Pizza and Particles: An Observation on Writing
Posted on February 7, 2016 Posted by John Scalzi 59 Comments
Note: This entry includes spoilers for my book Redshirts, so if you haven’t read it and want some elements to be a surprise, go ahead and stop reading now.
As you can see from the above embedded tweet and picture, a reader (who also appears to be a NASA scientist) asked me a question about the atoms in the pizza eaten in Redshirts, consumed by the heroes of the story, who had also traveled back in time.
Why would this matter? Because as a plot point in the book, time travelers had about six days to get back to their own time before they began to disintegrate — the atoms of their bodies from the future also existed in the past they’re visiting, and the atoms (eventually) can’t be two places at the same time and would choose to “exist” in the positions where they were in the current frame of reference.
Which is fine as long as you don’t mix atom eras. But when the characters ate pizza, they were commingling atoms from the book’s 2012 with their own atoms several centuries later — and what happens to those atoms from the pizza when the characters return to their own time? Because the atoms gained from the pizza would simultaneously be present elsewhere, and, as already noted, the atoms default to where they were supposed to be in their then-current frame of reference. Right?
As you can see from the tweet above I avoided the answer by giving a completely bullshit response (and then bragging about it). I’m delighted to say I was immediately called on it by another NASA scientist, and I responded appropriately, i.e., by running away. I’m the Brave Sir Robin of science, I am.
But it is actually an interesting question, both for itself and for what it says about my writing process. So now let me try to answer it more fully, because why not.
First, here are the some of the options for what happened to the pizza atoms:
1. After six days they were pooed out and that was the end of it (so to speak). This is a glib answer, and immediately brings up other questions like: So, people from the future don’t absorb atoms from the past at all? Wouldn’t they get hungry? Or thirsty, because presumably it would work the same for liquids? How would they respire? Wouldn’t it be the case in this scenario that everyone from the future would be dead in five minutes from lack of oxygen? These are all reasonable questions, and if correct would have made for a shorter and rather more tragic book, so let’s assume this scenario is not in fact the correct one.
2. After six days the atoms do what they do and revert to their then current locations. What does this mean for each individual? I suspect in the long term not too much. One, a fair number of the atoms will no longer be in the body anyway; they’ll have left through excretion, both through the alimentary canal and respiration. As for the rest, some of them would still be in the body as waste product (i.e., in the process of being expelled but not yet), while the ones that were in the body would be roughly evenly distributed so their sudden disappearance would… probably… not be substantially noticed or cause great disruption to body systems. But it’s certainly possible (depending on how much you eat and/or the positions of these atoms in one’s body) there might be side effects. In this scenario, time travel carries risk analogous to exposure to high radiation levels: Probably fine in small doses, but the more you do it, the more problems potentially crop up. This scenario is logical, given the rules of the particular universe in the book.
3. But wait! At the very end it was revealed there was yet another layer of reality, maybe, and also, maybe, a prime mover of the story independent of the story itself, an author, if you will, who probably could, at their whim, decide that the pizza atoms would just stay where they were, or at least not cause any damage as they left because the author had promised the readers that everyone in the book lived happily ever, so he wouldn’t, like, have them die stupidly from vaporizing atoms, what kind of bullshit is that. This scenario is not outside the realm of possibility, given the rules of the particular universe in the book, but it is kind of slapdash and lazy. Or is it? (Yes.) (Maybe.)
So what’s the actual answer? The actual answer is as the writer I didn’t give the pizza atom scenario any thought whatsoever — it just didn’t come up at all while I was writing — so when this fellow asked the question, I had no idea what the actual answer was, aside from “I don’t know, I didn’t think about it at the time, or really ever, until just now.”
Why didn’t I think of it? For one thing it wasn’t directly material to story at hand, either immediately or long term, so as a plotting consideration it wouldn’t have been anything I would have spent time on. For another thing I was writing quickly and even if I had thought about it at the time, my answer would have likely been “it doesn’t matter to the story, keep going.”
For a third thing, and this is the most relevant thing, I think, writing fiction isn’t about necessarily about so thoroughly developing your world that you as an author have an immediate answer for every possible consequence of the development of your universe. What you are often going for is sufficiency — that the world is logical enough to play in for the purposes of your story — and direction — moving people along in the story quickly enough that they don’t have time or the interest to question your worldbuilding or story-telling choices, at least until the story is done and you’ve bundled them back out into the real world, waving and smiling.
This doesn’t mean you settle for bad or sloppy worldbuilding, on the idea that you’ll just move readers along quickly enough that they don’t see the seams. No, you still attempt to make the universe you’re creating sound. If you set up rules for the universe, you have to follow them as a writer. What it means, however, is that once you’ve made up the rules for the universe, you don’t necessarily have to have an answer for every single question that might come up later. If you’ve built the universe soundly, when previously unanswered questions come up, you can create plausible answers based on the rules of the world you’ve built. Or, more likely, others can, in fan forums and blog posts and Twitter streams, while you sit back and every once in a while say “This is a very interesting theory you have! It might even be true!”
The point is that authors are often an interesting combination of god and tour guide: We create worlds, but then only let readers see the parts of the worlds that suit our own needs — that tell the story we want to tell. What that means is sometimes there are parts to our world that we haven’t seen either, that we only see when or if a reader gets away from us and asks a question we didn’t think to ask ourselves. Sometimes, that question is about pizza.
The ancedote about Niven’s Ringworld and, after the book had been out for a bit, some engineering students proved the structure was unstable. Niven was able to spin this into retconning things to set up the sequel, but you can’t precisely do that in this case, and don’t necessarily ever need to.
This is how I deal with the portion of The Android’s Dream set in the mall, where the mall’s fire alarm system is used to great effect to assist Our Heroes in escaping the hit squad… but acts in no way like a real fire alarm system should. A real fire alarm system, in this world, operating in that way, would be a murder machine, not a life safety mechanism. Despite the way that section rubs me utterly the wrong way, the book remains my fave of faves.
I ma beginning to get a glimmer of why the amount of dog poo I have to clean up in my yard seems to be of greater volume than one dog could possibly produce. Obviously something to do with time travelers and pizza. But why MY yard???
I just thought ‘…meh.. all atoms are travelling forward in time anyway, so not a problem’. You travel forward in time (relativistically) every time you go on a plane (really!), so who’s to say that sudden leaps forward by a few centuries are any different…? (Yes, I know personal time slows down for the observer in relativistic travel, but hey..)
I think, if your genre is fantasy or science fiction, and your plot and writing fine enough, one needs only enough internal consistency to be able to respond to challenges with amusing snark or bold bravado. This was what made the Letters to the Editor section the best part of Superman and Action comic books.
My question re: Redshirts, (which, coincidentally, I just read day before yesterday–so fun!– and recommended to someone yesterday) is:
What holy hell might be played, epigenetics-wise? Good golly. I can just feel my D/RNA’s unravelling quantumly at the thought.
There are probably other variables to consider as well, such as the difference in mass of pepperoni (Pe) and sausage (Sa).
The important question is:
Do you eat your leftover pizza cold or do you reheat it?
I don’t think you have the dual position paradox if the atoms are removed from the past and taken to the future. When they returned to the future within the person that ate them, they ceased to exist in the past. So rather than existing in two places, they didn’t exist at all for the intervening centuries.
You should submit this question to Randall Munroe’s What If.
Assuming that you go with the second option, since it isn’t quite as handwavy, would the results be different if the individual was wounded? I mean, if you eat something in the past while your body is healing a gunshot wound, presumably the atoms in the food would disproportionately end up where the body is making repairs, right?
I remember asking you a question about the skip distances in “Old Man’s War”, and pointed out something I thought was relevant. You were very kind in your reply, although I believe you were a bit harsh on yourself. I don’t expect my storytellers to be perfect, to have every little knot neatly tied, or every loose end tucked securely into a loop. I expect the story to be entertaining (OMW certainly is that), to be believable (I think it is), and above all, what the storyteller WANTS to tell. At some point, you just have to let your imagination take over, and forget the logic. I’m sure I’m not going to throw your books away because of a minor question like the pizza.
I like answer #2 the best. Thanks for addressing the issue!
I first saw this question when reading Farmer’s Time’s Last Gift. The idea that one person (or atom) can’t exist twice isn’t based upon any theory nor testing.
Ultimately, any story can have holes poked in it. Yet, reality is much stranger. Suspension of disbelief is equal to power of story and characters. One thing the Internet has done is allowed open access to the hole-pokers to make their views known; which is actually fine. I’ve gotten some good ideas off feedback from readers. I do smile though when someone quibbles about the choice of automatic weapon a character uses, but they’re okay with the aliens.
For me this kind of thing isn’t a problem. As long as it isn’t so flagrant as to break my suspension of disbelief I probably won’t notice until the second reading and if I get to the second reading you have more than earned your share of the ten bucks I dropped on the paperback book. My problem is that time travel in whatever form it takes almost always kills my suspension of disbelief. I don’t know, it just bugs me. Whether it is FTL ships or on dragon back it brings up too many issues that lead to too many possible explanations. Take the above example. Do I really want to put any real thought into how many pizza atoms were integrated into the characters body and how many were crapped out? Have fun, I’ll pass and move on to the next story.
I love your writing, and also this kind of glimpses about your writing process. Thank you.
This is a very interesting theory you have! It might even be true!
To be honest, I didn’t think of it myself, as a reader either. I was to busy enjoying the poor man getting dumped on by everyone for being so half-donkey with his writing
I guess I didn’t read the story that deeply. The pizza atoms didn’t consume any of my imagination. So there, NASA scientist.
I think I prefer the notion that a body can’t accept anything from outside its time period. That would leave open the possibility that alien and UFO sightings are actually time travelers in space suits trying to convince random strangers to do whatever it is the time travelers need doing.
Shakespeare would be proud of you.
My esteemed partner and I were just at a meeting of the local “Close Reading” group, the flavor of the month(s) being the Bard’s “Titus Andronicus” which is putatively set in 4th Century Rome but of course it’s all still pagan and references to early Imperial and even Republican norms abound, in almost all cases for the purposes of advancing the plot.
We enjoyed ourselves imagining some learned Lord Wessex-type buttonholing Will on Opening Night and saying, “Nice play, old bean, but by the way, at that point Romans couldn’t possibly be doing blahblahblahblah,” while the audience was passing by and scraps of conversation were dropping about ‘I liked the disembowelment part!’ and ‘That Aaron dude was SUCH a dick, I would TOTALLY have impaled him in Act Two, Scene Three…’ and ‘How is Will ever gonna wring a Part Two outta this with everyone dead?”
And Shakespeare nodding politely to the Noble Educated Patron and promising to do better next time before adjourning to the box office to count the take.
As it happens I have the insider story on that, which I’ll go into here because it has some good lessons for hard SF writers.
There are/were actually three errors, not one. The first and most famous one is that in the original printing of Ringworld, on the very first page, Larry has the Earth rotating the wrong way. Lotsa folks caught that one and it was corrected in the second edition, maybe even the second printing. A forehead-smacking “Doh” moment. Did it hurt Larry’s or the books reputation? No. Everybody makes silly mistakes, and it wasn’t central to the story.
It was pretty shortly after the novel came out that Fred (a.k.a. Flieg) Hollander figured out that Ringworld was unstable. It’s very simple physics. Ringworld is a solid ring–– the fact that it is spinning is irrelevant. If anything nudges it off-center (anything!) the half that got pushed a little bit towards the sun is, on average, a tad closer to the Sun than the half but got pushed away. So gravity pulls on that half more strongly, and it starts to move towards the sun. Process continues until inevitable hilarity ensues.
(Not so by the way, that’s why nobody talks about “Dyson spheres” any more but about Dyson shells– tightly spaced swarms of independent stations that are all individually in orbit.)
Anyway, Larry incorporated this knowledge into his sequel, Ringworld Engineers, which delved into the history of the Ringworld civilization. Fast-forward to 1975. Unbeknownst to each other, Dan Alderson and I (both many years out from college) decided to tackle the question: just exactly how unstable was Ringworld? Which is NOT simple physics. Neither of us is sure who finished their work first, but I know I presented to Larry first… because he didn’t believe me. Not that he lacked respect for my talents, but the timescales I came up with were 100 times less than the ones he’d been intuiting. Also, Larry was already well along on writing Ringworld Engineers, and my numbers would require some serious retconning on his part. Understandable reluctance.
A few months later, Dan presented Larry with his results and the two of us were in agreement, although we had used entirely different mathematical approaches. At that point, Larry had to accept that the lifetime of an unstabilized Ringworld was measured in decades, not millennia.
What to do!
Larry is a good hard SF writer, and he is also a mensch. He not only went back and did the necessary restructuring of his novel, he thanked both Dan and I in the acknowledgments for keeping him on the straight and narrow. He didn’t have to, it was a touch of pure graciousness.
An author can never go wrong with graciousness towards readers and critics.
Everyone draws the line where their suspenders of disbelief snap, differently. I find time travel and FTL to be equally likely (because they are physically equivalent). I don’t believe either is physically possible, but I would sure like it if they turned out to be. Consequently, I can suspend my disbelief. I like starship stories; I love Doctor Who.
Everyone draws the line where they want. Larry can stomach the idea of FTL, so he writes science fiction with that, but he thinks time travel is an impossible fantasy. This led him to the charming conceit of a series of stories about someone who does manage to build a time machine, and it always ends up taking him to fantasy worlds because time travel is a fantasy. No, don’t think too hard about that–– it’s very meta. They are fun reads.
pax \ Ctein
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While we’re at it, what would happen if crew member already had a carbon atom from the pizza in his system? In his time line, the pizza was never eaten, and the carbon atom happily went thru the carbon cycle a couple of million times before ending up in the food synthesizer of the Intrepid.
My guess it that he had some serious gas.
Yeah well, this entire conversation has some serious gas…
Possibility #4: the characters are wrong about the disintegration problem and something else is happening.
By a staggering coincidence, each atom that had been in that pizza in our time ended up in the appropriate crew member’s body in their own time. I know, right, what are the odds?
In particle physics, you can treat an antiparticle as a particle moving backwards in time: annihilation and pair creation from our perspective are places where the particle turns around and goes the other way. Thus the same particle can be in the universe once, or thrice (where one instance is the antiparticle) or any odd number. Is that real or just a mathematical trick? Shut up and calculate.
I haven’t read much Niven lately, but he seems much less concerned with order-of-magnitude plausibility nowadays.
e.g. In one of the Ringworld books everybody breaks off in the middle of a roaring space battle because a pinprick in the Ring threatens to immediately drain all of the air out of it.
In his Foo of Worlds collaboration, they dump a small amount of debris in front of a fleet of ships spread out over interplanetary distances and let the chain reaction of explosions take care of the plot obstacles.
If one thinks too much while writing, it may be impossible to write an entertaining story. After all, it is unusual or unexpected things which are fun to read. Who wants to read a story about the challenges of somebody going to the grocery store and the Post Office on the same day. ;>)
I always thought the Dyson Ring impossible (and unstable) and just plain silly. The Dyson Sphere is even worse, with nothing to support the structure away from the equator (no materials strong enough). Also, every ring section would want to orbit at a different speed.
I do appreciate that in your Old Man’s War series, you require the jump to originate in flat space (away from stars). It adds more interest to have limitations on the magic.
David Palmer: you beat me by minutes on the anti-particle time arrow theory. I’ve seen actual physicists propose that there is only one electron that keeps getting turned into a positron and sent back.
Well, depending on how long the travelers were in the past–can’t recall at the moment–at the most, the majority of atoms would have been excreted with 48 hours tops, leaving no problem there.
That leaves two byproducts to worry about though. Along with the, errrrrrrrrr, processed pizza, the atoms that make up bilirubin, bile, various and sundry bits of the gut microbiome, and what not would be left in the past. Maybe even possible not yet evolved gut parasites.
Then, there are the various atoms that were absorbed as nutrients, fat, sugars and what-not. Sugars would probably be burned off in a few hours (diabetes would be whipped by then! …I hope), fats would probably be burned off since our intrepid crew believes in healthy exercise, which lives what-nots like free-radicals, and nutrients.
Most of the nutrients would probably be burned off in exercise/living/breathing. The rest would probably not cause any major effect on the human body, and if they did, most of them would be masked or voided by vitamin supplements.
I don’t think the atoms of a pizza would be enough to mess things up TOO much, unless the time travel deadline turned them into anti-matter, in which case…….. BOOM!
Nutrients get absorbed gradually, and are dispersed fairly widely in six days’ time. It seems possible that they would be removed likewise, and be replaced as they vanish. The process might even be more gradual, if we posit that each atom, or particle, has a sort of disappearance-probability bell-shaped interval, because QUANTUMS! Something akin to a half-life. In any case, it strikes me that the process might well be innocuous so long as the percentage of body mass involved remained below a certain threshold.
@David Hajicek the funny thing is that Dyson knew the mechanics of it perfectly well. His assumption was that a sufficiently advanced species could put enough satellites in independent orbits around their star that it would appear from a distance to be a solid sphere. But he used the term “sphere” so it became a literal sphere in the pop sci-fi imagination.
He later tried to rename it as a “Dyson Swarm” but by then we’d all read about these giant constructions totally enclosing a star and said, “dang, that’s cool!” so there was no going back. And you have to admit, that one in Star Trek? Pretty freakin’ sweet.
Ok, First of all, if the reality of their world is subjugated to “the narrative” then all your points are invalid to begin with, and that’s fine, It’s FICTION, it doesn’t have to hold true with reality, in fact, it’s better if it doesn’t. I actually have that in a handwritten reminder when I try to write fiction and try to make it too real. you could go nuts with that.
Second: If we try to explain it and try to point out where he went wrong, well that’s more of a personality test and a measure of ones intelligence in the argument they wish to push forward.
Mine would be: question one: if the pizza molecules dissipated to take their positions they are meant to be in in the future, but they didn’t take the short cut riding in the gut of an interstellar traveler. wouldn’t that mean they are right were they are supposed to be?
That would negate the book because, if I recall correctly, something from the past dissipates in the future just like something from the future dissipates in the past. Scalzi’s explanation in the book doesn’t violate the law of entropy, in the sense that entropy is not sensitive to the direction of time on the quantum level, it increases regardless of direction. Now that I think about it, that only refers to times arrow, not leaping back an forth, so MY argument, and indeed ANY argument is invalid because no one has made a jump through time, skipping over part of history to test the theory.
In the end, Scalzi’s good and logic prevails. gee that was a fun exercise.
Interesting post. I loved the book and have been telling everyone I meet that they need to read it.
My theory was the six-days rule only applied to important atoms. Just like the main character rule only affected important people, and not every single person on the ship.
Or, yet another reason that time travel isn’t actually a thing.
The redshirts had atomic duplicates due to the actors playing them being alive in our present. The pizza atoms (it could be argued) did not have this duplication. They travelled from present to future via the medium of the redshirts without having to deal with the inconvenient centuries in the middle. No harm, no foul, get out of jail free.
I assume any atoms that became part of the characters cellular chemistry would be ripped out and cause all manner of bad things to happen..
If this had come out before Arisia, we would have had MIT students following Scalzi through the con chanting “The pizza is unstable! The pizza is unstable!”
What I glean from this is that if I eat future steak, this is good for my present cholesterol.
So your character eats pizza back in time then 6 days later what happens? Nothing unusual, you could reasonably claim. As far as most theoretical physicists know our universe follows entropy. Hence, following a past -> present -> future timeline would likely warrant no odd effects. I mean you make a bit of a jump there from present to future, but meh.
On the other hand, current theoretical physics as its most commonly believed makes travel into the past highly unlikely (due to the properties of entropy=time as we understand it). Which effectively unrolls that enchilada, but hey it’s why we call it ‘science fiction,’ right?
Incidentally, our present understanding of the universe does allow for the possibility of travel into the future, but you’d not be able to go back to your own time after that.
Something else to ponder that has nothing to do with multiverses and whatnot, just our own present one. Our universe is so vast that the possibility of another Earth that precisely mirrors our own is conceivable. Very possible even. I wonder how many of ‘me’ are out there.
Maybe it’s a copout, but given the nature of this particular story (i.e. making fun of less than rigorous TV programs), I wouldn’t think this would be of particular concern. Just, um, “tech the tech” and fix it when they get back, right? With all due respect, no one reading Redshirts should be looking for diamond-hard, Greg-Eganesque rigor…
What happens to the atoms in from the pizza? Not, how does the Skip Drive/ Alderson Drive really work?
Really, your book had so many other impossible things to entertain us, I never gave the pizza a second thought. I’d be more interested why Jenkins made me think on Lazlo Hollyfeld from the 1985 movie Real Genius. Maybe it’s just me.
I thought part of the through-line of the book was that the laws of nature themselves went wibbly when the plot needed them to? Seems to me that Our Gracious Host filled that plot hole so seamlessly that he didn’t even notice he’d done it!
At a certain point, you just gotta break out the MST3K Mantra: “Repeat to yourself, it’s just a show, I should really just relax.”
You’d pick up molecules even from standing there, I’d imagine, and some would become part of you.
I often suspect this is how God works. Set up the universe, go play some intergalactic video games for a millennia or two or three, then someone says, “Hmmm, I think this Adam and Eve thing is bullshit, what really made the universe?” and God says, “Okay, here’s Universe 2.0, Big Bang. Chew on that for a while, there’s a new version of Grand Theft Starship out.”
I remember having the same question when I read the book a couple of years ago. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure I decided something like scenario 2 was the answer and just moved on. Those “but…but…” moments do sometimes happen in SF, so as a reader you have to be prepared to fill in the occasional holes on your own. It’s all good.
Digital Atheist writes:
Fat works like a YouTube buffer. Fat is continuously formed from stuff you eat, and gets burned continuously as you need it, particularly at night, when you are sleeping, and not eating.
Whether or not the characters are burning off what they are eating, it is still likely that some atoms from the pizza will be incorporated into their bodies. Likewise, some of the protein may have incorporated into body tissues, particularly if it needs repair after exercise. I don’t know if you are more likely to burn off more recently accumulated fat.
Recently discovered your writing and have read 4 of your books in the past week. I really enjoy the stuff and intend to read all that I can find. Just wanted to say thank you for the enjoyment.
That’s basically it. The red shirts weren’t travelling in time so much as they were travelling through dimensions. Their atoms would jockey with the duplicate atoms of the actors who had created them into existence sort of in their red shirt plane of existence, but the pizza did not exist in the red shirt dimension. Nor did the exact oxygen atoms, etc. So those atoms simply are absorbed or pass through them as new atoms that exist on only one plane of existence.
Of course, that’s stretching atomic theory quite a bit, but quantum is fuzzy. :)
It is imperative to remember that science fiction is sometimes science fiction and sometimes science fiction. When one leans towards the latter, it is perfectly OK to just make some shit up.
I’ll assume the atoms don’t all just disappear after exactly 518,400 seconds. That seems implausible. It’s more likely to be a type of half life effect where they probabilistically disappear at a certain rate. I don’t know how many atoms out of a million disappearing it would take to kill you, but let’s take it as a given that when it effects your entire body the cumulative missing atoms kills you in about six days. It would probably be by a messy metabolic failure rather than a clean dissipation into a mist.
Now in the “pizza scenario” you’ve eaten a couple ounces of time displaced food and incorporated some of that as part of your body. The effects of its disappearance has to be about a thousand times less than the entire body scenario. If thing A kills you over six days I think one thousandth A is probably survivable, possibly an unnoticeable effect.
Its worse than the pizza… The air that they breath… Some of those atoms will be in their bodies. Plus the atoms in your body are constantly changing. I think the atoms in our bodies turn over frequently. I knew i was correct in voting for mira grant for the hugo…
I wonder if charles stross can help fandom out by pointing out more shibboleths in scalzis books. We gotta get a reddit thread going on where scalzi screws up the science. This is pretty funny.
Stop it, people! There is only one question: Is the pizza good? If it is, then you won’t be able to stop me in any time or universe. Gorge yourself and let Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle figure it out. ‘Nuff said!
Can some people volunteer to go trekkie on scalzi at book signings and panels. Ask him questions more than 2 layers deep. Record it and stick it on youtube. Will be funnier if he is on a panel with authors who do lots more world building because the next question can be one for them to show the contrast. I understand there are different ways to write genre fiction, but this would be funny.
I don’t know how funny it would be; I mean, I’m pretty open about how my worldbuilding process generally works.
Gee, Guess, why don’t you stop being a passive-aggressive troll for a change? Who knows, you might find you like it! Everyone else surely would.
pax / Ctein
I think the genre of the Narrative is important here. The context of what happens, and the consequences of what happens to the atoms, must fit the overall nature of the text at hand.
Since “Redshirts” is more of a light-hearted read, I’d say that on the 6th day, all the time travellers would have bouts of explosive diarrhea as the disappearing atoms caused a humorous, yet unforseen consequence.
If it was more of a serious drama that lead into a book series, it could be brought up later as a medical issue as the radiation and subsequent molecular disintegration that would happen would have negative biological consequences. It would certainly add unexpected drama.
If it was schlock, serialized TV, then it would probably be ignored until brought up at a convention, where one fan would stand up, point it out, and the lead actor would shout, “Get a life!”
My two p. Mike
PS> I greatly enjoyed the Codas at the end.