrased it “…if you tried to think of him as your son” and not used the word chose.  I don’t how easy it is for someone to actually choose to believe something rather than choose to act as if they believe something or come to believe something.  I can act as if I believe 2+2=5, I can come to a conclusion that 2+2=5 if I find compelling evidence that it is so, but I can’t just choose to believe 2+2 is 5 no matter how much I might want to.

Fringe Team, Trusted with the Safety of Two Universes #1

That attempt to arrest Neil on the job was one of the worst thought out operations the Fringe team has carried out so far.  I guess it never occurred to the Fringe team to arrange ahead of time for TSA clearance to get access to the security area or alert the TSA that Neil was a terror suspect suspected of using chemical weapons and have them detain him.  Even so, it also apparently never occurred to Olivia to shout out “Neil’s a terror suspect, arrest him!” when TSA wouldn’t let her through.

Slightly Absurd Product Placement

The Nissan Leaf is all electric, with no gasoline motor like hybrid vehicles.  It seems unlikely that the FBI would issue vehicles with a range of about 73 miles between charges for regular use.  It sure was convenient that the place where Neil used to work (MIT) happens to have a rapid recharge station, and they appear to let you use it for free.

No Search Warrant, No Problem

No further comment.

Fringe Team, Trusted with the Safety of Two Universes #2

Did it never occur to anyone to search Neil’s house for the Tears of Ra (or more of it if he had his atomizer on him) or the thing he said he had found that let him see the future?  Eh, there’s probably nothing interesting in that safe, just head back to the office.  They must have studied the Storm Trooper method of searching:  “Door’s locked, move on to the next one.”

Did Neil See All Possible Futures?

OK, the cancer thing I can sort of get; it was fatal, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.  (If only there was some way to get a cure for cancer from the future like you can get the formula for a poison).  But the guy’s car accident was preventable.  Why not prevent his suffering by preventing the accident rather than killing him before it happens?  Frankly, just the delay due to the conversation in the garage might have thrown of the timing enough to prevent the accident.

Posted in Fringe, Gold/Yellow Episode, Product Placement, Quotes, Television | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: