The science of Breaking Bad: Madrigal

July 24, 2012

Breaking Bad | Season 5 | Episode 2 | “Madrigal”

It's time to get back in business.

It’s time to get back in business.

Through a series of lies and with blinkered overconfidence, Walt succeeds in getting the core of the Fring meth operation back together. Will we be back to industrial-scale cooking next week, or will it all fall apart sooner than expected?

You can read more about this episode at Emilia Jordan, AMC, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

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The non-science of Fringe: One Night in October

October 8, 2011

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 2 | “One Night in October”

Olivia-2 attempts to solve a very cold case.

Olivia-2 attempts to solve a very cold case.

With some kind of cooperative agreement in place between the two Universes, Olivia-1 heads over to solve a crime that has been perplexing the Fringe-2 team for years. A watchable, tense episode ensues, with most plot threads tied up neatly.

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent and Cordial Deconstruction, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

The brain-cooling device is fairly over-the-top, the principal issue being the fluorescent liquid. Would our serial emotion-stealer really go to all the trouble of putting blacklights in his Evil Lair just to make the coolant look more futuristic? The heat exchanger looks appallingly inefficient as well – the liquid to be cooled should run through the middle of the cooling vanes, not on top of them (although then the audience couldn’t see it).

Our kidnapper is using sodium thiopental as an anaesthetic-cum-truth serum.

Sodium thiopental

Sodium thiopental


The science of Breaking Bad: Thirty-Eight Snub

July 26, 2011

Breaking Bad | Season 4 | Episode 2 | “Thirty-Eight Snub”

Walt takes inadvisable advice from Lawson.

Walt takes inadvisable advice from Lawson.

Walt and Jesse adjust poorly to their new circumstances – Walt by trying to assassinate Gus and Jesse by retreating into drugs and other distractions. All this character development, gripping as it is, unfortunately leaves little room for science.

You can read more about this episode at AMC, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

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The non-science of Fringe: The Box

October 15, 2010

Fringe : Season 3 : Episode 2 : “The Box”

Olivia-2 about to permanently deafen Peter.

Olivia-2 about to permanently deafen Peter.

Back to Earth-1, and the Earth-2 operatives are up to their usual havoc-causing antics. This time, it’s some kind of ultrasonic weapon component contained within a box that nobody can resist opening. Could there possibly be some link to the Earth-2 superweapon?

This episode is debunked at Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

It’s almost not worth mentioning anymore, but Walter is heating something with a Bunsen burner – a definite no-no in modern laboratories.

As other posters have pointed out, Olivia-2 firing a gun that close to Peter’s ears would probably have resulted in permanent hearing damage.

When Peter is attempting to deactivate the bomb/ultrasonic emitter, he uses some kind of multimeter to check the potential differences between various components. How this works when the wires (and most of the other components) are encased in some kind of non-conducting gel is a mystery.

Where did that last subway train come from? The track electricity should have been turned off to allow Peter to get to the device, an alert should have gone out to all cars currently on the system and the train should have stopped at the station anyway.


The science of Breaking Bad: Caballo Sin Nombre

March 30, 2010

Breaking Bad : Season 3 : Episode 2 : “Caballo Sin Nombre”

Walt and Walt Jr. fail to deal with the family break-up.

Walt and Walt Jr. fail to deal with the family break-up.

The components of season three are still being assembled this week, with the tendrils of the Walt’s drug-making past beginning to envelop him again. In this post, I’ll be talking about the dangers of basement meth labs.

You can read more about this episode at AMC, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

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The non-science of Fringe: Night of Desirable Objects

November 4, 2009

Fringe: Season 2: Episode 2: “Night of Desirable Objects”

Charlie begins his last mission.

Charlie begins his last mission.

A spate of disappearances prompts Fringe Division to track down a subterranean creature, mutated by the One Ring yet another rogue scientist. The usual impossibilities aside, this episode was refreshingly easy to watch.

This episode is debunked at Popular Mechanics and Polite Dissent, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

Random thoughts

Walter has acquired a state-of-the-art laboratory with virtually unlimited resources, and yet has to use sequenced instant cameras to record an accident reconstruction? Surely a high-speed digital video camera would have been more appropriate.

Walter’s offhand remark, “we’re all mutants,” is quite interesting – he’s referring to the natural, random mutations that change DNA sequences and occur in all lifeforms. Random mutation is one of the principles of evolution by natural selection, but in this episode, like before, the creature in question has been deliberately created.

It’s a good job that Andre’s wife wasn’t diagnosed by House, because it’s never lupus.

When Olivia and Peter drove up to Andre’s house, they failed to notice the big hole in the ground near the empty police car – they might increase their efficiency if they worked more closely with local law enforcement.

“You’ve come a long way, Charlie Francis.” Nice to have to occasional literary references.


The non-science of Fringe: Same Old Story

September 10, 2009

Fringe: Season 1: Episode 2: “Same Old Story”

Walter pushes the boundaries of photography.

Walter pushes the boundaries of photography.

We found out last episode that you can extract information from a dead person so long as they’ve only been dead for less than six hours – after that (arbitrary?) time limit, you need lasers! In this post, I’ll be making the usual comments about how much suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy the show.

This episode is debunked at Popular Mechanics, and you can read more about it at Fox, IMDb and the A.V. Club.

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