Secrets of Doctor Who – Extremis

by Jimmy Akin

in Culture, Film and TV, Podcasts, Science Fiction


Jimmy Akin, Fr. Cory Sticha, and Dom Bettinelli discuss and analyze the sixth episode of the 10th Season of Doctor Who entitled “Extremis”.

Zombie monks, the Pope, Missy, and a deadly book all bring the blinded Doctor, Nardole, and Bill together to begin their battle against a new foe.

And with major Catholic elements in this episode, you know that this Doctor Who podcast with a panel of professional Catholics at the helm would have all the hot takes, secrets, and insights into this one.

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{ 1 comment }

The Masked Chicken June 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Dear Jimmy,

I am slowly working my way through your podcasts. i don’t have broadband, so I don’t have access to BBC America, so I cannot watch Dr. Who, live.

A couple of comments about some things that came up in the podcast:

1. The famous mathematician and the originator of modern computer architecture, John von Neumann (pronounced, Noi-mann, not New-mann, as some people do) once said:

“Anyone who attempts to generate random numbers by deterministic means is, of course, living in a state of sin.”

Neumann was born an Jew in the famous Hungarian mathematics class, which included Polya, Erdos, and a few others. Polya once said that von Neumann was the only mathematician he was afraid of. Jacob Bronowski, in his famous series of tv essays, The Ascent of Man, devotes a portion of his last essay, The Long Chldhood, to discussing von Neumann’s legacy. It should be required watching for any scientist or mathematician. Neumann married a Catholic, was brought into the Church, and received Last Rites before he died.

The proof that one cannot generate a truly random number by computer is quite simple: any computer program can be modeled as a finite state Turing machine. Since Turning machines are, by nature deterministic, they cannot generate something random.

That does not, however, mean that two computers cannot synchronize their pseudo-random number output, as happens in the episode. There are a couple of ways to do it. If the computers are using random portions of, say, a sine wave, to generate the random numbers, it is possible, if the machines are coupled together, to get their individual sine waves to become locked together so that they produce the same output at the same time. There are many other ways possible.

As for the topic of living inside of a simulation, you mentioned the Babylon V episode as a possible pre-cursor, but there is a much older example that comes from the famous science fiction radio theater from the 1950’s called, X-minus One. In a 1956 episode entitled, The Tunnel Under the World, by Fredrick Pohl, a man discovers that he is trapped inside of an artificial construct, doomed to repeat the same day over and over. A synopsis may be found in the Wikipedia article on the story, which was published in Galaxy magazine (who sponsored the radio theater) in 1955:

I think the radio episode may be found at Old Time Radio sites as well as the Internet Archive (there is a link in the Wikipedia article for the Internet Archive version).

The Chicken

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