A techie's guide to "Lost"

A guide to the baffling and improbable gadgetry of the hit sci-fi show

  • Protecting yourself from the monster with a sonar fence Once you arrive on the island, you're very likely to encounter a rather angry monster that has inhabited the island for centuries. The monster appears to island dwellers as a billowing cloud of ominous black smoke and is capable of both tearing up trees and ripping off peoples' limbs. In other words, it's not something you want to mess around with. But don't despair! Technology provides us with a solution in the form of a high-frequency sonar fence that emits powerful sound waves capable of repelling the monster. There is, however, a downside – humans can't pass through the sonar fence either unless they want to suffer massive brain hemorrhages.

  • Summoning the monster with an ancient toilet drain While the monster is indeed dangerous, it can also prove very useful. Let's say there's a rival faction of people on the island and you want to take them out. Happily for you, the island's ancient Egyptian inhabitants created a way for you to summon the monster by… uh, by going into an underground chamber and unclogging a primitive toilet. Seriously, that's how it works. Once this happens, you can simply hide out in the underground chamber until the monster crushes all of your foes.

  • From enabling time travel to summoning smoke monsters, "Lost" gadgets can do it all! Despite being a science-fiction show, "Lost" doesn't typically dazzle viewers with the sort of futuristic gadgetry and technology sci-fi fans have come to expect in shows such as "Star Trek" or "Dr. Who." Instead, the show relies upon seemingly primitive technological artifacts that are somehow, some way capable of performing miraculous tasks – prominent examples include an Apple IIGS capable of saving the world from an electromagnetic cataclysm and a giant donkey wheel that can rupture the space-time continuum. With "Lost's" final season set to kick off on the US network, the ABC, this slideshow should help you get caught up on all the major devices and gadgets the show employs, no matter how seemingly implausible or bizarre they may be.

  • But first, some background… Before we get into the gadgets themselves, we should probably run a quick background on "Lost" for the uninitiated. "Lost" is the story of several plane crash survivors who have landed on a freakishly weird island that is continuously moving through both space and time. This makes rescuing our castaways extremely difficult, since the island may not even exist in our reality at any given moment! But that's not all – the island has apparently been "summoning" people to it for centuries in order to accomplish some unnamed task. As our characters have explored the island, they have come across several artifacts left over past visitors to the island, from Ancient Egyptian chambers adorned with hieroglyphs to ruins of a 19th-century slave ship to several stations set up by scientists in the 1970s to study the island's properties. The bottom line is that the island seemingly has its own consciousness and it regularly draws people to it to serve an unknown purpose.

  • Satellites – the one reliable way to communicate with the outside world The plane crash survivors must use satellite phones to communicate with a freighter ship passing near the island. The reason for this is because satellite phones link to one another directly over a satellite connection rather than a terrestrial cell site, and are thus able to maintain steady communications with one another even as the island moves through time. As "Lost" executive producer Damon Lindelof told Popular Mechanics, satellite phones aren't susceptible to the island's weird space-time distortions that ordinary communications devices are. This means that if the castaways had tried talking to people on the freighter using a standard GSM connection, they might have had severe lags in the other person's response… or, even weirder, the person on the other end might have answered their questions before they were even asked!

  • Preventing electromagnetic catastrophe with an Apple IIGS In 1977, a group of scientists were digging around the island when they tapped into a massive pocket of electromagnetic energy so powerful that it could potentially cause the entire world to implode in on itself if left unchecked. The scientists proceeded to contain the energy pocket by pouring concrete over it and by creating a computer system that would regularly discharge the energy to prevent it from getting too strong. Of course, this system actually required a live human being to sit inside the electromagnetic containment station to manually discharge the energy by entering a code into a green-screen computer every 108 minutes. To sum up: the people in charge of saving the world must live in extreme isolation while performing monotonous tasks and depriving themselves of sleep. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Finding the island with a special Foucault pendulum So let's say you'd like to travel to the island. Well, first you have to find it. And since it's never in the same place at any given time, that can be extremely difficult. Luckily for you, some scientists in the 1970s created a laboratory in Los Angeles specifically to track the island's four-dimensional movements. By using a Foucault pendulum that is attuned to the island's unique electromagnetic signature, the lab can follow the island's movements in relation to the Earth's rotation. Once you locate the island, though, you must move quickly to get there as it is just as liable to disappear completely again within the span of a week.

  • The time-shifting frozen donkey wheel …and here's where things just get ridiculous. While the island is continuously moving through space-time, people on the island can make it move even more rapidly by going into an underground chamber and turning a giant wheel sticking out of the wall. Yeah, we have no idea how this thing is supposed to work either as it's not something that Stephen Hawking wrote much about in his Brief History of Time. But hey, if you love science fiction as much as we do, you might as well throw up your hands, say "Whatever" and just enjoy the ride.

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