In this first episode of Between Science and Superstition, Dan and Ana begin with how they got into Twilight Zone, followed by a break down of the pilot episode Where Is Everybody?
Listen as they talk about the episodes themes of being watched and isolation, things Rod Serling wasn’t happy about, and Dan’s love of mirrors in cinema.
In 1976, the crew of a Russian Soyuz-21 mission were brought back to Earth early after they reported a strong unpleasant smell aboard their space station. Concerns about a leak lead a replacement crew to board with breathing equipment. But after a thorough investigation, there was no odor and no technical problem. NASA concluded that this odor was a hallucination.
This episode came out in the middle of the space race, and Rod Serling heard of experiments we were conducting on astronauts and isolation. What we see is Serling's hypothesis of what would happen if a man was truly alone with himself.
While I'm not exactly sure if Serling was well researched on the topic or if he was just building on his own hypothesis, Serling actually wrote a fairly accurate depiction of the effect isolation has on individuals.
In 2009, Sarah Shourd and two other hikers were taken into custody by Iranian border guards for crossing the border into Iran. Shourd was kept in solitary confinement and would spend nearly 10,000 hours with little human contact. Hallucinations were one of the most disturbing effects. She would see flashes in her periphery vision, but when she turned her head she saw nothing. Often she would hear footsteps despite there being no one there. She said at one point she head screaming, and it wasn't until a friendlier guard touched her face that she realized the screams were her own.
We also know that time becomes very distorted when in isolation. In 1993, Maurizi Montalbini, a sociologist and caving enthusiast, spent months in an underground cavern designed to simulate space missions. When he emerged he thought he was in the cavern for 219 days, when he was actually underground for 366 days.
The last example of isolation and its effects I'll share is from 2008. In a collaboration experiment between Ian Robbins and the BBC, six volunteers were put in sound proof rooms for 48 hours. The volunteers suffered from anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations. 5,000 empty oyster shells, a snake, a zebra, tiny cars, and a fighter plane buzzing around were some of the reported hallucinations.
So when you watch the Twilight Zone episode Where Is Everybody? We can see that these hallucinations our main character experience are closer to science than a superstitious approach to this story. And with the added knowledge we learned about time becoming distorted, maybe Dan and Ana were right in thinking all these hallucinations happen in a real world 1-2 minutes, as shown by the two clocks at the beginning and end of the episode.