Friday, May 6, 2011

Insane Imagery: The Science of Pokemon

Welcome to my first post in a monthly series called Insane Imagery, where I look at different TV shows, movies, books, etc. and try to explain the science therein. This month it's POKEMON!

Yes Pokemon, that cute group of games where technology is high, and ethics are low. As I explained, I'm looking into the science here, not theorizing about the mental and emotional development of a 12-13 year old sent out to travel the world alone, all the while using technology to abuse animals into doing what they want. I am also not going to go into the anomalous lack of factories, warehouses and transport within the world.
Here's a large list of the crazy things in this world that require some thinking to understand:
- Pokemon
   - Linguistics
   - Moves
   - Types
   - Evolution
   - Death
- Pokeballs
   - Size change
   - Capturing
   - Coercion
   - Release/Return
   - Power

None of this is easy to explain, but I'll give it my best. I'll go down the list as best I can, making references as needed. First up, Pokemon Linguistics, and how they can understand each other and humans.

Pokemon language is an enigma, simple yet complex, undefined yet specific, gibberish with meaning. The problem addressing this issue lies firstly in the fact that the different sources (Games and TV Show) don't agree in how Pokemon sound. Is it Pika Pikachu, or Pupupupupupuu? Not only that, Pokemon must also understand human speech, because no training is needed after capture in order to use the Pokemon. Logically, Pokemon must either be very intelligent, or somehow given a translator between the time they are caught and the time they are used. I feel the second is more likely, though they aren't mutually exclusive, and I'll get to that when I'm discussing Pokeballs.

Next come the moves, and the types of moves available. Most moves make logical sense, and may even be seen in the natural world, e.g. Bite, Gust, Water Gun, etc. Others are a little bit less common, but can be explained, e.g. Flamethrower, Psibeam, etc. And then there's Baton Pass, Block, etc. There's a biological explanation for fire or ice generation, see Psychics and telekinesis are generally cast off into the realms of Pseudo-science, but there is a little bit of theory that supports it. It's described well here: Moves like Baton Pass don't work well in reality, unless you consider the move a subtle form of mental manipulation. If psychic powers exist in the world of Pokemon, then a move which prohibits escape or transfers powers up can be a version of these. For example, Ninjask gets a speed boost just because it is Ninjask. If it uses Baton Pass, a suggestion could be placed that the next Pokemon used is faster then normal. Block could be explained only if the return function of a Pokeball requires consent. I'll get to that too.

Now for the obviously flawed idea in Pokemon called 'Evolution'. This involves a Pokemon fighting enough to trigger it's metamorphosis. This change involves a rapid, and sometimes drastic, reconstruction of the Pokemons body. One of my friends, as a way of explaining this, suggested that Pokemon aren't very similar to us. They are made of Cells which, like ours, originate as Stem cells. However, unlike our cells, a Pokemons cells can revert back to this Stem cell shape. In addition, each can quickly duplicate, allowing for the large size differences between different Pokemon evolutions. Just as animals have instinct, Pokemon have a evolution instinct programmed into their brains. It is repressed however, which is why battling can bring it forth. When activated, the evolution instinct causes a gland within the Pokemon, probably something akin to the hypothalamus, to excrete certain chemicals. These chemicals trigger a rapid chain-reaction that causes all the cells to revert to Stem cells and the reform into a new, more efficient form. This process is not consciously activated, but can be halted. If the Pokemon has reason (It's directed not to, insufficient food, etc), it can cause the same gland to produce a neutralizing agent, which acts quickly to stop the evolution process.

Another form of evolution is stone evolution. There are stones which effectively force a Pokemon to evolve. Stones only affect a small number of Pokemon, those that would otherwise not evolve. The stone actually replaces the evolution instinct chemical. It's not specified how a stone is used in the game, just that they are. The reaction caused by the stomach acid melting the stone could release the necessary chemicals, or perhaps the stone is made of the same chemicals and only contact is required. Who knows, maybe it's a suppository.

This brings us to happiness evolution. It seems to me that the trigger event in this case is a desire to impress. This makes sense in terms of real evolution, as a creature that will change to impress a mate will have more chance to reproduce.

Finally, what happens when a Pokemon dies? Obviously Pokemon die, otherwise there wouldn't be the Pokemon Tower in lavender town, or the skull on Cubone's head. Clearly, when Pokemon die, they enter a transitional state and revert into a ghost Pokemon. This does not make sense. But, then, neither does a lot about Pokemon. Despite their clear existence in Pokemon, ghosts seem to still avoid explanation, so I'll leave it at that.

Wow. All this and I'm just up to Pokeballs. Hopefully they'll be quicker to explain.

Okay, in the TV show a Pokeball is about the size of a golf ball until it's center button is touchedarea. Due to it's virtual silence and smooth movement, there would have to thousands of moving parts to work. This would create a lot of friction, so perhaps the mechanisms use magnets to operate.

Next is the capturing. Once a Pokemon is struck by a Pokeball they are drawn within. This event is similar to the Transporter from Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. A information pattern of the Pokemon is stored within the ball, and is reconstructed upon use. Considering that returning to the Pokeball must require consent in order for certain moves to work logically, it follows that to be captured also requires consent, or at least low resistance. A Pokeball, or it's more powerful variations, influence the Pokemon they are trying to capture, to somehow entice a low resistance. This is normally done through a small coercion device being written into the Pokemons pattern. If it isn't written fast enough, the Pokemon is released as a safety measure, hence 'breaking free'. The stronger the ball, the faster the coercion device is written. A master ball for instance writes so quickly and safely no Pokemon pattern has the chance of damage. Different types of balls, made of apricorns use a strong scent to lower the resistance of certain types of Pokemon before converting the Pokemon to a pattern.

The coercion device would likely be a small chip which exists within a caught Pokemons brain. It functions as a identifier, and a translator as well, allowing the trainer to use the Pokemon without the need for hours, days, or even months of training. The identifier would stop theft by preventing opponents Pokeballs from writing a new device into the pattern. Team rocket, and other thieves, would likely have developed their own 'balls to get around this safety net. If a trainer wants to remove this chip, and release the Pokemon, it is simply removed from the pattern before its last release.

The most basic problem of Pokeballs is the power necessary to run them. Short of developing a micro nuclear fusion reactor, a molecular fission reactor, or a dilithium crystal reactor, I can only guess that a very small, very heavy duty rechargeable battery is used. The first three are out when you consider the power stations within the games and show. They rely on current technology or Pokemon to operate. These batteries would most likely be recharged at a Pokemon center.

As a final note, I will suggest just how a Pokemon center works. When the Pokemon are placed in the machine, a complex algorithm runs, repairing the pattern stored in the Pokeball, whilst leaving the memory center of the brain unchanged. This allows for the Pokemon to eventually reach an evolution state and still be repaired from a backup.

I hope this clears a few things up for you, though there will still be questions, I'm sure. Please ask in a comment. If you're going to point out the leveling system inside the Pokemon games, don't. That's just a mechanism used by the games to show the amount of pushing needed to make a Pokemon evolve. If you have suggestions for my next Insane Imagery, please tell me in a comment below. Until next time,

crites evidentia logica.

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