In last week’s episode of Fringe , the man who is fast becoming my favorite mad scientist, Walter Bishop, tried to make a cow lactate chocolate milk by feeding it cocoa beans.
Obviously this doesn’t work. Which is too bad. I spent a lot of time trying to see if one could flavor milk by feeding cows different things, but unsurprisingly, their stomachs digest most of the flavor out of what they eat.
Not that feed is irrelevant. As it happens, putting turmeric and coriander into cattle feed may reduce the production of global-warming inducing methane, according to research from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom. Methane is actually much more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, so the vast quantity of methane produced by the world’s millions of cows and sheep is a significant contributor to global warming.
On last week’s episode of Fringe, Dr. Walter Bishop, our resident mad scientist, remarked that he heard Massive Dynamics was developing wheel chairs that could be controlled with the mind.
Hey Walter, we can already do that. Check it out:
For the third year in a row, Discover hosted a panel on science in science fiction at this year’s Comic-Con. This year’s edition was moderated by Phil Plait and featured a great lab-meets-film panel: Jamie Paglia (creator of Eureka); Kevin Grazier (JPL planetary physicist, Science Not Fiction blogger); Zack Stentz (writer for Fringe, Thor); and Sean Carroll (Caltech theoretical physicist, Cosmic Variance blogger).
The conversation was good and lively, with a nice mix of funny and interesting bits. But don’t take my word for it:
Spring boarding from Amos’ post on Thursday’s Discover panel, I want to delve into some unexplored tension. The panel focused on how science could make storytelling better, and it included a mix of scientists and TV writers.
Jamie Paglia (Co-creator of Eureka) conceded that sometimes he’s had to “stretch the boundaries a little thin for my comfort zone,” and he was somewhat abashed thinking of those moments. But Fringe producer Zach Stentz threw down the gauntlet.
“Sometimes you have to break the rules to tell the story you want to tell,” he said, and ran a Fringe clip in which Olivia and Peter realize that Bell has extracted memories from Walter’s brain by removing actual pieces of Walter’s brain.
“He literally had his memories removed,” Stentz said. “We knew when we wrote it that memories aren’t stored in a discrete portion of your brain.”
Which I thought was a pretty direct challenge to Kevin Grazier, Sean Carroll, and Phil Plait, all scientists trying to make the case that accurate science can ratchet up the tension and provide a more satisfying resolution.
Alas, the argument never got going, and it left me wondering: where’s the line between acceptable and unacceptable scientific rule breaking?
For those of you who couldn’t make it to San Diego last week, Discovermagazine.com and the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange present our panel discussion on “Mad Science,” featuring Jaime Paglia (co-Executive Producer of Eureka), Kevin Grazier (Battlestar Galactica and Eureka science adviser), Jane Espenson (Dollhouse, Battlestar, Caprica, and lots more), Ricardo Gil da Costa (science adviser for Fringe), and Rob Chiappetta and Glenn Whitman (writers for Fringe).
Big thanks to Jennifer at SEE, to all of our panelists, and to the Bad Astronomer, who found time to moderate our panel while he wasn’t partying with Hollywood starlets (Phil – we kid because we love).
We are teaming up with Jennifer Ouellette and the crew at the Science and Entertainment Exchange to produce a panel on “MAD SCIENCE,” i.e. Science as a double-edged sword, ethically and morally neutral in and of itself, but dependent upon who wields it, and how.
Beloved Internet Personality Phil Plait is lined up to moderate (after he gets his tattoo) and we’re expecting guests from Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Stargate: Universe and more. Watch this space for additional details.
It’s a constant on SciNoFi that we do one post per episode of a given show. But as we all now know from watching the unexpectedly epic season finale of Fringe last week, constants can change, universes collide, and worlds are as multitudinous as the stars in the sky. And really, none of that was a spoiler.
But this whole question of varying physical constants has been roiling the scientific community for years, especially the astrophysicists who really have their telescopic fingers on the cosmic pulse of the question. As all of us who ever took a high school sicen class know, physical constants are crucial to making a great many descriptive equations actually work. In Einstein’s E=mc2, the c is the constant, it’s the speed of light. Then there’s the Planck constant, Avogadro’s number, and on and on. But if those numbers suddenly turned out to be changing, then how would the equations still work? Would science be broken?
This week’s travel advice from Fringe: When picking up the ladies at night clubs, avoid the ones with scary blue eyes who don’t talk. They tend to have shockingly pointy teeth, and are likely to eat you. Or at least, parts of you that you might wish you had later. More on the nutritional content of your parts after the jump, which contains mucho spoilers.
As we’ve mentioned before, though, this is sometimes problematic when it comes to J.J. Abrams’s Fringe. Still, we try not to critique.
First, I want to assure anyone who’s not been to New York City that Grand Central station is never as empty as it was in Tuesday’s episode of Fringe. I’ve been there at 4 a.m., and even then, I’ve never been alone on the platform. I know it was a dream sequence, but I thought you should know.
Moving on (and spoilers below). Read More