Been There, Done That

Under the Microscope: Fringe

In Fringe’s third season finale, for instance, Whitman and Chiappetta contacted physicist (and Exchange consultant) Sean M. Carroll for a particularly puzzling wormhole/radiation conundrum. “In the finale, which is set in 2026, a wormhole is opened in the middle of Central Park,” explains Whitman. “What we wanted the characters to realize, in a couple of lines of dialogue, is that the wormhole leads to a specific point in time, 250 million years ago. So the question was, what could they detect coming out of the wormhole that would allow for that conclusion?”

Boiling it down to a few lines of dialogue was not an easy task, but with Carroll’s help, the two story editors found a conceivable explanation. “We needed something that could make people go ‘Aha! That’s connected to another period of time!’” says Carroll. “We threw around a couple of ideas and [Whitman and Chiappetta] settled on an unknown form of radiation.” Since the season finale is set in the future, it is possible that scientists could discover a new form of radiation. So, Whitman and Chiappetta “discovered” kappa radiation, which became the series’ tell-tale sign that a wormhole goes through time, not space. “It’s not something that exists in known physics,” says Carroll, “but it is a plausible way that future scientists could tell something fishy was going on.”

Having been in a vaguely similar position, I have to say I think I like the solution. It’s plausible and doesn’t overtly contradict the laws of physics, so it’s within the realm of science fiction’s poetic license. They key is using it consistently and not going to that well too often, as I think Star Trek eventually did, which is precisely why I didn’t want to come up with a specific name and new kind of particle when I had the chance.

One thought on “Been There, Done That

  1. Kappa radiation.

    Really? You needed a professional physics consultant to come up that?

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