Fringe: The Arrival

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(Episode 4) This was a very Peter-centric episode. We’ve felt his reluctance in being involved with his father and Agent Dunham’s endeavor to track and understand The Pattern. Peter’s reluctance stems from his not wanting to be his father’s keeper, his unease with staying in one place for too long and ultimately his fundamental disbelief that something truly extraordinary is happening. Peter, as a consequence of this episode’s happenings, finally accepts his place by his father’s side. The writers deal with this transition rather well, by the end of the episode we feel that Peter finally understands his father, both on a intellectual and emotional level.

I’m really enjoying the character of Dr. Bishop, his idiosyncrasies serve as good levity. In this episode, he seemed to be more interested in getting a root beer float than solving this weeks mystery. I can’t say that I disagree with Dr. Bishop, root beer floats are delicious.

So the big news this week is the introduction of “The Observer,” a mysterious, hair-less, pale man who likes his spice. Is this guy an alien, a genetic freak, or just some dude who really likes his jalapeños? Whatever he is, he’s definitely connected to The Pattern. Olivia discovers that “The Observer” has shown up a few times around Pattern-related events, but she doesn’t know the half of it. When she shares her discovery with Broyles, he promptly takes her to a room dedicated to tracking “The Observer.” Looks like we have a mystery on our hands.

Science!

JJ seems to really like the brain, every episode thus far has had some creative use of this central organ. This episode introduces brain-to-brain communication or telepathy. Science fiction-writers love them some telepathy, every scifi show I’ve ever seen has some character that can read minds. We have to ask, can telepathy, or something like it, be accomplished? The short answer is no, but the longer answer is maybe. The way that telepathy is shown on Fringe, where Dr. Bishop is able to beam his thoughts to Peter’s brain without his even knowing it, or of “The Observer” being able to read thoughts, is a load of malarkey. It’s simply not possible. Technology-mediated telepathy or “techlepathy,” a term Professor Kevin Warwick has coined, however is a concept that we may see in our lifetimes. Researchers have already demonstrated that a person can control machines with their thoughts1 and that we can control minds to a certain extent 2. With these two pillars in place it should theoretically be possible for a person’s thoughts to be encoded in a signal, then sent to a receiver which will decode the signal into a thought and implant it in the recipient’s brain. As a note both of these people have brain-to-computer interfaces doing the heavy lifting. Easy, right?

Don’t worry I didn’t forget about the cylinder or the pulse weapon. Dr. Bishop alludes to the awesomely-named Project Thor when he encounters the cylinder; Project Thor is an underground missile program that he worked on in his pre-mental institution life. I think that he mentions this program to shield everyone from the true nature of the cylinder. The cylinder transmits pulses at 2 MHz and 4 MHz, and can drill through solid rock. I had to think about this for a second, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the cylinder uses electromagnetic (EM) pulses to perform it’s two duties, communication and evading capture. EM pulses have been successfully used to break apart kidney stones3, so one could stretch this principle to say that the cylinder is using some form of EM pulse to drill through solid rock. It is no stretch to say that the cylinder is also using EM pulses to send out communications. The pulse weapon used by John Mosely uses the same technology for more dastardly purposes. Lesson of the day, technology can be used for both good and bad.

Additional Thoughts

Was John Mosely under someone else’s control? When his rap sheet was read off, it didn’t seem that he was really a hardened criminal, much less a mastermind who could track advanced technology. If he was, this opens up an entirely new avenue. I think that “The Observer” may have known Dr. Bishop’s father. It may be that the Bishop’s have been connected to The Pattern for quite some time. Oh and John is back?!?!?! Was his mind downloaded into a new body?

Further Reading:

  1. JK Chapin, et al. Real-time control of a robot arm using simultaneously recorded neurons in the motor cortex. Nature Neuroscience, 2 (7): 664–670, 1999
  2. SK Talwar, et al. Rat navigation guided by remote control. Nature, 417 (6884): 37–38, 2002
  3. YA Pishchalnikov, et al. Why Stones Break Better at Slow Shockwave Rates Than at Fast Rates: In Vitro Study with a Research Electrohydraulic Lithotripter. Journal of Endourology, 20 (8): 537–541, 2006
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About Dapper Alchemist

The Dapper Alchemist is an amalgam of my interests in science, design and (men's) fashion.

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