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Breaking Bad, a show that started a revolution on the prime time viewing block, changed the way we perceive TV shows. This show that stole our hearts and robbed us of our free time started in 2008 and ended in 2013. It lasted all of five seasons and kept us at the edge of our seats all throughout the five years. This show was a roller coaster of a ride that was an amalgamation of thrilling adventure and intellectual drama. Apart from this a central theme of this program was chemistry and its real life applications (even though they were negative applications they were applications never the less). This show taught people across the globe about an aspect of chemistry that is never shown in class rooms and is hidden from most until they pursue chemistry at a higher level of studies.
Breaking bad is a show about Walter White, an overqualified high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer and who starts the production of some of the world’s purest crystal methamphetamine to provide for his family. Walter uses his scientific background, not only to produce this, but also to get himself out of the toughest of situations, be it using Ricin to poison a rival or Hydrofluoric Acid to dispose of the body.
But here my aim is not to talk about Breaking Bad but to check how much of the science in breaking bad is actually true. We will be tackling each scientific theory in breaking bad one by one. I’ll be giving breaking bad a tick each time something is factually correct and a cross each time something is wrong. At the end of the article I will calculate the ratio of wrong is to right and decide whether the show met certain factual necessitates.
Walter uses this compound to take revenge on drug kingpin Tuco Salamanca. He cooks up a small volume of this compound and passes it off as Methamphetamine, while it is actually an explosive.
So the question arises if Fulminated Mercury is actually that potent. Well the answer to this is that it is. Fulminated Mercury is a very explosive compound that is used to trigger larger explosive devices and set off by either heat or friction. Breaking Bad gets one big tick for that.
In one of the goriest scenes in television history, Walter uses hydrofluoric acid as an effective way to dissolve any remains of his murdered rival, in order to destroy any trace of him.
Whether hydrofluoric acid can actually dissolve through a entire human body is the question that lies in front of us. Discovery channel’s Myth-Busters tried this one out (on a deceased pig of course) and found, that though the acid ate through the skin of the pig, it couldn’t quite dissolve the carcass. Sadly, due to this, a cross has to be given to Breaking Bad.
Death by Ricin
Ricin is a toxic compound that is derived from Castor(Rajma) seeds. It is used in breaking bad in elaborate ways to get rid of competition. So can Ricin actually be as harmful as portrayed on the show. Well, actually it can .A single dosage of Ricin (about one tablet of Crocin) can kill a man up to the weight of 130kgs instantly. Breaking bad racks up another tick for this fact.
Blue Crystal Methamphetamine
The protagonist is said to make Crystal Meth with a purity of 97%. Yet, the show depicts this ultra-pure Meth as slightly blue, which contributes to it’s ‘Brand-name’, Blue sky. However, according to many Senior chemists, including the show’s very own science consultant, Crystals of Methamphetamines that pure would most certainly be either colourless of posses a slight yellow tinge. Unfortunately, this warrants another cross for the show.
So what you see on Breaking Bad may not be 100% accurate, but I believe small mistakes such as that can be forgiven, especially for a show so gripping. At the end of the day, Breaking Bad isn’t a science lesson, and should not be mistaken for one. Yet, it has taken meticulous measures to portray science as accurately as the script would allow, and all us Science sticklers appreciate the effort.
The Science in
Why there aren’t gonna be any lightsaber in the near future?
A lightsaber is one of the most wanted collectibles for all Star Wars fans as well as those who are not. Sadly, no matter how much we wish for it, the current technology available to us will just not allow it
Initially, there were theories that the light saber blades constituted of lasers, but Physicist raised the questions of the need to reflect the lasers on the end of the blade, or the requirement of an extremely powerful energy source that can be housed in such a small space. It also raised the question as to how to ensure that the lasers’ don't clash, when their beams cross. So know there are theories that lightsabers are made of plasma, maintained in some sort of force field… But again, to generate plasma, there will be the need for approximately the same amount of energy, generated by a nuclear reactor. Finally, the force field could not be magnetic because, it has to generate heat, which magnetic fields cannot… So, I guess Polycarbonate and led lights are the closest us Star Wars Nerds can come to learning the power of the force.
The big bad blasters…
What makes Star Wars Movies oh-so memorable are the more than plenty blaster fights and the larger than life Iconic weapons. We have seen characters ducking and weaving, escaping these red, blue and green bolts of energy. Trying to dodge a laser bolt n real life... Not a chance, because lasers travel at the speed of light and if the blasters were laser blasters, the projectiles would be seen as just a particle and hit their target with extreme accuracy. But there are official, established Star Wars “sources” who are stating the the blaster technology is unlike that of lasers, and are actually a form of particle beam, and that is how the magnetically sealed walls deflect them
Chewie, engage the hyperdrive…
Current physical theory states that it is pretty much impossible for a body to propel itself at the speed of light. But the laws of physics are much more loose in a galaxy far far away… and the ships in the star wars engines are capable of travelling at the speed of light. Doing so would require infinite energy, which again is impossible in our world…
The reason that the ships in the Franchise use a Hyperdrive is because it would still take thousands of years to travel through and around a galaxy…
The Nuclear Testing Debate:
This House would restrict the use of nuclear weapon testing to other celestial bodies; ie. It would ban nuclear tests on Earth itself.
Nuclear testing is an essential measure that needs to be carried out by governments to ascertain and evaluate the effect of nuclear weapons on the basis of area and extremity of the effect, in the event that the weapon was to be utilized. While this is an essential measure, utilizing the Earth to carry out the tests is definitely not essential, as will be highlighted through the course of this debate, keeping in mind the manifold implications of nuclear radiation, which is emitted in the said nuclear tests. This debate focuses on two principles, 1) Why the Earth is not the apt ground for nuclear testing and 2) Why it would be in the interest of humanity for these tests to be carried out on other celestial bodies.
Coming to the first aspect, that of banning nuclear weapon testing on Earth itself. A commodity or procedure is banned when it is found to have detrimental effects on humanity. And nuclear testing is definitely detrimental, largely on the basis of the health risks it poses and the environmental hazards that are secondary implications. Looking at health issues of nuclear tests, ‘downwinders,’ are those individuals exposed to radioactive contamination or nuclear fallout from atmospheric or underground nuclear weapon testing. These communities are susceptible to thyroid cancers, leukaemia, solid tumours and destruction of the immune system. Moreover, the offsprings of the exposed are subject to genetic alterations through foetal malformations. So, if affecting one generation wasn’t enough, you have two generations affected quite substantially.
The second consideration of the compromise of human life is based on environmental hazards caused by nuclear testing. Plutonium, uranium, strontium, caesium and benzene are utilized in the formation of nuclear weapons. Now when these tests are carried out, they can be carried out in the atmosphere, underground and underwater. Each of these planes is independently affected. Leakage of these substances renders agricultural land unusable. Underwater marine life is destroyed whether by underwater testing or by the dumping of the wastes into lakes. The atmosphere that is already suffering from carbon emissions that have reached sky rocketing levels, due to the 21st century way of life is also subjected to nuclear emissions, compromising the quality of air around us as well as our quality of life. Or lack of life.
So essentially, what has been understood until now is the fact that there are health and environmental hazards to nuclear testing. What has not been analysed as of now is the fact that these tests are carried out with state sanctions. Research institutions get the go-ahead from the state, the ‘governing body’ that sanctions, not protection of citizens’ quality of life, but health issues and environmental hazards that compromise citizens’ quality of life, leading to a definitive lack of faith in the state on the part of its citizens. Another consideration is the tightening of sanctions, bans and political insecurity of nuclear tests in airspace.
Having analysed the health, environmental and political implications of nuclear tests on downwinders and the global community, we will now be looking at why other celestial bodies are more apt grounds for nuclear testing. This can be argued on the grounds of lack of evidence of human existence and earth like conditions of the environment on any other celestial body. Now when you don’t have people living on other celestial bodies, you don’t have downwinders and their offspring who are adversely affected. Nor do you compromise quality of life, since there is no life to be compromised in the first place, eliminating primary stakeholders like the downwinders, or secondary stakeholders, who would be affected by lack of economic activity if agricultural and marine life were destroyed. So, essentially, testing nuclear weapons on other celestial bodies is clearly the method that renders human life sanctimonious. You also have a state that actually protects it citizens this way.
Through the course of side proposition’s stance, it has become evident that nuclear weapon tests compromise life on earth. A suitable alternative to carry out these essential tests would be on other celestial bodies that do not have life to be compromised. After-all, life is sought after, not death.
Before we launch into the actual debate, it needs to be understood that we cant just decide to test nuclear weapons on other planets and go forward with the idea. On an average a one man space travel expedition costs more than 1.5 billion dollars alone. This by itself means two things:
Firstly, nuclear testing on other planets will be available to only a few first world countries that have strong economies and can afford to spend such large amounts of money on nuclear research, rather than in education, healthcare, and other such spheres. Hence, banning nuclear weapon testing will eventually lead to a monopolisation of the energy industry, in which only the wealthy countries will be able to lead the path to the future. This monopoly will itself have socio-political effects as it will disturb the global power equilibrium and put nations in vulnerable and susceptible positions, forced to succumb to unreasonable demands due to necessity of future energy resources. While some may feel this is too extreme, we must realize that this has happened in the economic sphere in the past when the world bank has forced nations to alter their policies and completely u-turn their ideologies. Therefore, what the proposition proposes will ultimately go against itself and cause further socio-political-economic disharmony throughout the globe.
Secondly,it also means that nations will be compelled to spend a significant percentage of their budget on energy research. Since the GDP cannot increase to make this happen, it means that nations will HAVE to make cuts in other spheres. These spheres may include education, healthcare, military, etc. This by itself is disadvantageous to the citizens since it means that there is less investment in Human Resource Development, something that the proposition firmly believes in! Hence the proposition’s demise lies in its own plan of action.
Thirdly, even if we consider that we have the opportunity to test nuclear weapons on other celestial bodies, we cant assume that just because there are no human inhabitants, the testing cannot have an effect on the earth or, in a larger context, the universe. We would have no means of controlling any of the effects on other celestial bodies. If there is a nuclear fallout on earth, we can restrict the spread with the help of technology. On other celestial bodies, there will be no access to such resources since that would cost even more money for the government. The atmosphere may not be restricting and the nuclear dust etc. It may even penetrate into space. If the existence of Earth is endangered by asteroids, it is needless to say that significant danger is posed from incoming nuclear wastes from other celestial bodies!
Lastly, the proposition cannot simply assume that earth as a WHOLE is “unfit” for nuclear testing of weapons. While it is true that nuclear testing mustn’t be done in cosmopolitan/densely populated areas, there are places on the earth that are uninhabited. It is in these uninhabited areas that nuclear testing can and should be done. Along with this, technology can be improved to manage nuclear wastes. Perhaps instead of “outsourcing” the entire process, if we could simply “outsource” the wastes, we would not be having this debate. That would even solve all the proposition’s questions and provide a reasonable, economic solution to nuclear testing!
To sum it up, the world, at the end of the day, is an economic web in which socio-political events/occurrences boil down to economic causes. Keeping that in mind, for the survival of global economy, for the bolstering and survival of humanity, it is imperative to allow nuclear testing of weapons on the earth. “After all, life is sought after, not death”.