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What the fuck? What happened?


Some bird just cut my head off. This is not normal.


I could smell the fucking...


I could feel the cold. I could taste the fucking dirt.


You ate dirt?


Do you understand how far beyond the current state of the art this is?


I mean, we're talking about 50 years, 150.


Yeah, it feels about right.


This is what Vera was playing before she killed herself.


What if this had something to do with it? Welcome to the 3 Body podcast, the official companion podcast for 3 Body Problem on Netflix. I'm Jason Concepcion.


And I'm Maggie O'Daren-Pocock, and we can't wait for you to join us as we dig into 3 Body Problem with the creators behind the show and the real-world expert perspectives on the events we see unfold on screen.


On this episode of the 3 Body podcast, we are logging into the 3 Body game and finding out what exactly the 3 Body is and how does it inform our story.


Yes, we'll also be discovering the real scientific ideas behind the show with the 3 Body Problem science advisor, Matthew Kenzie. We'll meet the team behind the mind-blowing special effects of the series, Steve Kullbag and Stefan Fangmaier.


It's going to be fascinating. We're all going to get smarter today. Now, spoiler warning. This episode will cover content featured in episodes 2 and 3 of 3 Body Problem. If you don't want spoilers, pause now, go back, watch the show on Netflix. Netflix. We'll be waiting for you. Well, let's quickly catch folks up on where we currently are in the story. We now know that you and Jay, back in the '60s, at this secret base, used essentially a super antenna to bounce a signal off of the sun, amplifying it, and thereby contact someone, something out there in the universe. In the present day, all of the science all around the world continues to go wrong. Experiments are failing. Scientists are both taking their own lives because of whatever's going on and clearly being targeted by some mysterious group or group of people for murder. One of these who died by suicide is Verrier, who is the tutor of five friends who met at Oxford, Augie, Jim, Will, Jack, and Saul, back when they studied physics. Augie, founder of a nanotechnology company, has been seeing a mysterious countdown in her vision. Everywhere she looks, she sees it all the time.


A mysterious woman has appeared and somehow knows everything that Auggie has been going through.


You'll count down.


How much time do you have left?


Less than two days?


Yeah? It's not much. It's easy to make it stop.


You put an end to your work. No more nanofibers. You shut down the lab. It's simple.


Who are you? Would be suspicious as well. Tell you what. Tomorrow at midnight, At exactly midnight, go outside and look up at the sky. Has the universe ever winked at you? It's a chilling scene. The following night, Auggie follows the woman's instructions, bringing Saul with her. What do they see? All these stars flickering in the sky. This is a thing that's witnessed by people all around the world. Now, Maggie, I'm going to ask the question that I'm sure has been playing on all of our minds, having seen these early scenes, you see a countdown in your vision. Someone comes up to you. Later, you were to discover that that person cannot be videotaped or will not appear on any technological recording device and tells you, Hey, quit your work and we'll stop the countdown. Your reaction, Maggie, is what?


I think my gut reaction would be to stop the work. Also, scientifically, if I stop the work, does Does the countdown go away? Or is this just made up? That is a nice easy test. That's just what Oggy does. She goes in, stops, shuts everything down, the countdown stops. Then she goes back in later. Maybe. No, no. Yeah, it's definitely still there. Let's back off again. I think I'd have to start. What's the point of doing the work if your ultimate demise is the result?


You make a good point because I guess the silver lining of an approach like this is to discover that your work This is obviously very important.


Yeah, humanity is depending on you.


It's very vital in some way that you had not anticipated. I guess that must feel really great. I am not doing anything anywhere near important enough that aliens would ask me to stop Yeah.


I'm in that camp as well. Let's leave her. She's fine. No countdown needed for me. But at the same time, that triggers your mind and think, Well, what should I be doing? This work is important, and yet I'm not doing Yeah.


Now, before we jump into discussing the three-body game and everything around it, Maggie, there's something that E. U. And Jay says when she's at Red Coast base at the start of episode 2, she mentions the Fermi paradox. Now, some science folks out there and some fans of space might know what that is. But why don't you explain what it is to us?


Well, the Fermi paradox is an idea. Because one of the things that I like to say as a space scientist is space is vast. We have 300 billion stars in our galaxy. Each star has a number of planets going around it. 200 billion galaxies out there. There's a lot of numbers. So there's got to be aliens out there. And so the Fermi paradox says, Well, if there are aliens out there, how come the only science of life we have found are on our planet. Where are the aliens? This is something that we like to explore. Of course, in 3 Body, we meet the aliens that are coming for us.


Why can't we see anybody else? Where is everyone? Which I think is actually the thing that Fervy said, right? Is like, Where's everybody? Where's everybody? At the cafeteria of the lab that he was working at. Why haven't we contacted anybody yet?


To me, it doesn't seem such a paradox, Because although, yeah, we're seeing all these exoplanets now, planets going around the stars we see in the night sky. We're finding some, I think, quite Earth-like, so could potentially have life on them. With so many stars and planets out there, I do believe there's life out there. But space is big. There's no other way to put it. Traveling from our local solar system, the sun at the center, our local solar system with the eight planets, to get to the next door neighbour's solar system, which is only 4.28 light years away. That journey using current technology, that's traveling at, I think, about 16 kilometers per hour will take 76,000 years. That's as fast as we can go. Even traveling at the speed of light takes four and a quarter years to get there.


Right. We're not going to get anywhere near this speed of light anytime soon.


Also, it brings up things from the Drake equation. It's a guesstimate to see the probability of finding civilized life in the universe. It has all sorts of things like the rate of star formation, how many stars actually have planets. But some of my favorite parameters are things like, how long does a civilization last? Because I love the idea of the aliens landing and they come out and there's dinosaurs. It's all, ips. Wrong time frame.


Too early. Yeah.


We'll come back later. What do you think? Do you feel that there's life out there?


Well, there must be. It's too vast. There's too many planets that we've already seen for there not to be anything. But to your point, the scale is something that you actually can't get your hands around. It's hard for me to conceive of these distances. They are so large. From that perspective, yeah, it does make sense that people would be having a lot difficulty in reaching anybody else that they're trying to talk to, even if they're relatively close by. Level one. This is insane. So, Jin, another one of our Oxford Five, has been given a very, very futuristic and cool-looking VR headset, completely mirrored, totally smooth, all the technology seemingly hidden behind this beautiful, sleek façade. And that gives her access to a completely realistic virtual reality game, which is clearly based on technology that is centuries, perhaps? More advanced than our own.


Yeah, I'd say for centuries.


Maggie, would you put on a VR headset that just appeared at your house? No branding, no label. You don't know who made it. You don't know what it does.


I I would like to say no, of course not. I don't know. But I think it would just be too tempting. I want to know what it does and how it works. But there's nothing to take apart. There's no seams or anything. It's just amazing.


Now, what were you thinking when you see Jack and Jinn put this thing on where you're thinking, yes, do it, or no, don't do it. I think, do it for all of us.


I want to see what's going to happen.


We want to find out.


I'd rather you than me.


Yeah. I keep thinking about what I would be thinking having logged into such an immersive game like this. I think at a very basic level, you'd be thinking, Can I trust my senses anymore? If it is possible for me to be placed in a simulation that is completely indistinguishable from reality, what does that tell us about the world we experience all the time? We can make tricks. Are we in the matrix? Are we in the matrix? That would be the most troubling part. But of course, the first couple of times I'd be in the game, it would just be like, Wow, look at this. Oh, my gosh. I can't believe it. Just like Jack, Can I make a snowball? Can I throw it? Can I push you? After having put it on, would you then have misgivings when you see the advanced nature of this technology that you're putting directly on top of your brain?


Yeah. It's interesting why we write a bit about radiation and How is it interacting with me? How does it know me so well? Because we do have these headsets that can pick up alpha waves and pick up our brain waves. But this will be picking them up and then sending impulses to our brain so we actually experience this, firing the right neurons so that we actually we smell, we taste, we feel, as you say, the wind blowing on our skin. But the thing is, I think because it would be so immersive, I think it would be quite addictive. I think it would be hard to say, Oh, okay, maybe not. I think I'd be there. Maybe just one more try.


One of the things that I loved is so Jinn and Jack are talking about the game, and then all of a sudden, Jen is like, Oh, yes, well, here's all the calculations I've been doing about all the times I played, and she's got this whiteboard of all the data and the different things that have happened, which she's done this and that and this and that. I have to say, as a gamer, I really understood this part of it. Have you Have you ever been that serious about a game or riddle?


Yes, I can see the gaming aspect, but I can also see the science obsession where you take it away and think, Okay, to solve this, I need to make a graph. I need to get some data. She starts jotting things down. She's applying that knowledge to the game to try and solve the mystery. But what I also like is in the game, Jinn gets emotionally attached to the follower. Now, from the few games that I've played, I think that would be very important element to me. Dr.


Chum, you figured out that the home world was part of a three-body system.


A few other players did that as well, but you understood what truly mattered.


Not the planet, but its people.


You felt their plight. Your singular cortex activity was the highest we've ever recorded.


It's fascinating then that Jack and Jinn, because of their progress in the game, this would feel pretty cool. They get invited to this mysterious summit Would you go?


To me, I think I might be more like Jinn because I think I'd want to explore. Because when you look at the probability of, Oh, yeah, it's aliens. So I was sending you this, and this is their problem. Okay, the probability seems quite low, but the opportunities seem amazingly high. I think I'm just too curious.


I like that Jack is like, I'm out. I think that would be a reasonable response would be disbelief. Sure, this is advanced technology, but aliens? You know what I mean? Like, come on. But as soon as it becomes, Okay, so we've been watching your progress and we'd like you to show up at this place, that's when I would be like, Now I'm not going any further.


Jason, have you ever experienced that? I mean, so drawn into a game that everything else just goes by.


Oh, yes. I have had that, sadly, several times in my life. There was one video game, which I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention, but I was able to go back and look at the stats and see how long I had played it for. I had something just shy of 10,000 hours. Really? Yeah. Well, over the course of three and a half years, but still, with doing the math on it, that was basically playing a video game for the equivalent of a full-time job. It was troubling. I was like, Okay, I need to stop this.


But what was there that kept enjoying you back?


Great question. Much like Jim and Jack, it was a feeling of accomplishment. Not only am I getting good at this, but people are recognizing that I'm good at this, which is also important. That was what kept me coming back. Wow.


It's fascinating. Actually, I just think I'm not very good at games, so I don't get the affirmation.


That's why you are such an accomplished and smart person, Maggie. That's why you are a science expert, and I'm just the guy teeing you up.


Hey, we're all experts in our field, and there's stuff that you know so much about that I know nothing about.


One thing that is really brought home in this episode is just the craft behind the world building in this three-body game, the incredible visual effects that were used to bring that virtual reality to us in reality. Before we find out about all the scientific theory that is interwoven into this series, we want to hear about how this world actually created for the screen. We are incredibly excited to meet Stephen Fang-Meier and Stephen Kolbach, who are the VFX producers for the 3 Body Problem. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. Could you introduce yourselves to the audience?


Yeah, I'm Stefan Fangmaier, the Visual Effects Supervisor.


And I'm Steve Kolbach, and I produce the visual effects.


How did you become involved with this project? Let's start with you, Stefan.


Well, it started with Steve because we worked together quite a while back on a universal film called Wanted, and then he hired me a few times for jumping in on Game of Thrones, and then especially in the last season. And that is essentially the team that produced and created the three-body problem. And so when that came up, Steve once again called. I was on a different project, but he said, Why don't you just come and join us for this exciting thing? And so I did. Yes.


It was a bit of an evolution. I had been talking to Bernie Caulfield, our producer, and Dan and David, Benioff and Weis, for some time about the lead up to this, and the timing worked out beautifully. We had been together in a deep trench on Game of Thrones for many years, standing on the side of a hill in a bog at three o'clock in the morning in a sideways rainstorm, all huddled together around the monitor. I guess after 10 or so years of that, we quite liked one another, and everyone was pleased with the progress of the work at hand. They said, We're getting into this, and we'd love you to be a part of it. And these guys have been the best, most collaborative team of bosses and filmmakers I've worked with in my years. So that was easy. And then when it came time to figure out who would supervise the visual effects, Stephanie and I had worked together so well for so long, and it just seemed like a really natural fit.


You were getting the old team back together.


Yeah, it's been a family. Yes.


Because you do work on these different projects, and I love both sci-fi and fantasy, but are there differences and challenges in creating these different worlds?


Yeah, I think the tone and The storytelling of it is what drives and defines our work, as opposed to we're now setting out to do fantasy or we're setting out to do sci-fi per se. I think the adaptation that Dan, David, and Alex have prepared, I think really tightened it up quite a bit because some of the original text in the book was just, of course, so expansive because it could be. Oftentimes, the driving point everybody's after is a level of photorealism, whether you're cooking up a dragon that looks like it's really sitting there, or you're showing up in a virtual world that is unlike anything anyone's ever seen before, at least from the character's perspective. All of that is a tone that's set by the filmmakers and their vision and production design and a collaboration amongst all of us to come up with what this is going to look like and how is it going to feel.


You mentioned the book there, and there are some glorious scenes in the book. But when that was being translated into this program, were there any points you thought, Holy cow, how are we going to bring that to life? Because there were some big, amazing scenes, especially gravitation, pulling, burning. It's all there. Was there anything that you just thought, Oh, whoa, okay, we're really going in it this time?


From my perspective, any number of scenes or even episodes could be titled Holy shit, because we're- That's a technical term, I believe. Exactly. Stefan, what did you think about that?


Yeah, I think the thing is there are two aspects. If you don't have any reference, like back in the day when I worked on Jurassic Park, there wasn't like, or you could go to a zoo and check out a dinosaur. You have some license. But there's the point where it's got to look cool and it's got to be amazing and mind bog struggling. That's pretty much what Dan and David always said, just make it look cool as long as it looks cool.


Just wow everyone.


One thing that stands out about your effects work on this series is that Everything has to feel seamlessly connected to a world we recognize, to a modern day world that we understand. Is there a different challenge to that when the VFX has to integrate into a setting that people understand is the world that they see?


I think it's a really good question because ultimately we're telling a story and we're trying to have the beats that we're playing and fit into the story overall. But if it doesn't ring true, it's like what George Burns used to say about acting. It's about authenticity and truthfulness. When you can fake that, you've really got it nailed.


This is my follower.


You may call her Follower.


I'm Jin Chan. Please Please choose a better name.


Oh. One befitting a hero, for we hope you will be ours. Your mission is to solve the riddle of this world.


Riddle of this world. All How about Copernicus?


Welcome to Civilization 137, Copernicus.


Anything that happens within the three-body game, the VR scenes, how do you start working on that? Do you create some drawings? Do you just talk about what the look could be like? Do you get some direction from the showrunners? What is that process like?


Yeah, well, there's a script, and the script has the description of she puts the helmet on and she finds herself standing in a desolate grayish landscape. And of course, the art department generally would do concept drawings of what that would look like. And if that landscape is evolving, that would then evolve as the light is changing, for instance, as she's walking with the two other players in the game or the two characters in the game. And then there would be a series of drawings that show us this evolution. Then we take that and we basically elaborate on that and create a real three-dimensional setting of it. And after it's been shot, combine it with the actress. But also there's a lot of planning and how to film that based on those drawings and lengthy discussions. The filmmakers generally do come to us and produce us, say, well, how we're going to shoot this? And that's part of our role. While we are on from day one of pre-production, there are very few roles in filmmaking that actually start in pre-production and take it all the way through to post-production. People, the editors come on later, composers, of course, director photography doesn't come on until six weeks, usually prior to filming.


And so this is why this turned into a two and a half year project for us. It used to be in the old days, filmmakers would come to us and say, Well, can this even be done? Now, it's pretty clear that nearly anything can be done. So it's just a matter of time and money and that thing.


What has been What's the biggest change to your side of the industry that you've seen over that amount of time?


A lot of the technology that way back in the day, Okay, we're figuring out how the guy needs to be Chrome and mercurial. A lot of the software development and firepower that went into figuring out how that's done has now been done. Some of the toolsets that have been used are more readily accessible to smaller projects. Very rarely are we talking about, Okay, now we need to mount a computer science department to figure out how that's done.


I have worked as a science consultant on a sci-fi program before. Is there always that balance between the scientists saying, Well, this is how it should really look, and saying, But yeah, that's not very exciting visually. How do you address that balance? I'm going to just work that The interesting thing about the use of Unreal Engine and virtual production is that it changes the nature of production itself.


You need to be planning a lot more on the upfront so that you're building out your environments if you then want to go into a stage and shoot in front of it. But the reality is it's very much, quick, hurry up, let's go. We got a script and we got to figure out what What is the second be? Oh, my God. We don't have a second yet, but we shoot tomorrow.


Could either of you, gentlemen, explain for those of us who are not inveterate gamers, what the Unreal Engine is?


It's basically a graphics engine that's become so powerful and so sophisticated that can create these things pretty much in real-time. When you're in there, that's really animation, this is really like you're playing a video game, except you're using it for a filmmaking application, essentially. It's quite a It's going to change in the industry, and I think it's going to go further, maybe even hand in hand with the AI development in that area. Yes.


One of my favorite scenes is when they say there's a period of stability, and so they hydrate the people, or they start throwing the people in the lake. There's this amazing scene where these people effectively unfurl in the water, and they go from these rolled-up packages to human beings. How do you go about setting something like that up?


Well, I think We had, again, some concept art being done. We even had a flattened skin element being done. The roles that they were carrying, obviously, were practical elements. But then once they hit the water, it becomes a completely CGI adventure for those series of shots until you get the close-up on her face, opening her eyes, and then she swims up to the water surface, which we shot in the pool. Well, if you look at the science, obviously, one thing is to imagine you can put an apricot, an apple, or something into a... You get that dehydrated, it becomes very skinny, this and that. But with bones, what do you do with bones? So that was, obviously, we basically just said, Yeah, the bones, they do the same thing. That's certainly a fantasy element, right? Nobody's ever seen it. And again, as long as we made it look cool and somewhat plausible. But I think in general, it wasn't meant to be that practical. And with the dehydration of fall work, the setting was much more... As you remember, she's just laying on the ground. She sits down, and then she lays down, and suddenly this happens.


I think it's one of the big creative challenges to make that look cool with the same interesting aspect. So that was actually much harder.


We did the rehydration first, and we looked at a lot of reference of dehydrated fruit and roadkill and animals. You're always faced in this line of work of, we want to put a rhinoceros through a meat grinder. What is that going to look like? And then you figure, All right, I have a sense of what that might look like, and let's start stabbing at it and keep working on it until It feels like, Yeah, that's it.


I like the way her characteristics were maintained. It did look like the follower, but slightly crispy, for want of a better word. So, yes. Right, exactly. Wonderful. Thank you.


What an insightful conversation. It was great to get a view into the ways that the fantastical world of the three-body problem has come to life. From the world building to the physics behind it, we were lucky enough to chat with Dr. Matthew Kenzie, particle physicist and science advisor to the three-body problem.


Hi, Matt. Thank you so much for joining us.




Yeah, nice to be here. Now, you work at the LHC, that's the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. How did you become part of such an amazing scientific experiment?


I guess my route was fairly conventional for a particle physicist. I did an undergraduate in physics, which I loved, completely blown away by the subject, and I decided I wanted to keep going. I got a place on a PhD program. It's Imperial. Then I was sent out to CERN for a few years. I, just by luck, really, right place, right time, no particular skill of my own, was put on a search for the Higgs boson. I joined a team there. In my second year at CERN, we made this amazing discovery, so I landed right in the middle of it. I just went from there, and my academic career carried on from there.


That's fantastic. To be part of the Higgs boson discovery team. I guess that's the right place at the right time.


For those of us who have maybe heard of the Large Hadron Collider, but don't know quite what it does. What does it do and what is the Higgs boson? What makes this discovery so incredibly revolutionary?


Well, the Large Hadron Collider is the world's premier particle physics research facility. We collide bunches of protons together at extremely high energies, and that gives us access to some of the fundamental properties of nature. Yeah, this was completely crucial in the discovery of the Higgs, which has a mass heavy enough that you need a high energy collision to produce them. The Higgs is fundamental to all we know about how particles interact, and it governs the mass that particles have. Without the Higgs, everything would be massless and incredibly boring indeed. It was predicted back in the '60s, but it took until 2012 to make this discovery.


If I'm to understand this correctly, before this, there was something seemed to be missing in the universe, and the question was, where is it? What is it?


As physicists, we like symmetries. We really like things to be symmetric, and we like to find patterns in things. We knew about these three forces which govern subatomic interactions. There's electromagneticism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. There isn't really a nice symmetry between them because the thing that is governing the electromagnetic force has no mass. The The thing that governs the strong nuclear force also has no mass. But the thing that governs the weak nuclear force or the things are very heavy, and that is very annoying for the symmetry. It breaks the symmetry. It doesn't make you a nice theory. But the Higgs solves that problem completely by giving a mass to the heavy ones and leaving the ones which don't have a mass alone.


You spent your time working on the Higgs boson and this amazing discovery. But as well as that, you worked behind the scenes with the Netflix team. What did that involve and what was your everyday life like? Was it fun?


Oh, yeah, it was great fun and very different to my usual day-to-day. Actually, I met the creators of the show, Dan and David, about 13 years ago because my dad worked on Game of Thrones. He was a cameraman. Oh, wow. I met them very briefly, and at the time was infusing about my PhD program, looking for the Higgs boson, and then thought nothing of didn't hear from them for a long time. They reached out out of the blue saying, We're developing this new show and we could do with some advice from a particle physicist, and we looked you up, saw that you're still active in particle physics. Can we ask you some questions? I responded to that email, and then it snowballed from there. They sent me some outlines, and then they sent me some early versions of the script, and it developed from there. My role encompassed all sorts of things, really. I talked about certain aspects of how the physics and science is portrayed in the show. We then talked about a variety of different things, from the characters to the set-ups. Then as the show developed, I spoke a bit to the actors, and then the art department and props department were very keen to get me to tell them what was on the blackboard in the background of this scene or what someone should have on their computer, even to mad things where they would want to know if a certain mug or picture seemed feasible in the background of someone's flat, expecting physicists to be some strange species that have specific giveaway characteristics in their decal.


Yeah, I know, but we really are.


Yeah, there is an element of that, which is true.


It must be good fun, I think, because there's no quintessential physicist, so everybody's an individual. But yes, I do think we have some things in common.


Yeah, I think one of the nice things... I mean, as a career physicist, you're in the subject because you love it. But in your day-to-day research, you're tending to try and solve very specific problems. It's quite nice for someone to just ask you something completely generic which you've never thought about and try and think about, What would that look like or how would we convey that? It was really good fun.


What's an example of that? What's one of the things that they asked you for that you were not expecting?


I think a really productive interaction was with Alex Wu when he came on board the writing team, and we were discussing how Jin, the character The editor in the show would actually figure out that this game is portraying a world with three stars in it, a three body system. Maggie, you will know, but I was relating it back to how the early astronomy has worked out there were planets in our Solar System. You see these wanderers, these things that move against the fixed background of the stars behind them. They don't revolve in the same way, and you see them moving back and forward. I figured that something like that would give it away. She's making observations as she plays the game and trying to track positions of these stars and figuring out that they must be planet-like or close stars.


Saul. Yeah.


Do you believe in God? Is that what it's come to? No. I don't. I accept that this defies all known laws of physics, but I don't think that's an argument for God.


So what's left?


We only meet Vera for a very brief time, but I wonder if you might give us some insight into what she was working on.


Yeah, so she is a particle physicist, and the lab that she is in or the lab that she's running is a neutrino physics experiment. The big tank that she jumps into is It's a neutrino detector. Normally, that would be filled with very pure water with the idea that it can detect neutrinos. Of course, the experiment has been shut down, so most of the water has been drained out, which is what makes the suicide attempt work, I suppose. These neutrinos that we're trying to detect, they're rather mysterious. They don't really interact with anything, but they're incredibly abundant. There are billions passing through your body every second from the sun, but they mostly just pass straight through us and don't interact with anything at all. You need a big water tank to detect them. You can't detect them directly, but occasionally, one of them will interact with an atom in the water and produce an electron Those are things we can see. They have this amazing property, which is that in water, they can travel faster than light does. That creates a Sonic boom. When a jet engine is moving faster than the speed of sound, you get the equivalent for light.


Part of the reason that they're so interesting is that we don't really understand much about them, and we suspect that they could be giving us clues to other types of physics in the universe that we don't yet understand.


You see, I love that. I do a lot of going out and speaking to kids, and I love talking to them about the fact that there's so much that we still don't know, so much still to be discovered. Now, one of the things I really loved was the headsets that took people into the three-body game. Now, in the game, They talk about stable errors and chaotic errors. How do you tackle that? Did you have input into that?


Yes and no. I think there's a real beauty in the way this is portrayed in the show. The fact that you go into a virtual reality game gives you quite a bit of creative freedom. You can play a bit loose with the laws of physics. The thing is this game is designed to try and demonstrate something to the players, but that means that they can not burn when the rest of the world is burning, or they not freeze when the rest of the world is freezing, or perhaps they don't have the same laws of gravity, for example, don't quite apply to them, and time can speed up and slow down or whatever. It gives you that nice flexibility.


I have made dozens of measurements of the Sun's apparent size and luminosity. These do not correlate.


Second, I have noticed the Sun's position relative to this planet receding on a short time scale. Third, I have observed more than one celestial body too bright to be a planet moving relative to the fixed background of the stars. The only explanation for these observations is that this planet is part of a three-body star system Jin discovers eventually that the crux of the riddle is the random interactions of these three Suns in this planetary system, the titular three-body problem. Explain that three-body problem to us.


Yeah. Okay. I mean, the three-body problem generally refers to any system with three objects, three bodies, which are all exerting a significant force on each other. Typical example is a gravitational system. You have three large celestial bodies, be it planets or stars, suns, that are all sufficiently massive and sufficiently close to each other that They exert an approximately equivalent force. The equations of motion you could write down for the three-body problem, but you can't solve them generally. That's partly because the system evolves chaotically. Of course, Jin then works out from observing the stars that this planet must live in a three-star system, and it's in a chaotic orbit, so you cannot predict where the stars are going to be. Now, what I should say about the three-body problem is that there are some solutions to it that we know of, and now we know of several thousand of them. There are some certain stable scenarios for three bodies, but typically for some random starting configuration, they are not. That eventually ends in one of the bodies being ejected or two of the bodies colliding. If you're on a planet, that's not very good.


It's funny because all that stuff sounds like science fiction, but we think about 50% of the stars out there are actually binary systems. In fact, our next door neighbor star, Proximus Centauri, is part of a tristar system, and it has a planet there. Yeah, life on a planet in a tristar system sounds very uncomfortable.


Yeah. I think the only solution is to try and get off the planet because you know that it is not going to last forever. In the game, it seems quite competitive between the scientists because they keep on dissing the other guy's work.


Do you think that thing still exists today within the community?


I mean, yes, there is still some of That does still happen, absolutely. The science has evolved a bit in that a lot of modern research is done in big collaborations and big teams, so you need to be able to work collectively and work collaboratively. But for the most part, it's productive. I think you need to be able to do that and defend your ideas to other scientists. That's who you have to convince, right? You hope that the science wins out, which it should.


All in a line. A cistergy.


So what?


They're eclipsing one another. The planet is no hotter than it was before. What's happened to my army?


The planet's under the gravitational force of all three sons. One of the most striking scenes in the book, and also one of the most striking scenes in the series, is when Jinn progresses to level three of the three-body problem. Now, here we meet the non-player characters, Sir Isaac Newton and Alan Turing. They've built a human computer with an army of millions of people that represent the ones and zeros of computer binary code. Can you explain why this method came?


I love this scene as well. I think it's a great concept, right? To try and put a CPU into a human army. It's just a really nice visualization, and it's laid out like a circuit board. It looks even legitimate. But what they're doing is that they've got to a stage where they figure out it's a three-body problem at that point. They're trying to run a simulation, and you can do that. It will work to some extent, but it needs the exact starting conditions to be correct. They're going to have to measure where the stars are at some point and know their positions exactly, and they'll need to know their velocities. If they can get those starting positions pretty good and their computer is powerful enough, they might be able to make a pretty good prediction for a little while, which they do, and then it all goes to pieces. To run the simulation, the algorithm is not that complicated. The difficulty is getting that code to run on this CPU, which is made of humans, because you have to write an operating system somehow.


Yeah, that's really what I didn't understand. How do people know whether they're a one or a zero?


Well, they're just a logic gate, right? If they're a not gate, then they know that if the person behind them is a zero, they just do the opposite. They're a one or a zero. If they're an and gate, they look at the two people behind them. If they're both zeros or both ones, they give a one. If they're different, they don't. If they're an all gate, and so on. They're built out of these different logic gates of and, or, or not. They have to try and do it quickly. But otherwise, you're waiting on the slowest person. If the next person's already gone, the signal gets delayed in one part, but not in the other. But if people were militant enough to be able to do at the right time, I think it could possibly work.


That simulation ends in a trisolar cizage. What is a trisolar sesage?


I think a sesage just refers to any moment where planets or stars or celestial bodies align. You can have these amazing coincidences in our Solar System where all of the planets are lined up, and so we see them one after the other, and it's quite uncommon. But what's happening there is that all of the three Suns have aligned such that when you When you see them from the planet, they're all one behind the other. That means that their gravitational force is stacking up on the planet and ends up ripping the planet apart. You basically turn off or invert gravity on the planet.


Matt, do you think you'll continue with this consultancy? Might you go Hollywood? Might we see you attached to Dune 5 or something in the future?


I would love to. I really enjoyed it. I think the creators of the show really think about things incredibly really deeply. I mean, that was one of the most insightful things, I think, thinking about how a character would react to certain things or how that might project down the line of the story and these subtle details that you overlook. It was just a joy. So yes, I would love to, but I don't think I'll give up the day job. I like my research and my research team and my students a bit too much for that.


Well, Matt, thanks so much for joining us. It's been a really fun conversation.


Yeah, thanks, Matt. That was amazing.


You're very welcome. Thank you for indulging my physics chats.


Well, if there's anywhere to indulge in physics chats, it's here on the 3 Body podcast. Thanks so much to Matthew Kinsey and, of course, our earlier guests, Steve Kolbeck and Stefan Fangmaier.


That's it for this episode, but we'll be back next time looking at episodes three and four of The 3 Body Problem.


Yes, and next time around, we'll be joined in conversation by cast members Benedict Wong, who plays Da Xi, and Marlo Kelly, who plays the mysterious Tatiana, to all things three body problem.


With help from former CIA Senior Intelligence Officer, Jim Simivan, we'll be exploring the actions of Thomas Wade and Da Xi. We'll be looking at clandestine government organizations and asking whether there really are people like Wade out there in the real world.


See you then.