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Life after 'Lost'

It’s no spoiler to say that this week's “Lost” finale included a surprise twist of the afterlife ... which didn’t sit too well with science-minded types. It's one thing to speculate about the arrow of time, quantum parallel universes and the chronology protection conjecture, but it's quite another to speculate on what happens when you die.

Popular Mechanics has made a regular feature out of dissecting the science behind "Lost," but the final episode offered surprisingly little to go on - as executive producer Carlton Cuse admitted to PM's Erin McCarthy: "We're doing more fiction than science these days. ... We never promised a show that was based entirely and grounded in science. It's nice that it's able to do that, but we reserve the right to go in the direction that the über-plan directs us."

McCarthy's final fact-check had to do more with duct tape than the doom that faces us all. (Bottom line? Miles shouldn't believe quite so much in duct tape.)

The fact and fiction of duct tape wasn't exactly uppermost on the mind of Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller when I chatted with him about "Lost" earlier this week. I had phoned Muller to talk about his textbook, "Physics and Technology for Future Presidents," but we ended up talking about the show because he happened to be a "Lost" über-fan. He even predicted on his website how the show would end. Needless to say, we didn't see Jacob turning into a huge white-smoke monster for a final battle with the island's black-smoke monster.

Muller found Cuse's über-plan to be über-lame. "I could not have been more disappointed," he told me. "They always had a philosophical background and some mysteries, but they threw in a whole set of mysteries that became the focus of discussion. What was the Dharma Initiative for? What were the rules? What was the purpose of the island? ... We were supposed to get answers to these questions. We didn't get any."

For example, why was Ben Linus unable to kill Charles Widmore in his bedroom, but able to shoot him dead on the island? Who set up the rules for the island, and what would have happened if the smoke monster got away? What led Ben and the Original Others to kill off the entire Dharma settlement?

Now Muller suspects that the creators of "Lost" might have been making up most of this stuff as they went along. "The last episode was so disappointing that I don't trust those guys anymore," he told me.

Fortunately, here at Cosmic Log, we don't always restrict ourselves to just the facts. In the past, we've taken on subjects such as alternate afterlives, various theories of heaven (and your reflections on the topic as well), plus out-of-body experiences (and a variety of suggested explanations). If you're a "Lost" fan with a scientific bent, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on how the show ended ... or how it should have ended.


For a more general discussion of the "Lost" finale, check out the TODAY Television forum on msnbc.com. Join the Cosmic Log corps by signing up as my Facebook friend or hooking up on Twitter. And if you really want to be friendly, ask me about "The Case for Pluto."