Breaking Bad #2: the science

How accurate was science in breaking bad?
In general it was pretty good. It is clear that the producers of the show have put some effort into ensuring scientific credibility, and appear to have consulted the scientific community.

But having said that, however, there were a few problems.

  1. Walter White is a physical chemist. We know that because his expertise is X-Ray Crystallography. The manufacture of Crystal Meth is very much the realm of a synthetic organic chemist. It is therefore rather unlikely that a physical chemist would be able to, off the top of his head, manufacture crystal meth to >99% purity on his first attempt. Most synthetic organic chemists wouldn’t even be able to do it without a substantial amount of research, trial and error
  2. In one episode Walter White makes a battery out of some acid, coins and bolts that he has lying around, and then uses it to start the RV. Even if he somehow managed to get the right voltage, there is no way that such a small “battery” would generate the several hundred amps required to start a car.
  3. On several occasions Walter pinches Hydrofluoric Acid from the school store to dissolve bodies.
    As the strongest acid in existence, and the most dangerous (S7 Poison, DG Class 8 (6.1), PG 1) there is no way in hell that a school would use such a dangerous chemical, and certainly not sitting loose on its shelves. Most industries that use this stuff (I used to work in a place where we used it to make a brick cleaner) store in a dedicated cage that is kept under lock and key, with warning labels plastered across it.

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