Sunday, March 13, 2011

Episode Takedown S03E16

Synopsis: The team investigates a burglary where the criminals seem to have defied gravity.

This episode accomplishes a difficult task: it explicitly breaks the laws of physics, it justifies it, and then still manages to break its own rules.  Really, I’m impressed.

We see that there is about a thumb-sized chunk of osmium-lutetium alloy that Walter takes from the burglar’s blood.  We also see Ferris Bueller’s friend inject a patient with about the same amount.  Let’s call it 5 cubic centimeters.  The density of the human body is a little more than 1 gram per cubic centimeter.  We’ll call it one, ‘cause I’m lazy.  The density of air is 0.00122521 grams per cubic centimeter.  So for a human to float, his density needs to be decreased by a factor of 815!  So, we can use that to determine the mass of the osmium-lutetium alloy from this information.  Math…math…math.  The mass of the 5 cubic centimeters of alloy is about -70 kilograms.


That’s a density of -14000 grams per cubic centimeter.  The highest density material in the world is Osmium at 22 grams per cubic centimeter.  So not only is this compound negative mass, it’s also 700 times more dense than anything else we’ve ever seen.

The absurdities of negative mass get pretty intense; maybe I’ll cover them later.  But, suffice it to say, negative mass behaves significantly different than depicted in the show.  In fact, it’s the theoretical requirement for stabilizing wormholes and allowing time travel.  It also implies negative energy (E=mc^2 again, baby!), which as another host of weirdness to it.

So, yeah, this episode really pushed the boundaries of absurdity.  Also, before I forget, they keep calling the osmium-lutetium alloy a molecule.  God, that’s so lazy.  It’s an alloy, not a molecule.  The bonding is metallic, not covalent.  So easy to get it right, and they just didn’t bother.  I hope their mothers are ashamed.