Cordial Deconstruction

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

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Posts Tagged ‘science’

My Guest Spot On The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Podcast

Posted by Karl Withakay on March 31, 2013

Just  a quick note today, I was a Guest Rogue on this week’s episode of the podcast, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.  SGU Podcast 402 – March 30, 2013

You can listen to the podcast by following the link or via iTunes.

It was a great experience, and I think I did acceptably well enough.  I’d certainly love to do it again sometime, but since I won the spot in an auction at the SGU dinner during The Amazing Meeting 2012, I probably won’t have another opportunity.  However, if the SGU team ever needs anyone to fill in on short notice in the future and they can’t find any heavy hitters to be on, this is a standing offer to be available for a guest spot in the future.

(If you’ve never heard of SGU, here’s some basic info on Wikipedia.


Posted in Critical Thinking, Science, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Wormholes, Portals, and Time-Space Travel

Posted by Karl Withakay on February 1, 2013

I’d like to discuss what seems to me to be a fundamental problem with various forms of wormhole/ portal based travel in either space or time as represented in various forms of science fiction.   It occurred to me some time ago, and in fact I started writing this post back in November 2012.  I was reminded of it today while reflecting a little on the last five seasons of Fringe, which led to me thinking about The Observers and the way they can travel through time.

Science fiction frequently treats the Earth as if it was fixed in space relative to all other points and objects in space when we know this is not the case.  Consider, if you will, Back to the Future when the DeLorean hits 88 mph and jumps through time to arrive in the exact same place on Earth, but at a different time.

The Earth rotates on its axis at a speed of about 465 m/s.  In other words, if the Earth was otherwise fixed in space, after standing in place on the surface of the Earth for one second, you’d be about 465 meters from the point in space where you were the previous second.*

However, the Earth is not otherwise fixed in space.  While it rotates about its axis, the Earth orbits the sun at roughly 30 km/s.  So after that one second, you’d be about 30 km from your previous point in space regardless of whether the Earth was rotating on its axis or not.

But wait, there’s more.  The sun and the entire solar system orbit the center of the Milky Way galaxy at around 220 km/s.  This means that after one second, you would have traveled 220 km from the point in space you were at just one second prior, give or take 30 km depending on where the Earth was in its solar orbit and what direction it was traveling relative to the motion of the Solar System.

As the sun orbits the center of the Milky Way, the Milky Way is also not fixed in space.  Our galaxy moves in and with an expanding universe, and is influenced in that motion by various factors, such as the gravitational pulls of the Great Attractor and the Shapley Supercluster.  The Sun and Solar System move with a resultant velocity of about 370 km/s relative to the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.

So by jumping just one second forwards or backwards in time and arriving in the exact same location in space, you would be several hundred kilometers from the surface of the Earth in space because the Earth, the Solar System, and The Milky Way are all in constant motion in a celestial ballet.

This problem would apply to most wormholes and portals in space (technically space-time) as well unless such portals were gravitationally bound to the locations of the endpoints so that they traveled through space with the planets/ locations of the entry points.  The Stargate franchise gets around this problem nicely by making the wormholes connections generated between two gates rather than two regions of the fabric of space-time itself.

Back to the Delorean- after jumping through time to arrive in the same location in space, it would be stranded in the (near) vacuum of space and the drive doomed to death.  (There’s no way to drive back.)

Interestingly, this brings up another interesting conundrum:  What’s so significant about traveling at 88 mph (or any speed) relative to the surface of the Earth in the first place, and should it matter what direction you are driving relative to the motion(s) of the Earth?  Velocity is relative to some reference frame and not absolute.  The Delorean might be traveling at 88 mph relative to a bystander standing on the ground, but it would be traveling less than that relative to a tailwind and more than that relative to oncoming traffic, to say nothing about its velocity relative to something like the Moon or the Voyager 1 probe.  That DeLorean in free space would be traveling at least 88 mph relative to something; what would or wouldn’t cause it to time travel?  In fact, since there would be no air resistance or friction with the ground, it would likely still be traveling at 88 mph relative to the Earth** as its momentum carried on in space.

I don’t really have a good conclusion or summary here other than to say that traveling in time without also traveling in space may not be such a good idea.  Sorry, Doc.

* Note that the net distance from the previous point will be less that the arc distance traveled, but the difference over the time interval used would be minimal.  I’m also ignoring the motion of the Earth as a result of the Earth-Moon gravitational interactions as they co-orbit each other and other similar factors.

** I suppose things gets even trickier here.  No longer being on the surface of the Earth, the Delorean would no longer be rotating with the Earth’s surface as it revolves about its axis, but would continue on a tangent from where the Earth was before the DeLorean hit 88 mph and jumped through time.  This would be further complicated the change in gravitational forces exerted on the Delorean by the various actors due to their changed locations relative to the Delorean, which will be greater the further it has jumped in time.  There are also other complicating factors involved here, but I think I’ve made my point.

Posted in Fringe, Sci-Fi, Science, Space, Television, time | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 13 Season 5 An Enemy of Fate

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 21, 2013

A Dreary Blue Episode

There won’t be a plot synopsis of this episode over at Polite Dissent this week.

Discredited Fringe Science


“Blast this thing.  What I wouldn’t give for a good, old fashioned, tumor inducing cell phone.”

Science is often subtle nuanced, and it’s always difficult to completely rule anything out, but the best scientific research shows that there are no detectable health risks from low energy, non-ionizing radiation emitted from cell phones, especially not cancer.

Even Broyles is Smarter Than That, Right?

The minute Broyles got the information on the location of the high value prisoner, he should have considered himself compromised, as it should have been obvious to him that it would be easily traced back to him once they took action based on that information.  After that meeting with Windmark, he should have been doubly concerned that he had been found out.  Boyles was relying too much on his ability to block being read.

It’s Always About Getting Your Superiors to Understand the Importance of Your Project

Maybe it really was a lack of allocation of resources due to not considering the threat to be all that serious.  Windmark now seems to have plenty of resources for observation and tracking of targets.

Use the Best Quality For the One Tape Not Vital to the Plan

The video tape that Walter left for Peter was in better condition than any of the other ambered tapes.  There were no skips, unreadable segments, tracking problems, or garbled audio like all the other tapes had.

Questioning Observer Observation Again

They mentioned monitoring all the remaining members of the 12 Observer scientific expedition team, but they didn’t bother to keep September under observation?

Windmark Explained!

Windmark’s emotional behavior is now explained by the influence of being in the past.

Some Nit-Picking About Lock Picking

What kind of electronic lock is vulnerable to hot wiring like the one Peter cracked in this episode?

Oh, We Got Weapons…

It was nice to see the Fringe team use four years of Fringe experience in their attack against The Observers and Loyalists.

Be Internally Consistent*

How was Walter able to escort the boy into the future if September took the inoculation that he needed to make the trip?

* See the comments section where I am corrected on this.

Continuity Questions

If The Observers have taken over 2136, presumably 2167 in that time line’s future will be a time already taken over by Observers with few, if any, remaining humans, and there will be no breakthrough leading to the creation of the Observers as a new continuity had already been established.  In order to prevent The Observers from being created, wouldn’t you have to go back to a point before The Observers’ takeover to send the boy forward into 2167?

How will the reset affect the alterverse?  Will Fauxlivia and NerdLee remember Olivia’s last visit?

It would seem that no doors have been completely closed to some day returning to the Fringe universe(s).  I doubt it will happen to a show that had a level of popularity appropriate to its title, but John Noble is only 64; he could still be around in 5 or 10 years.

My Alternate Ending

In my alternate ending, when September is shot, Windmark goes to grab the boy to capture him, and when he does, the boy touches Windmark’s face.  The boy reveals the full depth of what he is to Windmark, and allows Windmark to experience and understand the full range of the human experience beyond just the hate he has been feeling.  (This would be perhaps visualized with various video and audio clips: a white tulip, Niagara Falls, Peter and Olivia kissing while Etta plays, MLK’s I have a dream speech, the Ode to Joe, etc.)  Upon experiencing this revelation, (maybe a small tear forming at the corner of one of Windmark’s eyes would be too corny here…) Windmark picks up the boy and runs through the portal/ wormhole.  The show then proceeds as it did, except Walter is seen playing with Etta as Peter and Olivia tell them it’s time to go home.

Closing Comments

I’m not prepared to make a comprehensive, qualitative assessment of the show’s ending at this time.  I think it usually takes time to think about and reflect on the ending of a show you’ve been watching for five years.  I am prepared to say that this last season was a bit of a disappointment for several reasons.

Season five was really a different show; a spin off from Fringe with the same characters if you will.  The show used to be about Fringe events, dealing with them individually, and figuring out The Pattern underlying all of them.  Season five was a post apocalyptic resistance show with the Fringe characters, and at times it was clear the writers weren’t used to writing such a show.  They frequently had highly wanted criminals walking around in public with impunity, with those in power not using technology and techniques widely available in the 20th century to combat the resistance.

Furthermore, it seems fairly obvious that the nature and purpose of The Observers in season five was a retroactive continuity different from whatever they were originally intended to be.   * 2/1/13 See the the comments section where this is at least partially refuted.  The retcon of Anomaly XB-6783646 being the boy that was important rather than Peter is an even more very disappointing retcon that is easily contradicted from numerous other episodes of the show.

I’m glad we got a fifth season, but while I enjoyed pointing out the plot flaws, I much preferred separating the wheat from the chaff in regards to the science presented in the show, and there just wasn’t as much of that in season five due to the different format.

I’m not sure what will become of this blog going forward.  I hope I don’t loose interest in or devotion to continuing with it as many even longtime bloggers before me eventually have.  I don’t want to make any promises, and I’m going to be pretty busy with other things until at least mid March (2013), but I have a few ideas.  The show Revolution seems to provide enough material to fill out a blog post each week, and I may just start covering that show going forward.  I hope you will occasionally check in to see if I have anything new to say that you might find interesting.  Thanks for coming and thanks to all those who have commented.  Until next time…

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Television | Tagged: , | 17 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 12 Season 5 Liberty

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 21, 2013

A Dreary Blue Episode

There won’t be a plot synopsis of this episode over at Polite Dissent this week.

Underdogs or Top Cats?

The resistance has a comprehensive surveillance system that can track a convoy, and they even have satellites!

Prime Suspect

Broyles is known to have worked very closely with Peter, Olivia, Walter, and Nina in the past.  Shouldn’t he be at the top of the suspect list for the potential identity of “The Dove”?  Why would you even put any other names on the list until he was definitively ruled out?

Minor Trivia About Cortexiphan

Cortexiphan has a shelf life of 127 years, which is very long for a drug.  Maybe it’s like fine wine and it actually gets better with age.

The lot of Cortexiphan used by Walter was made on 3-06-11.

It’s too bad Scott’s not still watching; I’d love to heart what he says about the volume of fluid (cortexiphan) that was injected into Olivia’s brain stem.  I suspect that injecting that large a volume of fluid into the brain stem would be very problematic regardless of what kind of fluid it was.

Potential side Effects of cortexiphan withdrawal include hallucinations, disorientation, and lapses in time. (I am guessing “lapses in time” means actually jumping around through time rather than experiencing blackouts.

Cortexiphan is “burned up” by jumping between universes.

Quote of the Show


“There is no greater danger than that which is unknown.”

Questions About the Alterverse

If they can travel to the Alterverse as easily as they can travel within our universe, why have The Observers generally left the Alterverse alone?  (We know that an Observer observing Walternate in the Alterverse made Walternate not notice discovering the cure for Peter’s malady.)

Does the Alterverse have Observers of its own, or are they observed by Observers from our universe?

Does the Alterverse have a different destiny in which The Observers never develop?

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Quotes, Science, Television | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 11 Season 5 The Boy Must Live

Posted by Karl Withakay on January 11, 2013

A Dreary Blue Episode

There won’t be a plot synopsis of this episode over at Polite Dissent this week.  The odds of there ever being one for this episode are asymptotically approaching the odds of winning the lottery, getting hit by lightning, or being bitten by a shark.

Are Those Hebrew Instruments?

Did anybody else notice that the readouts on the heart rate and other vitals on the setup monitoring Walter were going from right to left instead of left to right?

Can you Hear Me Now?

Technically, talking to someone in a sensory deprivation tank kind of defeats the whole sensory deprivation thing since you’re not depriving them of the sensation of hearing.

Person of Interest

Seeing as September was known to have previously sympathized with Walter and the Fringe team and was banished for it, you would think they might keep an eye on him with Walter at learge.

Possible Justification For Lax Effort of Observers and Loyalists?

Windmark’s superior told him that the anomaly and the Fringe team were inconsequential and that The Observers chose this time (2036) because it presented a 99.9999% probability of success.  Perhaps this is the explanation for not monitoring wireless communications, having no satellite or airborne surveillance, and all the other things I have been complaining about regarding their inept handling of the Fringe team being at large.  Windmark’s superior considers the odds of failure so remote that he is not approving sufficient resources for Windmark to properly run the occupation.

For the Search Engines

Feb 20, 2167 in Oslo Norway is the day of a discovery that eventually leads to the creation of The Observers.  A researcher discovered how to improve cognitive function by rewiring the part of the brain responsible for jealousy, sacrificing emotion for improved intelligence.

Retcon Point One

It is implied in this episode that the reason the Observers were observing the various points in Earth’s history was to determine the point in time in which their plan was most likely to succeed.  I actually think this was nicely done.

The Vulcans Would Be Jealous If They Expressed Emotions

Donald/September tells the Fringe team that emotions like passion and love were considered messy distractions and were machined out of the human race.  Without romantic love, other technologies for reproduction had to be developed.  I’m guessing the Vulcans would prefer the Observers’ method of reproduction to the embarrassment of having to endure Pon Farr.

Excelsior !

Donald/September’s son isn’t really a hybrid.  Hybrids are the result of sexual reproduction between different species, subspecies, or populations/ breeds/ cultivars.  His son is either mutant, if the changes are genetic and can be passed on to his progeny, or he is the result of a congenital abnormality, if the change is developmental and not genetic.  Technically, The Observers might consider him a regressive mutant, having recovered or re-developed features they previously intentionally eliminated form their species.

Setting Up the Grandfather Paradox

If they send The Boy forward in time to Feb 20, 2167 to prevent the eventual creation of the Observers, thus eliminating the invasion of the present, then the future will change, The Boy won’t be sent back in time, and can’t be sent forward in time to prevent The Observers from developing, thus ensuring The Observers will develop.

Tag, You’re It

If The Observers have the ability to tag someone so that they can track them, shouldn’t the first thing they do when taking someone prisoner (like they did Walter in a previous episode) be to tag them?

Booby Traps by ACME

Always make sure to put blinking lights on your booby traps to be fair to your enemy and give them a chance to survive.


Wait a minute, they have traffic cameras and only now have started checking them to see if they can find any sign of the resistance?

Retcon Point Two

Walter now realizes that September was speaking (totally out of context*) about his own son and not Peter when he told Walter, “The boy is important, he must live.”  Sorry, but I don’t buy it; this is clearly (in my opinion) a retcon.  There are at least one or two other times where Peter is specifically mentioned by Observers as being special.

* That could be forgiven as anyone who is in the habit of not experiencing time lineally could be forgiven for mentioning things out of context.

Quote of the Show


“Is that it?”


“You say that as if we’re not carrying technology that can bend space and time into a Möbius strip.”

Olivia Dunham: Super Genius

Olivia mentions that a woman and her son shouldn’t draw too much attention when trying to slip past the blockade and check points.  Sure Olivia, unless they’re looking for a young boy, in which case that’s exactly what would draw the most attention.

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Quotes, Science, Television | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 10 Season 5 Anomaly XB-6783646

Posted by Karl Withakay on December 21, 2012

A Dreary Blue Episode

Though I can guarantee that there won’t be a plot synopsis of this episode over at Polite Dissent this week, there is still a remote chance of Scott eventually getting caught up on Fringe and posting.  The odds are definitely better than the odds of winning the lottery, getting hit by lightning, or being bitten by a shark.

Revisiting the Road Not Taken

The Observers’ LQ7 unit for extracting audio from the glass in Nina’s office was very reminiscent of Peter’s electron microscope/Geiger counter/mp3 player used to extract audio from a partially melted window in Episode 19 of Season 1, The Road Not Taken.  (You can read my notes on that in the comments section of Scott’s post on that episode)  It’s really no more plausible now than it was is season one.  At least in The Road Not Taken, the window was partially melted to provide a malleable medium to encode the audio waves on, while no such condition existed in Nina’s office.  On the other hand, the writers might claim some sort of temporal echoes were encoded in the glass .

Sit Ubu, Sit…

The Ministry of Science unofficially maintains a black lab for work against The Observers.  I hope it’s house trained.  Oh, wait, Nina meant a black projects laboratory.  Never Mind.  🙂

Com One, Com All…

Apparently, although the Observers do not actively monitor or log com activity, they can track down a specific com if they need to.

The Loyalist mentioned not being able to locate Nina’s com (due to the fact that she was deep underground in the black lab), which would imply that they have the ability to track a specific com even if it’s in stand-by/ not on a call, but for some reason they couldn’t determine her approximate location by determining where she was when her com last had signal.

Also, why don’t the Observers monitor and log all communications on the air waves to detect subversive activity?  (Similar to The Machine in the show Person of Interest) Surely they have the technical capability to do that in real time.

Additionally, either the Observers are just plain stupid, or they would seem to have no way of determining what com device called Nina’s com, otherwise, Olivia’s device would now be compromised.  Do they not have a Patriot Act in 2036?

What Happen to All the Wanted Notices?

Once again, our heroic trio walks around freely, in broad daylight, in public areas without detection.

Whimsical Windmark

How exactly does an Observer determine when to phase shift and when to use the elevator?  Last week, when the elevator was out, Windmark took the stairs.  This week, when the elevator was working, he phase shifts.

It’s a Good Thing The Observers Are More Incompetent than the Fringe Team Is.

Our heroic trio knows the lab has been compromised, but they return there anyway.  How did they know that there wasn’t still a team of Observers and Loyalists there investigating the lab or waiting in ambush for them?  How did they know the Observers didn’t leave a bomb behind as a trap?  How did they know the lab wasn’t being staked out?  How did they know the Observers didn’t tie into the security cameras to watch the lab?

And by the way, why didn’t The Observers do any of those things?  At the very least, they should have torn that lab apart, not only to look for the boy, but to learn as much about what The Resistance had been doing there.  It’s absurd to think they didn’t even do a halfway serious search for the boy.

A Bit More Satisfying of a Character End

At least we got to see Nina go out with her hero’s death, unlike the death of another great character, Sam Weiss.  We got to see her go, and we got to feel the loss.  I know Sam Weiss technically wasn’t a major character and was only in  a few episodes, but he was a really interesting character, and he deserved a more interesting end.

Turn Back Time

If you watched the preview for the final three episodes, you may be wondering the same thing I am:  Are they going to reset time and make the events of season five (or even the whole series) never have happened, or was that mention just put in there to make us think that’s what is going to happen?

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Television | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 9 Season 5 Black Blotter

Posted by Karl Withakay on December 14, 2012

A Dreary Blue Episode

I doubt that there will be ever an episode synopsis over at Polite Dissent.

Astrid Farnswoth: Not Exactly Ready for Action

Astrid does not keep her firearm loaded with a round in the chamber, at least not at night.

Magic Batteries

Assuming that the radio was on for a minimum of a few hours (say it was switched on right before everyone went to sleep), what kind of magic 9 volt battery did that radio have in it that it lasted for more than an hour or two, especially with that light up display?

No Action

Peter and Olivia sleep in separate beds while staying in the lab.  Yes, the beds appear to be individual cots, but they could probably push them together to form a makeshift double bed (that’s how the beds work in most rooms on an NCL cruise ship).  Astrid knocks before entering the room Peter and Olivia sleep in, but she does not wait for a response.  Maybe she knows that Peter and Olivia do not sleep together while staying in the lab.

The Long and the Short of It

Peter mentions that the signal could be coming from “Him [Donald] or anyone else with a shortwave radio.”  Unless the radio was disguised or modified, it was a conventional American AM radio that receives signals in the medium wave range of 540-1610kHz, and not a shortwave radio.

Broadcasting in the Clear

Just a few thoughts on the radio signal:

If it is in the American AM frequency range, then that might mean that AM broadcasting ends in the US before 2016 when the transmitter was set up, or it would probably either interfere with or be interfered with by commercial broadcast stations.  The tuning indicator was pointing just past 650 kHz on the display, which would likely subject it to interference (especially at night) from WFAN 660 out of New York, which is a Class A clear channel station.  Also, apparently the Observers do not monitor the radio waves at the frequency used by the transmitter, or they feel the strange, coded signal is not anything to be concerned about

It’s about 80 miles from Willington, Connecticut to Cambridge, Massachusetts, so that transmitter must have been putting out a pretty strong signal for a non-commercial AM transmitter.

Considering the power required for such a strong signal and the length of time the signal was being transmitted, either that vehicle had a nuclear battery in it, or there were some powerful solar cells located in the treetops, but remember, it was set up in 2016.

Fringe Continuity

Fringe has usually been pretty good about injury continuity from one episode to the next, and in this episode, both Peter and Olivia have scars left over from the last episode’s events.

Sam Weiss (Not Samwise), We Hardly Knew Ya

That was a very disappointing way to write out a very interesting character.  What a waste.

A Paper Engine?

Walter mentions his design for a “combustible engine that runs on potatoes”.  Unless the engine itself was burned to do work, I think Walter meant a combustion engine.  The writers have an easy out, and they can blame the mistake on Walter’s acid trip, but I think we know better.

The Observers, Worst Occupiers Ever?

Not only would you think that the Observers should have cameras on every street corner and eyes in the sky looking for known Resistance members, but I think that they should also put cameras in every taxi and public transport vehicle as well.

Additionally, it appears the Loyalist troops don’t bother to pay attention to the wanted postings to learn the faces of the top most wanted persons.

That Looks Safe

With Walter tripping on acid and sitting on the edge of that dinky little motor boat, I would make sure he was wearing a life Jacket.

More Evidence the Writers Are Getting a Little Lazy?


“He left a Radio for us, and this morning it started transmitting a signal that lead us here.”

No, Peter, it started receiving a signal, not transmitting one.


I loved the Terry Gilliam style animation in the scene when Walter was remembering that the code phrase was “Black Umbrella”.  That, unquestionably, was an homage, and it was brilliantly done (in my opinion).  If you don’t know what I mean by Terry Gilliam style animation, here’s some of his most well known work:


If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it was done by Gilliam himself.

It’s actually a nifty, if unintentional, play on words, since much of Gilliam’s directorial work has been on the fringe, rather than mainstream.

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Television | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 8 Season 5 The Human Kind

Posted by Karl Withakay on December 7, 2012

A Dreary Blue Episode

It’s looking to be incredibly unlikely that there will be ever an episode synopsis over at Polite Dissent.  I think Scott’s fallen far enough behind now that he won’t bother to catch up and complete this final season of Fringe, much like I may never get around to going back to finish covering the first season. It’s a shame, really.  I don’t have anyone left to have conversations with about Fringe episodes now.  😦

You Say Dat-uh, I Say Day-tuh

It seems to me that the Observers’ & Observer-Peter’s mannerisms & characteristics are modeled after Mr. Data from Star Trek, The Next Generation.

-No contractions

-Quick, abrupt, jerky movements

-A sense of child-like puzzlement about fundamental human behavior, like emotions

-Observers have a pale skin tone that makes them appear not quite human

It’s Almost Like the Writers Have Been Reading My Blog

-The Etta “RESIST” posters are finally being torn down.

-There are now large dynamic billboards with wanted notices for Walter prominently displayed in various places.

-Although we did not see wanted notices for Peter & Olivia on the billboards, perhaps they cycle notices, and we just didn’t see the billboards for long enough, since Olivia does indeed have a wanted notice out for her as well.

Classic ‘70’s Automotive Design?

It seems to me that either there are a lot more cars from the ‘70s in the year 2036 than there are now in 2012, or at some point in the future, Detroit stars making new cars that look like cars from the ‘70s, much like Checker Motors was making cars using 1950’s styling well into the 21st century.  Of course for that to be  the case, somebody would also have to revive the Pontiac name.

Plan Ahead

How did Olivia plan to transport the magnet in that ’76 Grand Prix?  The tape mentioned nothing about getting a free truck to transport the giant electro-magnet with.  It’s a shame she had to leave that sweet ride behind.

Walter’s Plan

Why hide the components of the plan separately?   Why not just assemble them as he gathered them so he had a fully assembled and ready to use weapon hidden in one place?  For that matter, once assembled, there would be no need to hide it away, just use the dang thing and be done with the Observers.  But, as my high school literature teacher used to say, without the complications, we’d have no story.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong…

Given all the things the Fringe team has seen over the years, you’d think at least one of them might have asked if it was such a good idea to insert the Observer tech device in the porcupine man’s brain.

Caterpillars Don’t’ Evolve into Butterflies

I have to disagree with Walter’s use of the term “controlled evolution”.  Evolution is a process that occurs over successive generations.  It is not something that happens to an individual organism.  What Walter was describing was more of a metamorphosis or transmogrification where an individual organism undergoes a major change in form or nature.  “Controlled evolution” would be something more akin to selective breeding or eugenics.

Didn’t See That One Coming, Did Ya?

Why was the psychic/ oracle lady surprised when Olivia panicked and drew her gun?

Quote of the Show/ Olivia the Critical Thinker & Skeptic (James Randi Would Be Proud)


“People make up explanations, assign meaning to things without knowing, because it’s reassuring; it’s comforting, but I can’t do that, because I know too much.  It’s all about numbers.  And the Invaders, as you call them, they’re just better at math than we are.  Thank you for the magnet.”

 Where’s Admiral Akbar when Olivia Needs Him”

Two cars and a pair of bodies conveniently blocking the road with the appearance of an accident, and this is what I was thinking before the trap was even sprung:


Apparently a “Truth Church” is some sort of place where for some reason, Observers either cannot or will not read people.  Was this idea just thrown out for this episode or will it come into play later in the season?

Observers Would Suck At Portal

When the elevator is out, Observers, who can phase walk/ shift from one location to another, take the stairs.

First Time Kidnappers/Bounty Hunters

The genius hijackers only tied Olivia’s hands with rope, but not feet, and left here alone, free to roam around, unwatched, in a MacGyver dreamland.  Brilliant!

Posted in Critical Thinking, Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Science, Television | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 7 Season 5 Five-Twenty-Ten

Posted by Karl Withakay on November 16, 2012

A Dreary Blue Episode

It is becoming a distinct possibility that an episode synopsis may not eventually be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent.  I’ll have to ask Scott if the Doomsday Clock hit Daylight Saving time and skipped forward one hour.

Is That Done By Workers In a Different Union?

Is there some reason that the people who are responsible for putting up the Observers’ They Live posters don’t bother to take down all the RESIST posters?

Laser Fuel

A He-Ne laser does not use helium and neon as fuel.   It uses those gases as the gain medium, and the helium and neon are not consumed by the operation of the laser.  Walter would only need to replenish the gases if they leaked out due to poor seals, although due to the small size of the monatomic helium molecule, the helium will likely eventually diffuse out of the laser across the glass &/or seals.  The Neon should still be fine if the seals are good.

Time Keeps On Slipping Into the Future

I can understand the existance of the garbled portions of the video playback, but why do the tapes occasionally skip forward in time?  Unless a length of tape has been physically cut out and removed, there shouldn’t be any skips, as the player still has to roll through the unreadable section of tape in real time.  It’s not like a DVD where they player may just skip past the unreadable section to the next readable part of the disk, resulting in a time skip.

Why the Rube Goldberg Approach to the Plan?

At this point in the season, I’m going to ask why Walter so overcomplicated the details of the plan.  I don’t mean the details of plan’s execution; I mean the documentation of the plan.

Why use such an unreliable and volatile medium like analog encoded magnetic video tape?

Why not use some medium with some type of redundancy or multiple copies in case of damage?

Why record the plan in video at all rather than just write it out?

Why not record the whole plan on one single tape?  (Was the plan really longer than one or two hours?  If so, did it really need to be?)

If the plan is useless with any part missing, why scatter the components rather than just store everything in one secure place with the documentation?

A Bad Lie or Just Poor Writing?

Conversation between Peter and Olivia:


“I have to go meet with Anil”




“He didn’t want to say over the com, just that is was important.”

Up until now, they’ve been openly discussing resistance activity over their wireless phones without a care in the world for what they say.  Indeed, when Etta’s cover was still intact and she was not know to be resistance, they talked openly about their plans, and now Peter says Anil doesn’t want to say something over the com?  How dumb does Peter think Olivia is to fall for that story?  Wait, maybe I know the answer to that last question.

No APBs or 10 Most Wanted Lists In the Future?

Walter is known to be a very key member of the resistance, and yet he can openly walk around in public , in broad daylight, right past Loyalists, and he is not recognized and arrested.  At this point, I believe Walter, Peter, and Olivia’s faces should be on wanted posters all over the place.  I don’t think the writers have really thought out the world very well for this season.  They’re not used to the Fringe team being on the wrong side of the law.

Full of Hot Air


“The Observers created a device that dramatically alters atmospheric pressure, speeding up molecules in all the matter in a controlled area, a process called sublimation.”


“You mean converting solid matter directly into gas?”


“So all the Matter would just evaporate?”


“Essentially, yes.  They use the technology to clear large areas of land for construction, like Central Park when they were prepping it to create their air degradation machine.”

OK, let’s start at the beginning here.  First off, sublimation is indeed when a solid substance passes directly from solid phase to gas without going through a liquid phase.

However, I’m not sure how just altering atmospheric pressure is going to vaporize all that debris.  Since Nina didn’t actually specify how the device altered the pressure, I’ll cover both bases.  More atmospheric pressure would generally have the effect of keeping solid stuff in it’s current state (and even forcing gases and liquids into solid and liquid states) and raising the phase transition point.  The higher the atmospheric pressure is, the higher the boiling point of water is.  Reducing the pressure would make it easier for stuff to transition to a gaseous state; that’s why water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes and why there are special directions for baking at high altitudes.  But even in a vacuum, the concrete and steel would not sublimate away.

Second, if the molecules of the concrete and steel debris were sped up enough to vaporize it all into gas, what happens to the super heated debris vapor that must be around 5000F / ~3000C (roughly the lowest temperature that steel would exist as a gas)?

Also, If you wanted to clear out Central Park to make way for an air degradation machine, wouldn’t it be easier to kill two birds with one stone and just burn it down?


I think Joshua Jackson is doing a good job working in the Observer mannerisms as his character slowly turns into one.

They Don’t Make ’Em Like That Anymore

The car that Peter hot-wired was a 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ.  Finding a ’76 Grand Prix in 2036 is basically like finding a 1952 Pontiac Chieftain in 2012.  It’s lucky for Peter that there was a 60 year old car around to steal (and that nobody bothered to report it as stolen), since even in 2012, most cars are so computerized as to make simple hot-wiring impossible.

Monitoring Alerts


“The Observers analyze any change in the atmosphere, so once you use the technology, they will respond within minutes.”

OK, known resistance members can walk around freely in broad daylight and only very infrequently get detected by the very rare security camera, but the Observers will instantly detect extremely localized changes in the atmosphere anywhere.  Have I got this straight?

Digital Watches are Still a Pretty Neat Idea/ The Future Isn’t What it used to Be

I was hoping for something a little more impressive in 2036 than Anil’s plain Jane digital watch.  Maybe it’s a retro classic.

Who Needs Keys?

Walter can vaporize many tons of concrete and steel rubble, but he needs to use Bell’s severed hand to unlock the door to the storage unit.  Why not just vaporize the door as well?

Well Give the Man a Hand

Bell’s hand looked pretty fresh, supple, clean, and full bodied for a severed hand with no blood supply.

Finally a Dead Power Source

It’s surprisingly nice attention to detail that Walter needed to supply power to the palm scan lock on the storage unit.  Apparently they don’t use car batteries to power those things, because if they did, the battery should still be good, according to previous episodes.

Five-Twenty-Ten / 5-20-10

May 5, 2010 was the original air date of the Fringe season two finale, Over There, (Part 2).

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

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 6 Season 5 Through the Looking Glass and What Walter Found There

Posted by Karl Withakay on November 10, 2012

A Dreary Blue Episode

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


Apparently the method of entering the pocket universe was developed by the Ministry of Silly Walks

Pocket Physics Science

Either the pocket universe includes a fully functional and self sustaining & maintaining power grid or generator, or the physics of the pocket universe cause light bulbs to illuminate without power.

Also, although the universe was very Escher-like, at least it wasn’t intentionally designed to be a Castrovalva-type trap.

Prop Convenience Theater?

It seems like the Observers have functioning security cameras only in locations that are convenient to advancing or complicating the plot as the writers desire.  Most times, the Fringe team can wander around in broad daylight, at will, in populated areas without any concern for being spotted, but every once in  a while, they get unlucky and get spotted & identified by one of the apparently very rare functioning Observer security cameras.  Do the Observers have budget problems that are preventing them from fully deploying or maintaining their electronic observation net?

If We Were to Go By The Book…

Assuming the rate of time flow in the pocket universe is fairly constant relative to the passage of time in the corresponding local region of our universe, then if 5 days passing for Cecil in the pocketverse equated to 20 years passing in our universe, it follows that there is roughly a 1:1461 correlation in time flow, such that every hour spent in the pocketverse should translate to about 60 days passing in our universe.  For every minute spent in the pocketverse, about 1 day passes in our universe.

Astrid mentions working with Walter the previous night , and even though Walter’s bed has not been slept in, it’s clear he did not get to the building where the portal was before daylight, and it’s also pretty clear the team went looking for him that same day, also arriving in daylight.  Thus the team couldn’t have been much more than about 10 hours behind Walter, at most.  Doing the math tells us that Walter should have only experienced the passage of, at most, about 25 seconds in time in the pocketverse before Olivia and Peter arrived there.  Walter probably would still have been in the room when Olivia and Peter arrived.

Posted in Dreary Blue Episode, Fringe, Prop Convenience Theater, Science, Television, time | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

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