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Lego Sets in Space! The Science of The Expanse, Episode 13

See how the protomolecule takes apart a whole ship.  This week's Science of The Expanse delves into the lego sets of space.


The Expanse has been painstakingly crafted to be as scientifically accurate as possible, so we'd be doing the whole universe a disservice if we didn't call out all of the minutiae that make the show the most realistic look at the future we've ever seen. We sat down with Daniel Abraham, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby, the co-creators and producers (Daniel is also 1/2 of the team that wrote the book series the show is based on)  to get the lowdown on the insane level of detail and intricacy they put into the science we see in the show. But how real is it? Nerds, read on.

Q:  What is going on biologically with the protomolecule hybrid that it is attracted to radiation?
Daniel Abraham:  You know how a plant eats light?  Light's a form of radiation.  So this protomolecule does something very similar with other wavelengths of radiation.  There's no particular reason that you couldn't have an organism that eats X-rays for example.  Anything on the electromagnetic spectrum, you would just need to have something that acts like a chloroplast that takes the energy from that.  Since we wrote the book, there have been fungi that have been found at the Chernobyl sight that are doing it. Same thing.
Q:  What were you going for visually with the look of the protomolecule hybrid?
Daniel Abraham:  Well, we were looking for something that was clearly formerly a human.  The Protomolecule that we saw on Eros, was doing it's own thing, it was unconstrained, and using human body parts like Lego pieces. With this, we wanted to have thing that looked like it had clearly been based on a human and wasn't entirely elegant yet. .
Mark Fergus:  The protomolecule left to it's own devices would not have chosen to create a humanoid figure, it's playing with all these with biomasses, with everything, seeing what it's capable of and how can it be reassembled, and it doesn't have any particular fondness with the human form it's just that that human’s are saying,”Ohh, Maybe we can… make a solider!"
Hawk Ostby:  …we can guide this thing into the box we want it and totally control it!"  [LAUGH].
Q:  Is that what's going on in the last scene where The Arboghast is being deconstructed?
Daniel Abraham:  What you're seeing with The Arboghast is a graduate school mechanical engineering project where the Protomolecule has taken this thing and exploded it out to see how all of it's put together.  The Protomolecule has, at that point, come to a place where it can say, "Okay, I kind of understand what humans do.  What is this thing?  Oh!  Okay."  And we were very intentional in that.  It's not an explosion in the sense of a detonation. It's the explosion in the sense of an exploded diagram. It’s a schematic.  It’s taking apart an IKEA set in order to figure out how all of the shelves get put in.  
Q:  It's not so good for the humans aboard.
Hawk Ostby:  Not a good situation for those guys.
Q:  As someone who loves science, can you talk about the look that Iturbi has as he's floating out?
Daniel Abraham:  It’s a moment of scientific joy, of discovering that the universe isn't at all that he thought it was, and it's cool and amazing.  And, yeah, he's dead!  But, look!  Holy shit!  
Mark Fergus: It’s the look of “I just changed the world and I am dead!”  So there's joy and awe mixed with, "Oh, I wish I could stick around and see how this goes, 'cause I know I can't-I'll never see it, but I created it, but I'm dead now because of it."  So…
Mark Fergus:  It’s a very good death. 
To watch the latest episodes of The Expanse Click Here