Category Archives: Lessons in Sci-Fi
Ever have one of those days where you wish you could create a full-sized clone of yourself to help with all the work you have to do? What about creating clones to go off to war in place of “real” men and women so that we don’t have to lose so many to war?
Well, on Fringe, someone came up with a way to not only make clones, but rapidly age them. Of course, there were some pretty nasty side effects. And yes, Dr. Walter Bishop was involved in the initial research decades before.
In the episode, “The Same Old Story”, there is a young man, who as it turns out, is a clone who is rapidly aging and needs to kill young women, take their pituitary gland and create a formula to slow his aging. From watching the episode, we find out that he was an experiment that someone hired his “father” to create.
So the question is, is it possible to rapidly age a human clone?
First off, there are three types of cloning: Therapeutic, Reproductive and Replacement. The first is reproducing cells, the second full human cloning and the third, creation of specific parts of the body to replace in a person.
The first and third types of cloning are more readily accepted. However, the second, Reproductive, is not. With this type of cloning, one would create and entire human.
There are a myriad of problems that have yet to be conquered by scientists in the area of cloning. The Human Genome Project has a lot of great information regarding cloning, so I won’t go into all of the arguments against it.
But if someone was successful in creating a cloned human, would it be possible to rapidly age the clone to adulthood? In this episode, they state that the pituitary gland is the culprit for Progeria. The truth of the matter is, that Progeria actually is a result of a mutated gene, not the gland. So if this is the case, scientists would have to purposely mess with the gene to induce rapid aging.
As Dr. Bishop states in the show, the experiments were scrapped because they couldn’t find a way to turn off the rapid aging.However, ethical issues notwithstanding, so far it seems that this particular idea in the show is purely fictional.
Of course, at one time, so was space travel until Jules Verne started writing about it.
Join me next week when the possibility of a shared dream state.
- Understanding the Function of the Pituitary Gland (biology.answers.com)
- Reuters Video: Neanderthal cloning possible but ethically in question (englishblog.com)
I just wanted to thank my readers for your patience over the past few months.
Due to health issues, I haven’t posted for a while. I will; however, resume posting on Tuesday May 7th. I will be continuing my posts on the science behind some of my favorite FRINGE episodes.
Again, thank you for patiently waiting. It means a lot that you all are still around.
You’re a genius scientist and you realize that what you know could cause the end of humankind as we know it. Your answer? Take out parts of your brain and destroy them so that the knowledge is irretrievable.
Unfortunately, your partner decides to place those pieces of your brain into other people because he thinks that knowledge shouldn’t be lost. All of them end up nuts and have to live in a mental institute. Until a shape-shifter comes and cuts out the pieces, thereby returning said individuals to their original mental state.
In the fantastic sci-fi show Fringe, this is how Dr. Walter Bishop went from über brilliant scientist to rambling, weird, brilliant scientist. He was lobotomized. On purpose. His idea.
In the episode Grey Matters (season 2) we find out that Dr. Bishop asked his friend and partner William Bell to take the brain tissue from his Hippocampus so that he wouldn’t remember how to cross over to the other universe. Bell, however, chose to keep the brain tissue.
The real issues are the following: is partial brain transplantation possible? Is it ethical? Is it the wave of the future?
Well first off, from research I’ve seen to date, a partial brain transplantation is actually possible. Back in 1982, Dr. Dorothy T. Krieger, chief of endocrinology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City actually took part of a brain from one mouse and successfully transplanted it into another.
The experiment was conducted using mice who were genetically modified to have a specific piece absent in their brains. This piece, was then taken from another mouse, “dropped in” to the former mouse and Eureka, we have a partial transplant.
But the question really is, can this be done on humans? Some scientists say no. There are way too many nerve fibers that would need to be connected for a full brain transplant. Not to mention the brain would need to be connected to the spinal cord and that’s risky on a good day.
However, there are scientists who believe that some time in the future, we’ll actually find a way to do it.
If we could, why would we? Possibly to take the brain from a quadriplegic and put it into the body of a brain dead person with a healthy body. Would the personality be changed? Very possibly because of the new connections and a new body.
However, if you think that taking your brain and putting it in a younger body will allow you to live forever, forget it. The brain, like our bodies, ages with time.
Join me in two weeks when I take you to another of the coolest characters in the Fringe universe.
- Mice get human brain cells and get smarter, too (vitals.nbcnews.com)
Have you ever known someone to die from a cold virus?
In this episode, a college professor who is also a renowned immunologist is killed with…wait for it…a super-sized mutated cold virus. And it’s pretty nasty.
The cold virus, in the form of eggs, is placed in water and ingested, unknowingly, and within a few minutes it begins growing in the victims stomach and destroying their innards. When it’s gotten pretty big, it comes out of the persons mouth. Yeah, gross, I know.
So how realistic is this? Well, first let’s grab some tissue and take a look at the common cold virus.
The common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses, each of which is a single-celled organism. In the show, someone found a way to mutate these single-celled organism which causes the virus, so that it grew into a living monstrosity.
In real life, these viruses actually can kill. Very recently, a premature baby died after being kissed by his father. His father, had a cold sore on his mouth. The cold sore, infected the baby, killing him.
Viruses mutate naturally due to the fact that they are alive. And just like all living things, they have a will to survive and therefore will mutate. But is it possible for a geneticist or biologist to take these viruses and turn them into a living monster?
Due to these mutations, researchers have to create the virus in a lab, then take it apart and find what will slow it down or
kill it. While doing this research, it is actually possible to create something so virulent, that it does in fact cause a new strain to appear. Will it be a giant, innards eating slug? Only time and a mad scientist will tell.
- Deadly new virus is well adapted to infect humans, study finds (countdowntoeternityblog.wordpress.com)
You wake up tomorrow morning, and everything goes as normal.
Then, you leave for work. As you leave, you get into your car, back out of the drive way and begin your commute. On the radio, you hear that there is an accident on the highway, and three of the five lanes are blocked.
You have a decision to make.
Take the highway, either as you normally would, or take one of the other three routes you’ve already mapped out.
According to the “Many Worlds Theory” of quantum physics, you actually make all four decisions resulting in four alternate outcomes, or alternate realities. The choices also result in different futures.
In 1957, American physicist Hugh Everett, III postulated that “whenever numerous viable possibilities exist, the world splits into many worlds, one world for each different possibility”1. A situation can start out the same in all of the universes; however, one small change in decision does result in different outcomes. Because of environment, society, weather, or other issues, a person can make a different choice than they would have under other conditions.
In the alternate universe of Fringe, Dr. “Walternate” Bishop comes up with a cure for the genetic disease his son is dying from. Unfortunately, he’s distracted by an Observer and doesn’t realize that he has completed the cure. However, in our universe, Dr. Bishop is unable to come up with the cure. He is, however, able to see when Walternate does, prompting Dr. Bishop to make the decision to go to the other universe to save the other Peter.
Another great example of this is in the Dr. Who episode “Turn Left”. If you are a fan of the series, you know what has happened up to this point between Dr. Who and his cool-as-all-get-out companion, Donna Noble (she’s my favorite companion).
On one seemingly innocuous day, Donna turns right at a corner instead of left. In turning right, events happen which lead to her meeting the Doctor.
However, in this particular episode, she turns left creating a parallel universe: One with devastating consequences for all.
Because of the theory that each person’s decisions as well as circumstances have different outcomes, there is time to contend with. Let me explain.
A 74 year-old man is flying a Cessna. In four different universes, four different outcomes could happen:
- He has a heart attack and dies, crashing the plane into a house killing all occupants because the electricity went out and turned off all of the clocks causing everyone to sleep in.
- He has a heart attack and dies, crashing the plane into a house and no one dies because the electricity didn’t go out and everyone left on time for work and school.
- He has a heart attack and is able to successfully land the plane on a street only crashing into an unoccupied car.
- He doesn’t have a heart attack and has a successful flight and landing.
With each of these situations the future (time) is different for all involved. Because of this, there are many different outcomes of this one situation (more than what I’ve named) which change the futures of all involved.
The possibilities for science fiction stories are endless when dealing with the Multiverse. Currently there are no solid theories for concretely proving the existence of or a way to travel to another universe.
Join me next week when I discuss Fringe’s idea of the killer cold virus.
- Are there parallel universes? (plus.maths.org)
- The Fringes of Another World (yiwashington.com)
- Science fiction, science fact: Are there parallel universes? (plus.maths.org)