‘3 Body Problem’ Episode 6 Recap: What Is The Staircase Project?

With the San-Ti announcing their presence and referring to humans as bugs in the previous episode of 3 Body Problem, things are out in the open. The general public now knows about the war they will be fighting in 400 years. With the followers of San-Ti now completely annihilated, Wade and his forces now only have a single enemy, the San-Ti, who are 4 lightyears away, getting closer with each passing moment. However, for human nature to descend into chaos in the face of calamity is no surprise. As the news breaks out, the world witnesses mass riots and civil disobedience. Some people even begin to worship the San-Ti out of fear, hoping for mercy when they arrive. Even though their arrival is expected in the 2400s, humans have begun to irrationally stock up on supplies, the way they did during the COVID-19 pandemic. The San-Ti are unable to lie and have revealed that they are practically omniscient, like the very idea of the gods that humans have fabricated. 


As for Wade, he is appointed the leader of humanity’s defense against the San-Ti. To be fair, Wade’s Machiavellian nature is the only thing that can ensure humanity’s survival and prepare them for the battle while outsmarting the Sophons. Setting up headquarters in Wychwood Manor, Wade believes that their base away from the cities would be a peaceful location away from the rioting to come up with solutions for humanity’s defense. 

In the meantime, Jin visits Ye Wenjie, who is in Wade’s custody. Wenjie had been a motherly figure for Jin when she was under Vera’s care, which is why Wenjie’s role in starting San-Ti’s assault on humans comes as a shock to her. Jin confronts Wenjie, asking her why she invited the aliens, to which Wenjie explains her contempt for humanity. She admits that she knows San-Ti might even annihilate human civilization, but humans indeed need to be controlled. 


Spoilers Ahead

Why Does Wade Recruit Jin? 

Wade recruits a panel of top scientists from around the world to develop solutions and counterstrategies against the San-Ti. Wade’s proposed strategy is to send a reconnaissance probe at the enemy fleet, which is approaching at 1% of the speed of light; however, human technology isn’t advanced enough to reach that speed. He tries to come up with ideas with the panel’s help, but it seems the scientists are discouraged by Sophon’s advanced technology. Human scientists fail to even show interest in thinking about a solution. They believe it is impossible to counter the Sophons since they are omniscient and already know everything they are working on. However, Wade argues that San-Ti’s weakness is that they cannot lie, and humans need to use the weakness of their enemies. 


In search of a solution to develop a probe that could reach the speed required, Wade seeks out Jin, believing her to be the only one who could think of a way to come up with something. He challenges her to devise a way for their reconnaissance probe to reach 1% of the speed of light using the present technology. 

What Is The Staircase Project?

As far as current human technology goes, there isn’t any type of jet fuel that can generate enough power to achieve 1% lightspeed. However, Jin is not the kind of person who accepts defeat. She finds answers in Polish nuclear physicist Stanislaw Ulam’s theory on nuclear propulsion. She has devised a method by which the probe could indeed reach the required speed. According to her theory, once the probe reaches a safe distance outside Earth’s atmosphere, it can be propelled forward by using nuclear explosions. These nuclear warheads would be placed at regular intervals, gradually increasing the speed of the probe with each explosion. The pattern, resembling a staircase, at which the nuclear warheads are arranged thus leads to the naming of the plan as the Staircase Project. The scientists present at the panel protest the theory, calling it expensive and risky; however, Wade claims the theory to be the only one that could guarantee the probe to indeed reach 1%, thereby ordering the execution of the Staircase Project. 


Why Does Will Visit Jin In London? 

Even though Will is a dying man, he’s a kind-hearted fellow who understands other people’s sufferings. The realization of his own mortality changes his perspective on life and existence, but the only thing that remains the same for him is that he is in love with Jin. He has been in love with her for a long time. But the fact that Jin is with someone else doesn’t affect him much. He wants his affection for Jin to be a secret, but his friends are very much aware of how he feels. When Jin visits Will’s house to meet Auggie about her project, she finally finds out that Will has cancer and asks to stay longer, but Will prefers she go save the world instead. After she returns to London, Saul Durand encourages him to confess his feelings to Jin, as he has nothing left to lose. Convinced by Saul’s word, Will takes the train to London to confront Jin about his feelings, but changes his mind when he sees Jin with Raj. 

Returning from his trip to London, Will clarifies that he doesn’t need to confess his love to Jin. Jin visited the house not to see him but to seek help from Auggie. Auggie argues that Jin’s team is not saving humanity, but Will again testifies for Jin. He claims that Jin will never work with Wade if she doesn’t think it is for the greater good. 


Why Does Auggie Change Her Mind? 

Following the massacre on the ship Judgment Day, which killed countless adults and children, Auggie has been disturbed. She can no longer look over the fact that her life’s work has been used for genocide. For the success of the Staircase Project, Jin’s team requires a radiation sail as big as 5 square kilometers and weighing less than 50 kilograms. The only way to achieve this would be to use Auggie’s nanofiber technology, which is why Jin approaches her friend, asking for help, but Auggie turns her down. The conundrum that she is facing is pretty much like the one Oppenheimer faced after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To escape the horrors that her work has contributed to, Auggie turns to alcoholism. It is only after listening to Will’s testament about Jin, she changes her mind and decides to help her friend. Jin needs Auggie’s help because she truly intends to save the human race, unlike other people with malicious intentions. 

Does Wenjie Change Her Mind About San-Ti? 

Wenjie has had some time to think things through. After finding out that the San-Ti has turned against all of humanity, including their followers, she has had a shift in perspective. She realizes that she is responsible for a colossal mistake that would end the entire human civilization. It is likely that the realization is also coupled with the grief of her daughter’s death, which she has finally come to terms with. Her regard for humanity can be seen in the instance when she donates to people on the street who are collecting money for ‘humanity.’ Towards the end of the episode, she confronts the San-Ti, admitting that it’s her lies that were the first in a series of lies that made the San-Ti turn against all of humanity. She hints that she still has ideas that will help humanity take up the fight against the San-Ti centuries from now on. 


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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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