Breaking Badass Chemistry



For those of you who have no lived under a rock the past year, you know that AMC's Breaking Bad has become on of the most popular shows on television. It narrates the life of an over-qualified high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who turns to cooking meth (with an old student, Jesse) as a way to support his family after he finds out he has terminal lung cancer. The show deals a lot with chemistry so I wanted to research if the insane chemistry scenes were legitimate (Plus the fact that I'm utterly obsessed with this show).

One of the most memorable scenes from Breaking Bad is when Walt throws the chemical mercury fulminate on the ground causing an explosion big enough to shatter every window and knock people on the ground. Is this possible from a single rock? According to one article, the chemical is explosive but the size of the rock in the scene is not nearly large enough to cause that type of power. Pairing it with dynamite could cause a large enough explosion, though.

Another memorable scene is when Jesse attempts to get rid of a dead body by pouring hydrofluoric acid on it in hopes of it disintegrating. He neglects Walts directions of performing the stunt in plastic and instead pours the chemical in a bath tub. The tub eventually rots away, putting a hole through the ceiling. The science behind this deals with the chemicals in materials like ceramics. Ceramics contain the element of silicone and when it reacts with fluorine, it makes a strong bond which will dissolve the material. This explains why the bathtub completely disintegrated away. It's not recommended that anyone tries to decompose a body like this, however. I hope you were not planning on it...

As you can see, Breaking Bad is not only a bad ass TV show but also a scientific learning experience. Just promise you won't try ANY of this at home.


I am a big fan of Breaking Bad and have often wondered if some of the stuff they pull on that show can actually happen. I came across this blog post about someone trying to get rid of a body using hydrochloric acid and have been skeptical since, but I guess there is some real science behind it.

I am actually quite surprised that the science in that show is legit! Like you I am obsessed with Breaking Bad. I thought that they wouldn't make some of the science true so that in fact people won't actually try it at home! At one point they explain the entire process they use to cook the meth, so in that scene i was really puzzled as to if that is true. You'd be surprised to find out that there was a real life Walter White!

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