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Pretty Little Blood Snowflakes. The Science of The Expanse, Episode 7

We explore how real the science in science fiction is. 


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:  At the beginning of episode seven, Bobbie is on the ground bleeding. If that actually happened, would blood get pulled out of her body?

DANIEL ABRAHAM:  No.  It wouldn’t get pulled out of your body. What you’re seeing are holes in her pressure suit.  So you’re not seeing the vacuum pulling the actual blood out.


Q:  Is it pulling blood from the vein at all?

DANIEL ABRAHAM: Maybe a little bit but it’s mostly the atmosphere from the suit going out. If it’s a small enough mass that it could radiate heat quickly, yeah, sure it could freeze. It will will certainly freeze eventually. The smaller it is the faster it loses energy and the quicker it freezes..

Q:  Would the vaporized blood will crystalize into a snowflake?

DANIEL ABRAHAM: I have no idea whether vaporized blood would crystalize into a snowflake.
HAWK OSTBY: Nobody knows. We did that on the show? Good for us!
MARK FERGUS: It’s never been done before.
DANIEL ABRAHAM: I’m not sure where you get the funding for that study. 

Q: Yeah, but there’s a lot of water in blood, right?

DAN ABRAHAM: Sure, but there’s a lot of other stuff in blood too.

MARK FERGUS: There is a lot of water in it, so it could do that. 

Q:  What they did to Cortazar’s brain changes him fundamentally, with a non-invasive procedure. Is that even possible?

DAN ABRAHAM: It’s absolutely taken from existing text. One of the things that we’re experimenting with these days is the effect of magnetic fields on the brain including the part of your brain that controls moral choice.  They have located the part of your brain that deals with right and wrong, and used magnetic fields to suppress it little. 

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MARK FERGUS: What we’ve done is a much more extreme version of that where we can induce this kind of sociopathy and this-this death of empathy by finding the part of your brain that does the empathy part and just frying it. I’ve seen the experiment where they take the magnetic wand and they shut off your speech center. When you just-you just find the right place and disrupt it, and uh, things get weird. 
HAWK OSTBY: We’ve done it to Dan!  [LAUGH]
DANIEL ABRAHAM: Yeah. Not a big change enacted there.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the lozenge and what that drug is designed to do?

DANIEL ABRAHAM:  Well, it’s a nootropic drug.  We don’t specify exactly what it is, but it’s job is to increase focus, to cut away the distractions and to allow people to hyper-focus on whatever it is that they’re doing. It’s not unlike what we do with Ritalin. 

DANIEL ABRAHAM:  There are a bunch of folks getting through college right now on the early versions of these things. The idea of a brain-boosting drug is fairly common. 
HAWK OSTBY: That sounds like it’s five years away.
DANIEL ABRAHAM: It’s happening right now in med school.
MARK FERGUS: We didn’t want to have it be the typical device in shows or movies, it’s like this fog and suddenly there’s a big window lift in his clarity. I think in Bobbie’s journey, she’s going through this waste-heap of memory, but the focus drug’s able to find the important threads and follow them back to clarity, as opposed to she can’t remember. You watch her go through the stuff she does remember and it’s like pulling on a thread, rather than a sudden rupture of memory, which everybody always does. 
DANIEL ABRAHAM: The way we used this drug with Bobbie was to address trauma and loss, and I think what they’re doing in that room is completely unethical. I mean, just terrible!  Like, not therapeutic at all. They’re taking this fragile little mind and cracking it open like an oyster. It’s not good.
MARK FERGUS: Politics is politics.
DANIEL ABRAHAM: Politics is politics. Politics is ugly.

Catch up on The Expanse here.