Cordial Deconstruction

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

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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 11, Season 3, Reciprocity

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 29, 2011

A Blue Episode

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

Fauxlivia Official at All Levels

It’s nice that we now have confirmation that the name Fauxlivia is official on all levels in our universe now.  Sorry Bolivia fans.

Check the Horizontal Hold

Those were LCD flat panels in the hanger, not CRTs, so they should not have been affected and distorted by the magnetic field the way they were in the show.  The picture on a CRT will be affected by a magnet because the electron beam(s) are directed by magnetic deflection.  LCD flat panel displays are not distorted by magnets like that.

Strange Magnetism

So the device created a magnetic field strong enough to pull an office chair across the floor, but not strong enough to collapse the steel scaffolding which was closer?  The ceiling fans right above the device weren’t ripped form their mounting either.  I believe the force generated by magnetic attraction falls off relative the inverse square of distance such that the force exerted on the scaffolding and fans should have been much stronger than the force on the chair.

Was that a Psychic Nosebleed?

We’ll see what Scott has to say.

Mystery Force

Dr. Falcon says to Walter,

“Every human being has a unique electromagnetic signature.  We’re testing to see if it was indeed your son’s that triggered the machine.”

Walter responds,

“I have a graduate degree form MIT as well.  I don’t need a test to know how unlikely it is that this has anything to do with electromagnetics.”

Well, as unlikely as it may seem to Walter, I would still think it is more likely than any other explanation.  There are only four fundamental forces through which things can interact.  The strong and weak nuclear forces operate only over very short, sub-atomic distances, and gravity is very weak.  (Consider that you have the entire mass of the Earth pulling on you, but you are still able to lift your feet off the ground to walk.)  The only interaction left if electromagnetic.  It’s far more likely the interaction is electromagnetic than some unknown mystery force such as dark energy.

MRI, CAT Scan, Tricorder, or What?

What was that scanner-machine Dr. Falcon put peter through supposed to be anyway?  Walter says to Peter,

“Peter, do you have any idea how much radiation you’re about to be exposed to?”

I thought they were trying to determine Peter’s unique electromagnetic signature, but Walter is implying Peter is about to be exposed to dangerous levels of ionizing radiation.  Why would it require dangerous levels of radiation to measure Peter’s electromagnetic signature (if it exists)?  They way Walter describes it, it sounds like that’s a CAT scan machine, though why they need X-Ray imaging to determine Peter’s EM signature is beyond me.

Walter’s Marbles

It’s going to take more than just replacing lost brain cells/tissue for Walter to get this wits back.  Growing new brain cells won’t re-grow the pathways or regenerate the missing knowledge.  By analogy the data and the formatting of Walter’s hard drive is missing as well as part of the platter.  Just replacing the missing part of the disk won’t replace the formatting, and it won’t restore the lost data.

Did Astrid Run Over the FBI Director’s Dog?

If Astrid has these ninja like data analysis skills, why is she assigned to the Fringe division and cleaning fish tanks in Walter’s lab?

Computer Clichés

Mainframe computers aren’t particularly common these days.  The term is used whenever a writer wants to describe a really powerful computer, and they don’t think it’s impressive enough to just call it a server.  If they want to impress us, it would make more sense to call it a supercomputer rather than a mainframe.

The Death Star Plans are not in the Main Computer


“Shut down the mainframe; shut it down now, and from on, no one accesses that file except you.”

I’ve already covered the mainframe issue, but is all of Fauxlivia’s data really contained in a single flat file rather than in a database or series of files and databases?  Also, if the system has been compromised, shutting the system down isn’t a bad idea, but there’s a good chance it’s too late and all the data has been copied already.

Infiltrated, Hacked, or Both?


“Suppose Walternate knew we were close to identifying the list of shapeshifters on that drive.”


“How would he know that?”


“Because someone on our side may have told him.”


“We got a mole.”

It’s a little surprising that Broyles and Olivia assumed that they had a mole.  (Or maybe it’s not so surprising, considering how inept the Fringe team often is.)  While that is a likely possibility, the other possibility is that their computer systems have been hacked by someone who comes from a universe where the Motorola Razor cell phone was developed in 1985.  That person might consider cracking our most sophisticated computer security child’s play.  It seems like an equal probability to me.

Electromagnetic Blood Analysis?

Dr. Falcon,

“…but your lab work, the EEG readings, it all looks pretty standard.  Nothing to indicate you and the machine share an electromagnetic signature.”

What does lab work have to do with looking for an electrometric signature?

It Must Work, William Bell Designed It!


“Lie detectors are unreliable.”


“He’s right; people beat them all the time.”


“Not this one.  William Bell designed it.  It measures the slightest shift in the facial muscles, which allows us a link to stress and a particular emotion.

His facial muscles tell us his stress is not connected to guilt or shame.”

Bull on numerous levels.  Bull that it’s possible to 100% reliably determine the underlying emotions behind facial expressions.  Even if it were, you better hope your suspect is not a sociopath who doesn’t feel guilt or shame for his or her actions.  Even if they’re not a sociopath (or just someone who doesn’t feel guilty or shamed by their actions), you better hope they haven’t had cosmetic surgery (or injury) to alter their facial muscles and structure to throw off your lie detector.  Lastly, these aren’t human beings here.  They’re SHAPESHIFTERS.  There’s no reason to assume they have normal emotional responses or that they’re not able to completely control their facial expressions due to any emotions they do have.  They can shift their shape, after all.

Or You Can Choose Door Number Three

Why didn’t Nina wait until after they had done the DNA analysis on the three different serums before telling Walter about them?

Basic Data Analysis

The first thing they should have done with the list of names from Fauxlivia’s data file is run a cross index again the FBI & Massive Dynamic personnel lists and red flagged any matches, but this is the Fringe team we’re talking about here.

No Comment

On Walter’s expression of chimp behavior just because he might have a few chimp cells developing in his brain.

Walter’s a PhD, Not an MD, Right?

Walter speaking about the chimp DNA in his brain,

“My immune system will recognize it as foreign and reject it.”

I’m not a doctor, but I believe it’s generally considered a bad thing when immune cells cross the blood brain barrier.  I could be wrong, but it’s my understanding that under normal circumstances, immune cells don’t cross the BBB, which is why infections of the brain are very serious, if rare.  It remains to be seen (or at least to be confirmed by someone with more medical knowledge than me) if Walter’s immune system will rid him of that chimp DNA that’s supposedly in his brain

Why No Mention Of Olivia?

The files in Peter’s room, which were presumably Fauxlivia’s files, listed the members of the Fringe team, but Olivia’s name was not listed.

Too Simple?

Did the computers fail to crack Faulivia’s simple letter substitution code because they ruled out something that was so elementary that an eight year old reader of Encyclopedia Brown stories could crack it?

You Might Want to Consider Some Chelation, Peter

Peter’s probably got some significant mercury poisoning going on.  He was covered in mercury from killing that guy.  He probably got a lot more exposure from the other killings.

Paleontology Class

Brandon Fayette to Nina,

“The planet has been spinning for five billion years.  We’ve only been around for the past 250,000.  There were six major extinction events before we even crawled out of the slime.  So who’s to say one of them didn’t wipe out a great civilization?”

First of all, everything I can find says there were only five major extinction events, not six.  Second only the first two can be considered to have occurred before our ancestors “crawled out of the slime”.  Lastly, we have fossil records of those mass extinctions, but no archeological evidence of any civilizations.  It seems unlikely any disaster would wipe out any traces of a civilization, but leave the fossil record intact, so an undeteced, previous civilization is implausible.  Also, the Earth is only about 4.5 billion years old.

Good Idea, By the Way

I’m still not sure why it makes sense to assemble the weapon intended to destroy our universe.  It seems like we’re playing right into our adversary’s plans.

Fringe Compensated for Last Week’s Show

While I enjoyed last week’s show, I didn’t find a lot to blog about.  They made up for it in spades this week.  Eleven pages of notes and 3-1/2 pages (as Word flies) of blog material.

Posted in Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Television | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 6, Season 3, 6955 kHz

Posted by Karl Withakay on November 11, 2010

A Blue Episode

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

Science Fiction is Often Cooler When Derived From Reality

Number stations are a real phenomenon that I’d heard of before this episode, but I don’t remember where from; maybe I don’t remember because I listened to one.  The stations are pretty much exactly as portrayed in the episode, minus the multiplexed memory wiping signal, and they are reported to have been around since WWI.  They broadcast a series of numbers, words, or letters in a artificially generated voice, tunes or Morse code.  It is generally believed that the transmissions are used to send messages to spies.  It’s a fascinating subject, and is also an excellent basis for a Fringe episode.

Magic Maglev

Broyles describing the floating mystery box:

“It’s not floating, exactly.  Apparently it’s got some sort of magnetics inside.”

OK, but unless the rack also had “magnetics inside”, that doesn’t explain how the box was able to float

Maybe He’s Thinking of Using an iPad?

I don’t know where Peter gets “It’s impossible to do microelectronics with gloves on.” from.  I found links for selling gloves “ideal for use in microelectronics”, links about latex glove allergies in microelectronics applications,  links selling gloveboxes for microelectronics, and a nifty picture of someone wearing gloves while handling a silicon wafer of integrated circuits, and that only took me a few seconds to find.

Analog Demodulation

Considering that Walter didn’t know what about the signal was responsible for the amnesia, he shouldn’t have been so sure that his wa-wa peddle would alter the signal enough to make it safe to listen to.  I would have patched it directly into a computer (without any speaker output), run the audio through a speech to text application to get the numbers, and used an audio program to analyze the waveform to see if there was a multiplexed signal.

Physical Abnormality Almost Always = Evil (In Pop Entertainment)

As soon as I saw the different color eyes, I thought, “There’s no way this guy isn’t evil.”  At Least he didn’t have a humpback.  The real question is, since he turned out to be a shape shifter, did the original person he copied have different colored eyes, and was he therefore also evil?

Bad Planning or Bad Transistor?

So did he not check the device until he got on site, or did the transistor go bad while he was setting the device up?  Rather than having a spare of every individual transistor and integrated circuit that might go bad to do a field repair with, wouldn’t it have made more sense to carry a spare finished, complete board or better yet, a spare device?  By the way, why didn’t he get the spare transistor from the same place he got all the other apparently untraceable parts?  He didn’t buy the transistor after he discovered the bad one; he already had it with him.  Are the writers trying to get me to believe that the only traceable part in either of the two devices was the one replacement transistor?

Wait A Minute…

Uh, how did the bad guy know what frequency the pilot would tune to when trying to re-establish contact with the tower?  (Why was the pilot communicating with the tower over the amateur frequency of 4029kHz before switching to 6880kHz, which is just past the amateur, aeronautical mobile range when neither frequency is used for air traffic control?)

Quotes of the Show: Amusing Dialog

Walter while unpacking another of the devices he can’t figure out:

“Fantastic, now I have bookends.”

Walter to Nina:

“Nina, if I’d have known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake.”

Astrid to Nina:

“He means that…literally.”

For the search Engines

The complete number sequence from the 3rd ring of the calendar was as follows:

8, 21, 16, 7, 11, 8, 10, 13, 12, 34, 17, 9, 15, 8, 42, 40, 27, 11, 9, 21, 18, 12

The 2nd ring had the following text:

Light Meets Dark, Period of Darkness, Dark Meets Light, Period of Light

The Inner ring was numbered 1 through 6, and the outer ring was marked 10- 360 degrees by 10’s.

Walter Is Not an Evolutionary Biologist, and it Shows.

Walter in response to Astrid considering the concept of ancient people who evolved before the dinosaurs absurd:

“Why should we be so arrogant as to assume we’re the first Homo Sapiens who walked the Earth?

Hey, if Walter wants to postulate that we are not the first intelligent species to walk the Earth, fine.  If he wants to postulate that we may not be the first bipedal intelligent species to evolve, fine.  But for Walter to suggest that the species Home Sapiens could have evolved before the first true mammals existed and then later evolved again into the same species displays a total lack of understanding of evolution, common descent, genetics, and the concept of a species.

Neither Verified Nor a Theory

Walter really shouldn’t think that a random work of fiction “verfiies” any of the speculations or conjectures that he liberally calls “theories”.  It correlates with his ideas, and may even support them, but it certainly doesn’t verify anything.

Walter Is Also Not An Astrophysicist or Cosmologist

“The Big Bang and its counterpart, the Big Crunch.  The universe expanding and contracting and expanding.  And endless cycle of creation and destruction.”

This one’s a little more of a nit pick, but Walter’s a little out of date on the Big Crunch.  The expansion of the universe is in fact accelerating and not slowing down, and therefore unlikely to end in a big crunch.

Is Peter an Expert on Eastern European Military Grade Electronics?

What makes a transistor military grade, anyway?  Why would they need to be licensed?  We’re not talking about integrated circuits here.  It’s a simple transistor.  Maybe it’s manufactured to very precise standards, and is very reliable (but not so reliable one didn’t go bad), but what could require it to be licensed?  I suppose it might have been radiation hardened, and maybe the government wants to know who’s using hardened components.  That might make sense since such components might be used in a nuclear weapon.  I still want to know how Peter is such an expert on military grade Polish components.

Tom Cruise’s War of The Worlds Plausibility Problem Resurfaces

How deep are these weapon components buried (seemingly buried for many years) such that nobody has ever accidentally dug one up before, and yet they can be unearthed with conventional construction equipment in an evening?

Posted in Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Space, Television | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

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