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Here we go again: those of a rationalist bent are getting over-excited about a fictional television series’ portrayal of science: Fringe (official website here). IO9 ran with a a sensationalist headline to their interview with the creators of Fringe, sure to provoke supporters of science (read the quote and compare it to the headline). And Popular Mechanics has posted a feature questioning myriad aspects of J.J. Abrams’ new show: “From LSD Brain to Dead Autopilot, Fringe Premiere Skirts Reality“:

When it comes to fringe science—that occasionally dubious study of mind control, teleportation, invisibility and reanimation—the only true expert might be Dr. Frankenstein. That is, until J.J. Abrams moved beyond the sci-fi-bending universe of Lost—the Large Hadron Collider, time travel and all—and set out to create Fringe, the new X-Files-esque show that debuted last night on Fox. Now, he’s trying to convince the disbelievers that science and technology have advanced to the point where anything is possible.

Personally, I’d imagine J.J. Abrams is trying to entertain, and make a truckload of money in the process. But that’s just my opinion: the folks at Popular Mechanics felt moved enough to call in real-world experts in various branches of science to deconstruct the pilot “and separate the science from science fiction”. I feel safer already – now I’m just waiting for PM to deconstruct the other 6 days, 23 hours and 100 channels of TV…

Perhaps one of the more controversial elements of the show was the segment in which a drug coctail including LSD and a sensory deprivation tank are used to enable “synaptic transfer” – a shared dream state. Now this was obviously fiction…we all know that they should have been using pure Ketamine, as LSD just doesn’t cut it!

On a more sober note, when the article quotes neurologist Dr. Mark Milstein as saying “There is no current science that allows two people to share information directly between their brains, though admittedly, ketamine and LSD—both major hallucinogenic drugs—might make the user think she was sharing someone else’s dreams and memories”, they’re not really delving too deeply into the ‘real’ fringe science going on out there. Surely they could have noted the success of the Maimonides Dream Telepathy experiments (see Dream Telepathy – Amazon US and UK), or if they wanted something more modern, this 2003 review in the Journal of Consciousness Studies of subsequent dream-telepathy studies which concluded that “combined effect size estimates for both sets of studies suggest that judges could correctly identify target materials more often than would be expected by chance using dream mentation.” Or perhaps this recent Dutch study by Professor Dick Bierman (PDF file) studying the effect of psychedelics on psi (not conclusive, but certainly suggestive)?

At least someone’s making some money from the topic of fringe science…