View Full Version : Threshold science

2005-Oct-19, 03:23 AM
Has anybody been watching the new show Theshold? Its about an alien invasion of Earth (kind of). I only started watching it because it is directly before Numb3rs.

Anyway, considering it was regarding an alien attack on Earth I thought others might have some opinions on it. It isn't quite the normal alien invasion story, since the aliens aren't actually invading. Instead they mutate human DNA and make these mutants do their work for them. Interestingly, the government spooks are actually working against the aliens, not for them, even though they do the standard alien conspiracy stuff (coverups, suppressing evidence, imprisoning people without charge, raiding houses to steal evidence, setting off an EMP in downtown Miami, normal government spook stuff). Anyway, its only decent because they twisted the alien conspiracy formula enough to make it a little different.

The science is another story entirely. I am more familiar with the biological problems personally, but I am sure people here might now of some astronomy and physics problems that I wouldn't catch. Anyway, one of the major problems is that in the show someone listening to a specific audio signal changes your DNA. Not only that, but the audio signal actually makes alien ribosomes, which then proceed to add another strand to your DNA. I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, there is no way an audio signal could change your biochemistry at all, not to mention completely alter your DNA. Then, ribosomes have nothing to do with DNA, ribosomes exist for the sole purpose of translating RNA into proteins. Of course you could say that these are special ribosomes, but then they wouldn't be ribosomes at all. The definition of a ribosome is an RNA enzyme (ribozyme) that reads mRNA into proteins. Then there is the fact that ribosomes cannot get into the nucleus where the DNA is, they only exist in the cytoplasm.

Then, chemically DNA cannot form a triple helix of the type they describe. Triple helices can occur in normal DNA under very rare conditions, but these are not the sort of stable triple helices they describe in the show. Triple helices are a common sci-fi cliche, but they are not chemically possible. Nor are they chemically desirable, the whole point of DNA is that if you know one strand you automatically know the other strand. That means one of the strands is redundant. In triple helices you would have two redundant helces.

Whats more a thirty-second blood test can tell the government spooks whether you have a triple helix or a double helix, and they show pictures of the ladders of the helix clearly defined. Our best technology today can't get images like that of normal DNA that has been purified and amassed over a period of years. In fact, the normal double helix has never actually been directly observed, only inferred from tests and x-ray crystollography.

Somehow, after the DNA has been altered the mutants undergo substantial physiological changes. They can take gunshot wounds to the chest, can survive high-voltage electric currents, and are super strong. This is ignoring gross anatomical changes like extra teeth and spines growing out of their bones. This requires substantial changes in tissues that cannot change, or requires physiologically impossible changes in tissues.

And finally, somehow the mutants know exactly what they are supposed to do to help the aliens and have very specific dreams of the aliens (all dreams being exactly the same). I fail to see how a few seconds of audio can create specific enough changes to completely rewire the brain enough that all victims have the exact same dreams. Whats more, the signal is equally effective at taking over and reprogramming electronics. How could one audio signal cause the exact same changes in completely different systems? And now it seems the mutants are telepathic as well. :wall:

Now don't get me wrong, I don't mind it that much when a show or movie doesn't get science right. I have gotten used to it. But it seems they just cobbled together a bunch of science terms that have some vague connection to what they want to have happen and then decided to use them. "Hmm, seems ribosomes are somehow involved in biochemistry. 'Ribosome' sounds like a cool, biological-sound word, lets say they attach the triple helix."

2005-Oct-19, 02:39 PM
Executive Producer, Brannon Braga.

And you wanted scientific accuracy?

2005-Oct-19, 02:55 PM
Executive Producer, Brannon Braga.

And that is pretty much all that needs to be said about that, isn't it.

2005-Oct-20, 02:22 AM
I believe I said that, Doctor.

2005-Oct-20, 03:50 PM
Since I've been watching the show, and you point it out, you're right. Another thing that frustrated me was the explanation for the pulse they gave. I mean, we have had solar flares knock out radio, TV, and communication satalites, but I don't think a solar flare, even if powerful, would knock out elecrticity, cells, ATM's, etc in only a single city. Wouldn't the atmosphere disperse the flare and spread it over a larger area?

But hey, science fiction seems to be more about the fiction then the science, anyways.

Maha Vailo
2005-Oct-24, 04:55 AM
Suppose it was possible to completely alter a full-grown adult's DNA. What would happen to the poor soul whose DNA was altered?

- Maha Vailo