Science File Information:
Mulder and Scully travel to a community of Hasidic Jews near Brooklyn to
investigate the mysterious strangulation deaths of teenagers involved in
the hate-crime murder of a local store owner, Isaac Luria. As we see from
the introduction to the episode, someone has summoned a golem to avenge his
death. A golem
is a mythical, mute, nocturnal creature sculpted from of mud. What's so
scientific about mud, you ask? Well for one thing, Mulder uses mud found
at the crime scene to track the killer back to the cemetary. Mud is no more
than soil and water mixed together to a sticky consistency. Believe it or not,
there's an entire field of science devoted to the
study of soils,
so if you're really interested in mud, read on.
For a simple introduction to soil study, go to
To see an elementary school study of the microscopic organisms that a 5th/6th
grade class found in a sample of mud, read
The hallmark clue left at each strangulation is that Isaac Luria's
fingerprints are found on the victims' throats. Sure, Isaac's dead, but
they're still finding his fingerprints. Is it possible that a fingerprint
could be mistaken or forged? Not likely--no two people have exactly the
For more information on forensic fingerprinting, read the
Forensic Science Web Page's
article at http://users.aol.com/murrk/page6.htm.
When Mulder and Scully exhume the remains of Luria to find if someone has
stolen his body to plant the fingerprints on the victims, Mulder discovers
a tattered book behind the corpse's head. When he picks it up, it bursts into
flames spontaneously. Scully tries to rationalize this by saying that arsenic
in the groundwater could have caused a buildup of arsine gas in the coffin that
combusted when it came into contact with the air. Scully, enough already. Arsine
gas is a highly flammable and poisonous gas, and arsenic has been known
to pollute groundwater, but it seems that the agents would have been poisoned
by it before it would cause a book to catch fire. Besides, arsine gas acts like
gasoline vapors--it needs a heat source or a spark to combust. (As a side note,
arsine gas has been found to be a contributing factor to
SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)
To learn more about Arsine (AsH3), check out
Mulder finds out that the golem has been brought forth by an incantation of
one word, the Hebrew word
"emet." This word has quite a bit of symbolism to it, because it means "truth,"
but when the "eh" sound at the beginning is removed, it means "death."
The study of words is a fascinating science; some scientists even think that
humans are genetically predispositioned to learn languages, a theory called
For an interesting article on research being done into the science of linguistics,
go to http://www.research.ucla.edu/chal/2lingus.htm.
For Yahoo's compilation of linguistics web sites, check out http://www.yahoo.com/Social_Science/ Linguistics_and_Human_Languages/Languages/.