The Science of ‘Breaking Bad’: Dangers of Homebrewing, DIY Batteries and the Effects of Ricin

     January 27, 2018


[This is an updated repost of an earlier fact-checking article of Breaking Bad.]

It’s likely that people remember more chemistry from an episode of AMC’s Breaking Bad than from their time in high school and college, but is the on-screen science sound?  For those who aren’t caught up with the exploits of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the show tracked his transformation from chemistry genius to high school science teacher to cancer patient to meth kingpin.  Not only does Walt’s scientific background aid him in his drug-making ventures, it also gets him out of scrapes.  Where other crime lords in the making might simply fight or shoot their way out of trouble, Walt uses not just his understanding of chemistry, but also physics, toxicology, and biochemistry to dispose of bodies, erase damning evidence, and to make sure that leverage is always on his side.  But does TV studio science check out in real life?

While the results on TV might not match up with their real-life counterparts, Breaking Bad sure has done its part for bringing a little bit of scientific curiosity into our living rooms, along with the most compelling drama in recent years.  The show was about as perfect as you could get, pseudo-science aside, so I’ll happily suspend my disbelief and enjoy the transformation of Walter White from meek to mad scientist.  If a little bit of scientific curiosity was sparked along the way, all the better for it!

*Here’s our disclaimer: This article is not intended to instruct readers in the methods of explosive production, body disposal, illegal drug manufacturing or to aide in the obtaining of deadly poisons or other unlawful materials.  Rather, the following is meant only to compare the Breaking Bad version of science to real world fundamentals.  Collider has long been a money-laundering operation reputable business in good standing.  Please contact our attorney, Saul Goodman, with any legal concerns.*