Sunday 22 April 2012

A Cool Theory Which Proved To Be Absolutely Wrong

My husband and I are avid Fringe watchers.  We love it, we talk about it, we try to guess at the show’s mythology.  (I try not to be grossed out by some of the more graphic and disgusting weird events and diseases.  He tries not to get too impatient about screen time spent on Peter and Olivia’s relationship.  It’s all about compromise.)

For those who don’t follow the show, the characters are investigating a series of strange incidences and events, called fringe events.  Throughout their investigations, they’ve become aware of a group of people called the Observers.  These bald men with impeccable fashion sense appear at key junctions of history to observe (and occasionally interfere).

There’s also an alternate universe which is close to our world but subtly different, populated by identical characters with slightly different histories and personalities.  There have been strong implications that these are the only two universes, rather than exponential numbers resulting for a different universe with every choice made.

Most geeks have heard of the Schroedinger’s Cat thought experiment.  But for the more socially adjusted among us, Schroedinger’s theory goes like this: if you put a cat and an open bottle of chloroform in a sealed box, the cat will eventually die.  But until someone opens the box, the cat is both alive and dead because both potentials are equally possible.  It isn’t until someone opens the box and looks that reality picks one or the other.  (Don’t try this with a real cat, please.)  I prefer the explanation of the covered dinner plate.  If a customer is served a covered plate, underneath is every possible meal the restaurant serves.  It isn’t until someone looks that reality is fixed in place.  Not until someone observes.

Still with me?  Now comes the really cool theory part and I have to give my husband the credit for coming up with this one.  In the Fringe universe, they have been trying to figure out what on earth the Observers are actually doing?  Why are they collecting all this information?  Dave guessed that the Observers are there to keep the two universes stable and parallel.  By observing key events, they prevent multiple alternate universes from springing into existence.  They’re here because of Schroedinger’s theory.  They choose which events to observe, making those events and outcomes “real”.

It was neat.  It fit the mythology as presented and frankly solved some of the science problems of their science fiction.  It was a brilliant meta-theory.

But it was wrong.  On a recent episode, it was strongly implied (if not outright said) that the Observers are scientists from the future.  Slightly more boring than our theory.  And with the most recent episode, the Observers are no longer the mystery they once were.  They are from the future and their goal was to take over our planet and timeline.  It's an interesting plot twist, especially since they jumped twenty-odd years into the future.  I'll be avidly waiting to discover if this is a one-off plot line or if they're trying to reset the series.

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