FIREFLY EPISODE DISCUSSIONS

Science News: Is River's ESP Real?

POSTED BY: TWO
UPDATED: Sunday, June 17, 2012 11:33
SHORT URL: http://goo.gl/JixHO
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 7:22 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly



The best fantasy stories are the ones that could come true, so when I read the science news about precognition, I was pleased by the possibility that River could actually exist, someday. Maybe she is not magical like Buffy and Harry Potter.

I believe River has demonstrated precognition twice. The news articles on precognition:
www.newscientist.com/article/dn19712-is-this-evidence-that-we-can-see-
the-future.html

www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/11/feeling-the-future-is-precognition-
possible
/

The preprint that motivated the writing of the articles:
www.dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf

The preprint has this warning of explicit sex in the experiment instructions provided to students who were test subjects at Cornell University:

This is an experiment that tests for ESP. It takes about 20 minutes and is run completely by computer. First you will answer a couple of brief questions. Then, on each trial of the experiment, pictures of two curtains will appear on the screen side by side. One of them has a picture behind it; the other has a blank wall behind it. Your task is to click on the curtain that you feel has the picture behind it. The curtain will then open, permitting you to see if you selected the correct curtain. There will be 36 trials in all. Several of the pictures contain explicit erotic images (e.g., couples engaged in nonviolent but explicit consensual sexual acts). If you object to seeing such images, you should not participate in this experiment.

The location of the image was selected at random by the computer, which means that students should have correctly guessed the location of the pornography 50 percent of the time. However, it turned out that over 100 sessions, the subjects consistently performed above chance, and correctly located the porn 53.1 percent of the time. Interestingly, their hit rate on “non-erotic pictures” did not deviate from chance. (They found neutral pictures, for instance, 49.8 percent of the time.)

The major theoretical challenge for ESP researchers is to provide an explanatory theory for the alleged phenomena that is compatible with physical and biological principles. Although the current absence of an explanatory theory for ESP is a legitimate rationale for imposing the “extraordinary” requirement on the evidence, it is not sufficient reason for rejecting all proffered evidence a priori. Historically, the discovery and scientific exploration of most phenomena have preceded explanatory theories, often by decades or even centuries. The major focus of the article ( www.dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf ) is empirical, but returns to a brief discussion of theory at the end.

River using her spooky precognition powers to see the future in War Stories (2002)


Joss Whedon put River in front of three machine-gun firing bad guys. She kills them all without even looking. Her head is turned away! I don't think Joss wanted us to believe River has a death wish. River didn't take cover from the return gunfire because she knew that she would not be hit. I think River was demonstrating precognition. She was aware of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known inferential process.

Joss Whedon's brother, Zack, put River in front of six more bad guys in Serenity: Downtime (2010) www.mediafire.com/?i34aqc7bae249zm
Again, I don't think Zack Whedon wanted us to believe River has a death wish. Unarmed and bare foot in the snow, River goes forth to slaughter the bad guys all by herself because she knew beforehand that she won't be injured. She could have asked for help from her crew, but she didn't, for she knew she would not need them.

River's Accurate Imagination

from Serenity: The Other Half (2008) www.mediafire.com/?48dlwxqr81k646k
www.darkhorse.com/Blog/158/serenity-other-half

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 7:59 AM

ZEEK


What the? Who came up with that study? Why did they decide naughty pictures would increase precognition? Psychology experiments drive me nuts. It seems like a majority of the time they completely ignore the scientific method. They come up with an experiment, analyze the results and then form a conclusion. Hypothesis be damned. Granted this one sounds like they really did hypothesize that naughty pictures would have a different effect, but who in their right mind would expect such a thing?

I'd also like to hear from someone would knows more about statistics to find out if that's even a statistically significant result. 3.1% depending on sample size might not mean anything.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 9:03 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by Zeek:
What the? Who came up with that study? Why did they decide naughty pictures would increase precognition? . . . Granted this one sounds like they really did hypothesize that naughty pictures would have a different effect, but who in their right mind would expect such a thing?

Zeek's objection was covered on page 48 of www.dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf where Daryl J. Bem wrote, “I suspect that the experiments on retroactive priming and retroactive facilitation of recall will be the easiest to replicate successfully and that the experiments using erotic and negative stimuli will be more difficult to replicate, especially on subject populations markedly different from the North American college-age men and women who participated in our experiments. Their cohort’s distinctive experiences with erotic and violent imagery may render their responses to such stimuli unrepresentative of older ages or other cultures.”

In other words, experiments using violent Comic Books pictures / Porn might not work outside the North American continent. If the experiments are done elsewhere, different "stimuli" will be necessary for different cultures.

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 9:50 AM

ZEEK


You should have stopped reading at "I suspect". That should be replaced with "The following is hot air". His suspicions don't amount to a hill of beans without scientific evidence to support them. All he's trying to do is save face if others can't recreate the results.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 10:37 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by Zeek:
You should have stopped reading at "I suspect". That should be replaced with "The following is hot air". His suspicions don't amount to a hill of beans without scientific evidence to support them. All he's trying to do is save face if others can't recreate the results.

Daryl J. Bem can't say with authority what kinds of pictures will work in China, for example, if the experiments were repeated there and he admitted that. ( Maybe the Chinese are aroused by pictures of Chairman Mao? ) In most of the world, no one wants Bem to lie about what he knows, but America is an exception: “In America, no one wants to listen to self doubt. Also in America, our reporters don't have a working knowledge of arithmetic, which underlies practically every topic commonly reported on the front page or the evening news. Somehow, I suspect the latter makes the former a lot easier.” - http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/11/image-vs-reality

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 2:01 PM

BYTEMITE


Coming out of hiding briefly to comment.

Quote:

Granted this one sounds like they really did hypothesize that naughty pictures would have a different effect, but who in their right mind would expect such a thing?


Certain quantum mechanics experiments suggest that taking measurements of molecules in various conditions in the present can show signs of retroactive influence on measurements taken previously.

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/columnist/vergano/2010-11-21-phys
ics-future_N.htm


Since neurons rely so much on electron transfer, it's not a difficult leap to say that this may have some influence on a neurological level, and when each experience changes the nuerological landscape just a little bit... It's possible some of the information of a neurological change may be available prior to the event changing it.

Even if you take out the quantum mechanics voodoo, most events can be predicted with properly applied logic. As such, any sufficiently advanced logic is indistinguishable from precognition.

As a side note, I predicted this article would exist prior to it's existence. I was even talking to a friend about this earlier today. (kidding, sort of, I don't believe I'm precognitive, I'm not right nearly enough of the time to substantiate such a claim)

But otherwise I agree with you about psychology. I doubt this study will hold up under scrutiny. 1% difference from expected random average is statistically significant? Bah. It made headlines because it's controversial, not because it's conclusive.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 5:00 PM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
But otherwise I agree with you about psychology. I doubt this study will hold up under scrutiny. 1% difference from expected random average is statistically significant? Bah. It made headlines because it's controversial, not because it's conclusive.

Why is parapsychology bullshit? Because the exciting, positive experimental results have always failed the test of replication. This is why Bem’s paper is important: It provides the first framework for replicating anomalous psychological properties. Bem’s tests of psi or ESP build upon well-known experimental paradigms and minimize the contact between a true-believer experimenter and the test subject, thus eliminating one way of cheating on the test.


Bringing this back to Firefly: If ESP doesn't exist, even a tiny bit, there's no justification for operating on River's brain to give her more ESP. And that means there's no reason for River or Simon to be on Firefly. I would miss them both. Unless, of course, Firefly was really about magic and River is a witch . . . In which case, we've left the science fiction genre and gone to the dark heart of fantasy. Personally, I've got a very small appetite for magic-fantasy -- one Harry Potter movie a year is more than enough for me. If River was magic, I wouldn't be interested.

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 8:39 PM

HKCAVALIER


From where I sit, using pictures of folks having sex in the experiment is probably the first clever thing I've heard anyone do in studying ESP in humans. Asking subjects to remember words from a list that they would be later asked to type is even cleverer. I'd say Bem comes closer to understanding what he's actually studying here than any researcher I've hear of.

In my experience (I said experience) ESP is directly linked to empathy and emotion. ESP is strongest between people with strong emotional ties, as in a loving and/or familial relationship. Sexuality is important to all us humans and we all have an emotional reaction to it--generally very positive, that would be the baseline, but if anyone has a negative reaction it would have to be all the stronger to override the baseline positive. So, pictures to which a critical majority in the study could be expected to have a strong emotional connection would strike me as optimal. For specific individuals a loved one would prolly work even better. Gee, it sure will be great when science finally grabs a clue and is able to observe this stuff!

Thanks for linking the study!

HKCavalier

Hey, hey, hey, don't be mean. We don't have to be mean, because, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010 10:14 PM

RENEGADUS


Am, there was no precognition in war stories. Just super observation skills...... She looked out for a sec, closed her eyes and started shooting.


bad quality, since some people still like to record their own screen




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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 5:08 AM

ZEEK


Quote:

Originally posted by two:
Bringing this back to Firefly: If ESP doesn't exist, even a tiny bit, there's no justification for operating on River's brain to give her more ESP. And that means there's no reason for River or Simon to be on Firefly. I would miss them both. Unless, of course, Firefly was really about magic and River is a witch . . . In which case, we've left the science fiction genre and gone to the dark heart of fantasy. Personally, I've got a very small appetite for magic-fantasy -- one Harry Potter movie a year is more than enough for me. If River was magic, I wouldn't be interested.


It's science fiction. Not science fact. I'm fairly certain in the real world ESP does not exist. That doesn't matter in the Firefly world though. They can change whatever laws or reality they want because it's fiction.

Either way I'm not so sure River has precognition. She reads other people's minds. She doesn't see the future. At least I can't recall any indication that she can.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 5:10 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

In my experience (I said experience) ESP is directly linked to empathy and emotion. ESP is strongest between people with strong emotional ties


I disagree, or at least I have a different experience. What happens to me, I call it future flashes, it's most often completely unrelated to family, and more related to events happening in the immediate vicinity. You see a girl getting off a bus step on an insect you've been watching, then she does. You see a little girl you don't know accidentally pull a rosebush off a shelf at the garden center, and then she does. You see a black cat walk by, and then it does.

The initial visual flash is often very vivid, and reinforced by the event then happening. My guess is this is largely a product of hallucinations and/or over-active imagination probably combined with a form of near PTSD-anxiety, pattern recognition, and logic. Nothing supernatural about it.

However, though I have no strong emotional ties, you are most likely correct that empathy does play an important role in anticipating and understanding emotions and actions of people in the vicinity. Seeing something happen to someone else can trigger a psychosomatic response of feeling what they are feeling. Knowing someone well can also sometimes improve prediction, like the day I was able to predict my mom had gotten a cat from the shelter. To most everyone else it seemed out of nowhere and uncanny, but I had my reasoning, and I turned out to be right.

But everything else, I'm more dubious about. The day my grandfather died, I saw a dead robin while walking home from the bus stop, that made me think about my grandfather and worry about him. But he had cancer at the time, and it's unlikely the two events are related.

I doubt sexuality has much to do about any of it, unless the shock of seeing the pictures induces such an "yuck" response that additional effort is made to AVOID them. No one likes to unexpectedly see pictures of two people having sex; this is why pop-up porn ads on the internet generate such negative reactions. It might be different if someone is intentionally looking for it, but I find I don't want to examine that possibility too closely.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 5:30 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Either way I'm not so sure River has precognition. She reads other people's minds. She doesn't see the future. At least I can't recall any indication that she can.


She actually does. Out of Gas she predicts the fire. It's pretty clear that while Kaylee is nervous, she did not expect a fire or explosion from the engine and so River could not have gleaned that possibility from her.

Similarly, Ariel is potentially a neat episode about self fulfilling prophecies. Did River stab Jayne because of the Blue Sun shirt, OR did she stab Jayne because she knew he was going to sell her out, which made him then decide to sell her out?

The above image in Downtime suggests River's precognition, I believe there's another instance in The Other Half, and the short story Crystal in Still Flying pretty much confirms that River is precognitive.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 5:53 AM

ZEEK


I always just assumed the "fire" line was because River has heightened senses and could hear what was going on with the engine. I thought the slashing of Jayne's shirt had everything to do with the blue sun logo. Just like her smashing the food packets and tearing the labels off the cans. She's not a big fan of their logo.

Haven't read Still Flying. So, not sure what is shown in there. As for the series I still don't see any evidence.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:02 AM

BYTEMITE


There's no indication that River has heightened senses of eyesight, hearing, or smell. There is indication that she can "sense" other people's feelings and pick up information about their past. In the series there's potentially indication that she can also obtain knowledge about the future, and this possibility is more strongly suggested in the comics, and is outright confirmed in Still Flying.

Would you like me to post or send you some sample paragraphs from Crystal?

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:14 AM

ZEEK


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
There's no indication that River has heightened senses of eyesight, hearing, or smell. There is indication that she can "sense" other people's feelings and pick up information about their past. In the series there's potentially indication that she can also obtain knowledge about the future, and this possibility is more strongly suggested in the comics, and is outright confirmed in Still Flying.

Would you like me to post or send you some sample paragraphs from Crystal?


Sure. But how can you say the "fire" line is more evidence of precognition than heightened senses? Both are possible. Hearing something in the sounds from the engine that indicate it is going to explode is the simpler explanation IMO. Occam's Razor says we should take the simplest explanation.

It's also supported by River's intelligence. She could easily have learned the working of the engine by Out of Gas. Enough to know what different sounds indicate.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:21 AM

CYBERSNARK


But didn't other characters hear the engine shut down? River could've just been the first to figure out what that meant (and it's possible Kaylee was thinking "no, it's not a fire. It can't be a fire. It's just a loose connection somewhere. Please, God, don't let it be a fire.")

And I can think of a few different ways of how ESP/precognition/telepathy could work, based on what we know/theorize about how reality/the brain works, but none of them are testable with modern technology (and, more importantly, modern budgets).

Trouble is that none of these phenomena really lend themselves to (ethical) controlled experiments, so all the "evidence" we can gather is anecdotal, which no respectable (i.e., tenured, well-funded) scientist will touch with a 10-foot cattle prod. (And in a lot of cases, funding is dependent on not studying certain things.)

When we reach the point of being able to do full realtime electroencephalograms during a test for telepathy, then we can set up controlled tests.

-----
We applied the cortical electrodes but were unable to get a neural reaction from either patient.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:28 AM

BYTEMITE


1) "more evidence of precognition than heightened senses?" I didn't say the "fire" line was more evidence of precognition than heightened senses, I said that precognition is consistent with other suggestions in the series and supplemental material, and heightened senses is not.

2) "She could easily have learned the working of the engine by Out of Gas. Enough to know what different sounds indicate." The engine has never exploded in her experience. Maybe she could have gleaned some knowledge from Kaylee, but then again, Kaylee never even gave any indication of knowing that going TOWARDS the engine at that point of time was unsafe. She's worried, but her "I'll check it out" is cheerful.

3) "Occam's Razor says we should take the simplest explanation." Occam's Razor has been Jossed.

This will have to do for now, my book is at home.

http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/stillflying.html

Quote:

Brett Matthews wrote the episode "Heart of Gold" and co-wrote the Firefly comics Those Left Behind and Better Days. His story "Crystal" is, in some ways both the most and least satisfying of the three stories in Firefly: Still Flying. It presents a day in which River Tam has had a vision of the fates of all of the other characters aboard Serenity as she goes around to share them. Those whose futures are known through the film Serenity, clearly match up. Others are as enigmatic as Matthews could make them. The satisfaction is having a glimpse into the characters' futures, while the lack of satisfaction is based on the amount of prior knowledge the reader needs for the story, or perhaps vignette, to fully work. Without knowing the characters, "Crystal" is simply a few pages of inscrutability.



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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:34 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Trouble is that none of these phenomena really lend themselves to (ethical) controlled experiments, so all the "evidence" we can gather is anecdotal,


This is true and problematic. As I've said, I don't believe in precognition. I believe it's completely explainable with ordinary science and psychology.

When I recount my predictions, I know I am not precognitive because, like I said before, I am wrong just as often as I am right.

My future flashes are a weirder thing, as they don't happen UNLESS the event happens immediately afterward. But again, I'm sure that's just logic and an over-active imagination.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:41 AM

ZEEK


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
1) "more evidence of precognition than heightened senses?" I didn't say the "fire" line was more evidence of precognition than heightened senses, I said that precognition is consistent with other suggestions in the series and supplemental material, and heightened senses is not.

2) "She could easily have learned the working of the engine by Out of Gas. Enough to know what different sounds indicate." The engine has never exploded in her experience. Maybe she could have gleaned some knowledge from Kaylee, but then again, Kaylee never even gave any indication of knowing that going TOWARDS the engine at that point of time was unsafe. She's worried, but her "I'll check it out" is cheerful.

3) "Occam's Razor says we should take the simplest explanation." Occam's Razor has been Jossed.

This will have to do for now, my book is at home.

http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/stillflying.html

Quote:

Brett Matthews wrote the episode "Heart of Gold" and co-wrote the Firefly comics Those Left Behind and Better Days. His story "Crystal" is, in some ways both the most and least satisfying of the three stories in Firefly: Still Flying. It presents a day in which River Tam has had a vision of the fates of all of the other characters aboard Serenity as she goes around to share them. Those whose futures are known through the film Serenity, clearly match up. Others are as enigmatic as Matthews could make them. The satisfaction is having a glimpse into the characters' futures, while the lack of satisfaction is based on the amount of prior knowledge the reader needs for the story, or perhaps vignette, to fully work. Without knowing the characters, "Crystal" is simply a few pages of inscrutability.


She doesn't have to experience the engine causing an explosion to know what will cause one. All she needs to know is what in the engine is flammable and what sounds indicate it's leaking into an area with a spark. That could be as simple as hearing the hissing of a flammable gas escaping.

That comic may be canon but it seems like pretty cheesy canon to me. More like the author felt like finding a way to tell the stories they'll never get a chance to get around to. The easiest option was "we'll just throw this into river's bag of tricks so we can get to the story we want to tell". Not a big fan of that type of writing.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 6:51 AM

BYTEMITE


My understanding is that Brett has worked fairly closely with Joss on the comic books, as Joss didn't want certain things spoiled before their time.

It's likely precognition was always something intended for River. A lot of people see her line as a kid in "Safe" about the Independents riding dinosaurs and cannibalism as possibly foreshadowing the events in the movie, when the crew (Independents) goes up against the Reavers (cannibals), and what happens to Wash (dinosaurs).

It's also still possible that Joss may un-Joss precognition, and in the future go with a different explanation, and in that case the Still Flying short stories will cease to be canon. Until then, River appears to be both an Empath and a Precognitive.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 7:14 AM

ZEEK


The lines from Safe seem like a huge stretch. However, you're right that unless the Crystal story is ditched I think we have to accept it as canon for now. I just don't like the way it sounds like it's presented.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010 8:00 AM

BYTEMITE


It's actually not too bad. River does touch on Wash and Book's fate, but is misunderstood and unclear in ways that makes it so the crew couldn't have anticipated or tried to prevent some of the tragedies that come later. It's also not done in any way that suggests River was withholding the information. More like she didn't know specifics, or she didn't know how to tell them, or she didn't believe anything could be done to stop it.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010 4:55 PM

KPO

"Love is natural and real. But not for you my love. Not tonight my love..."


Interesting, thanks for posting this. I think the porn was probably a good idea lol. The results ought to be replicable imo though, I'm not convinced by the excuses, so we'll have to see...

I can remember hearing a theory like this from my uncle (who's a physicist, slightly eccentric): the idea that the future 'echoes' back in time, and human brains being able to sense it. And I have personally flirted with my own little theory that human beings can influence their own luck... Take for example choosing a random prize. If people can very slightly and subconsciously sense all/some of their possible futures - and then if they feel positive, or 'lucky' when they make their pick, they can maybe subconsciously 'tune into' that better future :-/


It's not personal. It's just war.

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Monday, December 6, 2010 5:31 AM

ZEEK


If the future echoes back through time then we might know what's about to happen but it's still going to happen. It would be fixed. Otherwise it isn't the future and wouldn't be able to echo back. So, if we can't change what's going to happen then seeing or sensing it isn't much use.

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Monday, December 6, 2010 9:34 AM

KPO

"Love is natural and real. But not for you my love. Not tonight my love..."


Quote:

If the future echoes back through time then we might know what's about to happen but it's still going to happen. It would be fixed. Otherwise it isn't the future and wouldn't be able to echo back.

It would take something like parallel universes and being able to sense the different futures that progress from a single decision :-/ I admit it's theoretical.

Quote:

So, if we can't change what's going to happen then seeing or sensing it isn't much use.

Perhaps not in the sense of tuning into future 'lucky' paths. Premonition could still be useful in influencing our response to what's coming though.

It's not personal. It's just war.

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Monday, December 6, 2010 11:34 AM

CYBERSNARK


Yeah. Predestination only occurs if time is strictly linear. It might not be.

Look at it this way: we know (intuitively) three dimensions of space (length/width/height) and one of time (linear duration). Physics suggsts other dimensions of space that we can't immediately perceive (but we can reason out mathematically). It's possible that time also has multiple dimensions, roughly analogous to width/height.

Imagine time on a quantum level, like an infinitely branching cascade. Every decision point becomes a divergence. Flip a coin and one universe becomes "heads" while another comes up "tails."

Trouble is, if our five senses are inextricably tied to linear time, how could we possibly perceive these other timelines, except as flashes of intuition or sense "memory" --seeing/smelling/hearing/tasting/feeling things that (to our normal perceptions) are not happening/have not happened/will not happen.

This could also explain why so many prophecies fail to come true --they do come true, we just managed to miss that particular timeline.

-----
We applied the cortical electrodes but were unable to get a neural reaction from either patient.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010 8:14 PM

ANOTHERSKY


I like how you guys start talking about whether ESP is/isn't happening in firefly and end up discussing alternate universes and timelines in our own world.

Nice to see life out here.

Setting Crystal aside (haven't read it yet), I don't think that you could specifically say that the canon examples are precognition. Maybe some telepathy. Maybe.

1. "Safe"--shooting guys.

I think the scene more than anything was to establish the until-then 'harmless babbling waif' as really REALLY scary with a gun.

However it's been proposed that she got there-- precognition, gun kata, mental calculus--doesn't seem to figure much in the scene.

It's just enough to make the audience go "ooooh, spooky!"--like their conversation about River being a "Reader". Presumably short for mind reader. But (except for two possibilities), it's not their minds she's reading. It's their emotions, and then her(easily demonstrated)'logical and observant mind takes it from there.

What is clear multiple times(attacking Jayne, Simon is shot, Hands of Blue chase) is that River is extremely empathetic--she certainly feels other people's emotions...which maybe 'translate' to 'conversations' like in Objects in Space.

This would seem to argue for enhanced senses, since at least in levels found in non-modified humans (again, who knows what they did to her?) they go together.

She could cold-read Badger, but I don't know which side of the line Early falls on--the story about his mother and the dog.

The only other example I can't figure out is the little girl who won't speak to anyone in Safe. River tells a plot summary of her sister's murder by their mother. Anybody explain that one yet? Seems to stick out. Maybe telepathy, maybe not.

Anybody noticed the trance she goes into whenever she does anything violent though? I want an explanation for that--her face is always so blanked-out.

----


Going for a ride.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010 3:02 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by AnotherSky:
. . . I think the scene more than anything was to establish the until-then 'harmless babbling waif' as really REALLY scary with a gun.

However it's been proposed that she got there-- precognition, gun kata, mental calculus--doesn't seem to figure much in the scene.

It's just enough to make the audience go "ooooh, spooky!" . . .

Either River was damn lucky she was not wounded in War Stories. Or she knew the bullets would not hit her. I call that second option River's precognition.

River was standing in front of 3 gunmen, she had no protective cover, no bullet-proof vest, the gunmen had machine guns. And after the shooting was over, River says, "No power in the Verse can stop me." I don't think River was parroting what Kaylee had said earlier when she took away River's apple. And I believe River was showing much more than that she is an excellent marksman. She was showing precognition -- she knew beforehand that she will not be hit by bullets.

We might never know what Joss Whedon really designed River to do. Joss will keep secret the specific skills he gave River so he has more room to write stories about her. As always, somebody watching Firefly can imagine what they please about River: that she was a Jedi Knight who can shoot down bullets aimed at her. Or River can fire her pistol faster than 3 guys can shoot back with rifles on full automatic. Or River was tactically idiotic and lucky no bullets hit her. Joss Whedon left much about River to the viewer's imagination. My imagination says that River had precognition -- she did not take cover from return fire because she knew it was not necessary: Niska's gang can't shoot straight.

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Friday, December 17, 2010 11:50 AM

ANOTHERSKY


I would agree Joss left it purposely vague, Two.

But whether River knew Niska's men couldn't shoot, knew they didn't know where she was or that she'd be a threat, or just knew the 'outcome' of not getting shot, or knew she was faster or where they would move to...we could come up with even more possibilities as an audience, and I agree the vagueness is part of the fun of interpretation.

What I'm really interested in is OiS and Safe--those seem almost telepathy to me, especially Safe with the little girl. What do you think?

__

Going for a ride.

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Friday, December 17, 2010 12:03 PM

CYBERSNARK


Quote:

Originally posted by Cybersnark:
When we reach the point of being able to do full realtime electroencephalograms during a test for telepathy, then we can set up controlled tests.


And we're getting there:

http://io9.com/5712142/pinpointing-the-telepathy-center-in-the-brain

Quote:

Some believe in the power of telepathy. Some believe in the power of fMRI. And putting the two together led a team of experimenters to perform "probably the first fMRI study to analyse the neuroanatomical correlates of telepathy."


Interesting result, though as the paper notes:

Quote:

". . .examination of just one control subject is a limiting factor."


-----
We applied the cortical electrodes but were unable to get a neural reaction from either patient.

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Friday, December 17, 2010 3:49 PM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Reply to Cybersnark:
They're getting research priorities backwards. They are “scientifically” explaining something that they did not convincingly prove, in this paper, existed. To quote the paper: “Meta-analyses of "ganzfield" studies[3] as well as "card-guessing task"[4] studies provide compelling evidence for the existence of telepathy.” I call it bullshit. Take a look at the paper and decide for yourselves.

From the paper titled Investigating paranormal phenomena: Functional brain imaging of telepathy is a picture that “proves” telepathy exists:
www.deanradin.com/papers/IntJYoga1266-7404602_203406.pdf


The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Friday, December 17, 2010 3:53 PM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by AnotherSky:
I would agree Joss left it purposely vague, Two.

But whether River knew Niska's men couldn't shoot, knew they didn't know where she was or that she'd be a threat, or just knew the 'outcome' of not getting shot, or knew she was faster or where they would move to...we could come up with even more possibilities as an audience, and I agree the vagueness is part of the fun of interpretation.

What I'm really interested in is OiS and Safe--those seem almost telepathy to me, especially Safe with the little girl. What do you think?

I think it's telepathy. To keep the stories suspenseful for many years, Firefly stayed coy about River's mind. Perhaps Joss Whedon never worked out in his head the imaginary physics of telepathy / precognition. What Firefly needs today is some Joss written stories explaining it all. And while he is writing that, he can throw in a Grand Unified Theory of Reavers -- my favored theory would have Reavers be a semi-closed community of telepathic murderers. When a Reaver dies, the community “recruits” another, disregarding all the Mal-approved-mythology about Paxilon being the only possible way Reavers are created.

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Friday, January 7, 2011 10:09 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Yesterday, The New York Times covered the ESP story www.nytimes.com/2011/01/06/science/06esp.html

Not everyone is convinced that River could be real:
“It’s craziness, pure craziness. I can’t believe a major journal is allowing this work in,” Ray Hyman, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University Oregon and longtime critic of ESP research, said. “I think it’s just an embarrassment for the entire field.”

The editor of the journal, Charles Judd, a psychologist at the University of Colorado, said the paper went through the journal’s regular review process. “Four reviewers made comments on the manuscript,” he said, “and these are very trusted people.”

All four decided that the paper met the journal’s editorial standards, Dr. Judd added, even though “there was no mechanism by which we could understand the results.”

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Friday, January 7, 2011 10:26 AM

ZEEK


I definitely think River is empathic. Telepathy is a tough one. I would say it's the more obvious answer. Though could she be using her incredible analytical skills along with her empathic abilities to make very educated guesses? Could be possible.


I was watching Ariel recently and saw an example of potential precognition in the series. When she pointed out the patient that was getting poor treatment after surgery I'm not so sure empathic readings from the doctor could be enough.

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Friday, January 7, 2011 11:02 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Empathic River doesn't go far enough to explain her.

I saw this great quote about ESP. I think Hofstadter went too far in his sneering, contemptuous attitude:
“If any of his claims were true, then all of the bases underlying contemporary science would be toppled, and we would have to rethink everything about the nature of the universe.” - Douglas Hofstadter, professor of cognitive science at Indiana University, Bloomington, commenting on Professor Bem's article.
www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/01/06/the-esp-study-when-science-go
es-psychic/a-cutoff-for-craziness


What I would love to see is some fanfiction that shows Dr. Mathias is a total fraud who has been faking his slightly positive ESP results. With Mathias, it's about getting his research grant renewed year after year. And then River Tam comes along and produces genuine proof of the existence of ESP.

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity", where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Sunday, April 3, 2011 8:36 AM

JEWELSTAITEFAN


Quote:

Originally posted by Zeek:
Quote:

Originally posted by two:
Bringing this back to Firefly: If ESP doesn't exist, even a tiny bit, there's no justification for operating on River's brain to give her more ESP. And that means there's no reason for River or Simon to be on Firefly. I would miss them both. Unless, of course, Firefly was really about magic and River is a witch . . . In which case, we've left the science fiction genre and gone to the dark heart of fantasy. Personally, I've got a very small appetite for magic-fantasy -- one Harry Potter movie a year is more than enough for me. If River was magic, I wouldn't be interested.


It's science fiction. Not science fact. I'm fairly certain in the real world ESP does not exist.


Yet I'm fairly certain ESP does exist "in the real world" but maybe just not yours.
Quote:


Either way I'm not so sure River has precognition. She reads other people's minds. She doesn't see the future. At least I can't recall any indication that she can.


Try to recall Ariel.
River knows in advance the patient is about to die, that the doctor is killing him. She cannot be reading the mind of the doc, he is too stupid to realize he's killing his patient. The patient doesn't know he's about to be killed by his incopetent doc. Nobody else knows the situation, other than God and any other precogs milling about.
River is precog.

War Stories Shooting is not a precog example for River. She peeks out and specifically looks at each of the 3 targets, then ducks back. Then comes back out with the pistol, taking 3 shots to the targets.


About the other studies/experiments, was the duplication unsuccessful for the Technical Remote Viewing (or whatever they called it) double-blind study?
Five volunteers were allowed to select one of 5 blank envelopesd, then select one from another set of 5 blank envelopes. The first selection was a world landmark, along with airfair to get there (I think they included Big Ben in London, Eiffel Tower, Sphynx in Giza). Second envelope was not to be opened until arrival, and while looking at the landmark, op0en the enevlope and think about the number and letter combination within.
Five Remote Viewers also selected one of 5 blank envelopes. Contents were matching number/letter sets to one of the 5 volunteers.
All 5 drew the corresponding landmark, from the perspective of the voluteer who looked at it.
Problem was, the Remote Viewers drew the landmarks 2 days before the volunteers selected their blank envelopes.

Did that one fail to duplicate?

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Sunday, April 3, 2011 9:28 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by jewelstaitefan:
War Stories Shooting is not a precog example for River. She peeks out and specifically looks at each of the 3 targets, then ducks back. Then comes back out with the pistol, taking 3 shots to the targets.

Just because River is a handgun expert does not mean she can't be killed by a gunshot.

River is not going to stand in the open, unprotected by a bulletproof shield, before three of Niska's machine gunners unless she is crazy (which she could well be) or her precognition tells her they won't shoot her before she shoots them. I prefer the 'River is a precog' explanation to 'River is crazy'.



The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity," where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/two

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Sunday, April 3, 2011 6:45 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


I feel that River is empathic, telepathic and something I'm going to call physiopathic here. We know she's empathic because she knows how people are feeling, quick example being when Book is afraid in Out of Gas, easy to dispute but I doubt anyone will, you could say she's just observant but I don't think that's it. We know she's telepathic because she knows what happened to Ruby in Safe. In Ariel I would say she'sdemonstrating an awareness of what's going on in people's bodies, with their physical nature, like when that guy is going to die, she feels that things are coming to an end in his body, I'm going to call that physiopathic for now until I come up with a better word, any takers? I think that knowing about the fire in Out of Gas could be another example of sensing physical things that aren't someone's thoughts, I think she could sense that things were going haywire in the other room with the engine etc.

I do not believe that in the series they give us examples of outright precognition. I know that the story Crystal does, but that was written after.

And I believe that River wassaving Kaylee in War Stories: her friend was in danger and River did what she had to do to save her, which meant taking a risk and using her skills. I do think that maybe she got the line about no power in the verse from Kaylee, she may have been using it to show Kaylee that it is okay now, that River saved her, that she is safe and that they can go back to life aboard Serenity now because Kaylee is now safe. It has always bothered me that Kaylee freaked out and stayed away from River for a while after that. I wish Kaylee would have thanked River and shown her extra respect, she now owes River a life debt after all. I understand why she didn't but I think she should have, it would have been the polite thing to do. But that's getting off topic.

As for whether River having powers discredits the series, I don't feel it does, its scifi after all, does that mean that no aliens discredits all other scifi series' out there?

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Monday, April 4, 2011 3:59 AM

BYTEMITE


The "No power in the verse line" is an ironic echo of a lot of things. It's first said by Mal, in regards to Kaylee, "No power in the verse can stop her from being cheerful." At the beginning of War Stories, Kaylee takes up a shortened form of the line that's also plainly meant as a call-back, "No power in the verse can stop me." The unsaid portion of the line is "from being cheerful."

Then River says it, right at a moment where Kaylee is not too particularly cheerful. Irony! And also potentially another hint at River's abilities, as River would not normally be aware of the full significance of the line, since Mal first said it before River was on Serenity.

In regards to the Ariel patient and the dying thing, I always thought even if someone weren't consciously aware, that still falls under empathy. But I can see what you're trying to do, by making the fire something in the present and therefore seeing and predicting the physical. I think that the right term for this is "remote viewing."

Something I have thought is that River might be a Medium. In the movie she suggests that she can hear ghosts on Miranda, and also suggests something similar in Bushwhacked. Maybe they're the ones actually telling her what happens in the future in Crystal. Maybe she has long telepathic conversations with Wash and Book's souls that they aren't aware of, and the souls know the future even if the persons don't. That would then maybe be more of a form of really advanced empathy as opposed to direct precognition.

I don't actually believe in the soul, but I think Joss does. It seems to me that Dollhouse was all about how you can't ever completely erase the soul and that it somehow isn't all brain structure or chemistry. So it might be something he might do. It's not too far from some stuff he had Willow doing in Buffy.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 3:55 AM

JEWELSTAITEFAN


I have not thought River to be a medium, but it's a possibility.

I have normally conjured in Bushwhacked that River heard the screams of "the dead" throught the mind/memory of the lone survivor (he was made to watch).
I have not clearly expresed that view, since many people seem to get confused easily on this subject.

On Miranda, I had conjured she had absorbed it in The Institute from the minds of the Parliament. Perhaps not. These readings can transcend space and time, so she could have been sensing the Mirandans from 12 years prior. The great proximity of their corpses would help trigger her. It seems less likely that all of their souls were still hanging around for her to interact with, 12 years later - most would have moved on.

A medium would be able to interact with "the dead" in real-time, not merely in the past (one way time shift). Had she passed on some comment from Book, or something from Wash to Zoe, I would agree medium. But I don't recall her interacting with the dead (she answers their questions, they answer hers.)

Regarding the patient in Ariel, River already stated he was going to die before the idiot doc injected the vaso-restrictor, so his body could not have sensed his imminent death - not until after the injection. Hence River knew it before it happened, and is precog.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 4:05 AM

ZEEK


Quote:

Originally posted by jewelstaitefan:
Try to recall Ariel.
River knows in advance the patient is about to die, that the doctor is killing him. She cannot be reading the mind of the doc, he is too stupid to realize he's killing his patient. The patient doesn't know he's about to be killed by his incopetent doc. Nobody else knows the situation, other than God and any other precogs milling about.
River is precog.


Not necessarily. The doctor doesn't have to know he's making a mistake for River to know. She learns things extremely quickly. She could have the medical knowledge to understand what the doctor was doing was wrong. The doctor knows the patient was prepped for surgery. The doctor knows what drug he's using. River can read those and put 2 and 2 together herself. No precognition required.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 4:06 AM

BYTEMITE


Nice analysis. I actually agree, mostly because like I said I don't believe in souls, and because this would make the series more supernatural than sci-fi, which Whedon has said he was avoiding.

But River as a medium is an interesting concept. We don't have any evidence for it yet, but who knows what powers Joss might have given River as the plot demanded?

The knowledge about Miranda almost certainly came from members of parliament. But being ON Miranda, where no one survived except the Reavers, who I question whether River could draw meaningful information from, she seems to suggest she can hear something (silence) from the corpses. That could be normal, or that could be a product of the WAY the people died. The plot point could set up for a reveal like that, specially since I've heard it suggested that if Whedon managed to reboot the franchise he was still planning on including Alan and Ron somehow.

Ariel may or may not be questionable, but she's strongly suggested to be precog in supplemental material. My question is if she's both a medium AND a precog.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:45 AM

JEWELSTAITEFAN


Byte,
You don't believe in souls.
How about spirits?
If you can, please explain to me how you view James Von Praagh (sp?), if you can assume for this time that he is not fake (because I know he's not).
I am interested in hearing your tale.
To be clear, this is a time I'm not joking.
Thanks in advance. If you are not familiar with him, please post after you have learned a little about him, his shows (live, and also televised and radio) and experiences.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 9:51 AM

BYTEMITE


No, I don't think I will, sorry. Seems to me like all that would lead to is some argument where everything I say is just as a skeptic and everything you say is just as a believer. Let's just keep talking about/ speculating about River.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011 2:00 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


Nicely done Byte, you don't have to talk about some weird show about dead people, or whatever it is.

I like this thread, everyone has really well thought out arguments about what River may or may not be able to do, lets keep it rollin like this.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Thursday, April 7, 2011 5:49 AM

JEWELSTAITEFAN


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
No, I don't think I will, sorry. Seems to me like all that would lead to is some argument where everything I say is just as a skeptic and everything you say is just as a believer. Let's just keep talking about/ speculating about River.


I didn't mean for it to sound like a trap for an argument, or a disagreement.
I don't doubt you think what you stated, and I'm not interested in arguing about it.
But I don't know your POV, your statement is so far outside my perspective that I don't think I'll be able to grasp it without you explaining it to me.

The offer still stands, I'd still like to hear how your views mesh.
If I get the gist of it, I might have follow-up questions, but you'd have no obligation.
I'm thinking there must be some explanation, I just don't know what it is.
Thanks in advance.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011 5:54 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

I don't doubt you think what you stated, and I'm not interested in arguing about it.


Hmm. Then I wonder why you wanted me to tell you how I can "explain" the abilities of what appears to be a proponent of your viewpoint. And insisted that I watch the person's videos - those are the actions of someone looking to convert, not discuss.

If you were really interested in what I thought, or how I thought it, you would've asked me that, instead.

I feel no particular reason that I should bore you with what I think on this subject, and why. I still believe the original subject of the thread would be quite a bit more useful (and fun) for both of us. In this instance, we can both believe that River might be a medium, or a precog.

One of the things I really like about Firefly is how much detail goes into every show. You can watch it every day for years and STILL find tiny things you didn't notice before. This conversation has me thinking about a drawing we saw River working on once, of Russian nesting dolls. I suspect that was supposed to be symbolic for something that happened in the episode, something "nested." I forget which episode.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011 6:05 AM

ZEEK


Quote:

Originally posted by Bytemite:
One of the things I really like about Firefly is how much detail goes into every show. You can watch it every day for years and STILL find tiny things you didn't notice before. This conversation has me thinking about a drawing we saw River working on once, of Russian nesting dolls. I suspect that was supposed to be symbolic for something that happened in the episode, something "nested." I forget which episode.



Pretty sure that was the end of Ariel before the "Time to go to sleep again" "No, mei mei it's time to wake up" exchange.

I agree that it doesn't really matter what people think of spirits and ghosts. That's like asking if someone believes in the Force when discussing Star Wars. It's irrelevant as Star Wars is set in a world where the Force exists. If Joss wants a soul or ghosts or spirits to exist in Firefly then they do. Whether we believe in them or not.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011 6:19 AM

BYTEMITE


...Ooh. Russian dolls. Was that a reference to Niska in the next episode? INTERESTING.

Quote:

I agree that it doesn't really matter what people think of spirits and ghosts. That's like asking if someone believes in the Force when discussing Star Wars. It's irrelevant as Star Wars is set in a world where the Force exists. If Joss wants a soul or ghosts or spirits to exist in Firefly then they do. Whether we believe in them or not.


Exactly. :) I want to discuss the mechanisms of the psychic abilities shown within the show. To understand River's abilities, I've previously framed it in the past in terms of things I had done and how I had done them, but other people will have equally valid interpretations.

Speaking of mechanisms, it might be interesting to discuss the surgery on River's amygdala, the how and why and what else they might have done.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011 11:32 AM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


Good point Zeke, its pretend and lets stay within the universe the show occurs in.

I don't believe that stripping River's amigdala would do what it does in the show, true your amigdala regulates fear impulses, but I don't think she'd be touched like she is if that was all they did. I should think that stripping her amigdala would make her not really afraid of anything, sure her logic would tell her to get away from a dangerous situation, but she wouldn't have the physical fear responses that we would have, if she did they would be drastically reduced. Clearly this isn't how River is in the show, so their medical explanation seems to lack a lot of research into the area of brain structures and their functions and what happens if they're different. But its TV so they can say what they want about the brain science and I don't care. The point is that whatever they did, they made River into a touched, empath/mind reading assassin.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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