The science of Breaking Bad: Rabid Dog

September 2, 2013

Breaking Bad | Season 5 | Episode 12 | “Rabid Dog”

What's one more?

What’s one more?

After four and a half seasons of being pushed around, Jesse is finally wresting the rudders back and will get his revenge. Or will he? If there’s one thing that Breaking Bad has been consistent on, it’s cooking up surprises for us.

This episode is reviewed at Emilia Jordan and the A.V. Club, and you can read more about it at AMC and IMDb.

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The non-science of Fringe: Welcome to Westfield

June 20, 2012

Fringe | Season 4 | Episode 12 | “Welcome to Westfield”

The team help a victim of the Doppelganger Apocalypse.

The team help a victim of the Doppelganger Apocalypse.

While investigating something seemingly unrelated, our team run into The Town That You Can’t Leave, a classic closed circle trope. Of course, they manage to escape and learn something valuable about their new nemesis.

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

Waler’s breakfast cocktail-maker is (of course) hideously complicated and should definitely be confined within a fume hood. I can’t be completely certain of this given that we don’t get a good look at his apparatus, but looks like this is what’s going on:

  • Unnamed liquid in container A is heated to boiling point and distilled into container B.
  • Distillate in B is trapped, and the evaporated volatiles from A transferred to container C.
  • Another unnamed liquid is heated to boiling point in C, and combined with the uncondensed vapours from A.
  • An unnnamed gas (D) is bubbled through C, presumably to combine with A and C.
  • Gases A + C + D rise into a cold-finger, do not condense because it contains no coolant and end up combining with the vapour of yet another liquid in a heated container E with gas F bubbled through it.
  • Gases A + C + D + E + F flow into a separating funnel G, where they bubble through another liquid. The liquid in G can presumably be drawn off to taste.
  • A + C + D + E + F and some vapours from G flow into a conical flask H, filled with an unnamed liquid that is being heated.
  • All of these vapours move on to another stage in the setup that is obscured by actors and camera angles, presumably one that will allow more liquids to be drawn off and combined with G.

Ridiculous as this may sound, it’s a legitimate way of capturing gases and reacting them with liquids. There is almost certainly an easier way, though.

A complete electrical/hydraulic failure on a large aircraft would probably cause a crash (though some older and ultra-modern aircraft have “manual” modes whereby the pilots can control the flight surfaces mechanically), but if the electrics were off then why were the flight lights on? If the backup power was functioning to light the lights then why did the plane crash? So many questions.

While investigating the stalled cars, Walter manages to find an ancient steel hubcap to demonstrate the magnetisation of everything. Modern hubcaps are made of alloys or plastic and modern body panels are often made of aluminium or composites (even in trucks), so there was quite a good chance that his demonstration would have fallen flat. Peter’s metal suitcase wasn’t affected though (probably aluminium). Hopefully the effect didn’t wipe everyone’s credit cards.

Even assuming that the high school has a good microscope and staining apparatus, Walter would have to be pretty dedicated to reliably count 92 chromosomes.

The schoolkids were probably studying something to do with photosynthesis or metabolism, as the chemical formula for glucose (C6H12O6) is written on the blackboard.


The science of Breaking Bad: End Times

October 6, 2011

Breaking Bad | Season 4 | Episode 12 | “End Times”

Walt and Jesse work out their differences, for now.

Walt and Jesse work out their differences, for now.

The writers stun us yet again with an episode packed full of tension, shocks and twists. There’s only a little science, but that’s forgiveable for such great television.

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

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The non-science of Fringe: Concentrate and Ask Again

February 6, 2011

Fringe : Season 3 : Episode 12 : “Concentrate and Ask Again”

Olivia saves the day again.

Olivia saves the day again.

The overarching story pauses for breath this week with a slightly formulaic track-down-the-terrorists-before-they-kill-again plot. It’s quite science-light, as has been the norm lately, but watchable.

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

Random thoughts

Items spotted in William Bell’s private sanctuary: the skull of a sabre-toothed cat, an ancient Greek hoplite helmet, ancient Greek pottery, university degree certificates, copies of Carlos Castañeda‘s A Separate Reality and The Second Ring of Power, what looks to be Stephen Kellert’s In the Wake of Chaos, Douglas R. Hofstadter‘s Gödel, Escher, Bach, a textbook entitled Cell and Molecular Biology, and of course Dr. Spock‘s Baby and Child Care.

Walter seems to think that the powder weapon bonds to the calcium in the victim’s bones, dissolving them. This would suggest that the active ingredient is some kind of calcium-specific chelating agent, though a real one could never be so fast-acting. The molecule shown on Walter’s screen looks like a small organic molecule (which would probably not chelate to calcium all that well) encased in a carbon mesh similar to a fullerene.

On a note completely unrelated to science, am I the only blogger who prefers Olivia to Fauxlivia? The hair and the attitude don’t do it for me at all.


The science of Breaking Bad: Half Measures

June 17, 2010

Breaking Bad : Season 3 : Episode 12 : “Half Measures”

Those guys are dead, they just don't know it yet.

Those guys are dead, they just don't know it yet.

Events start to accelerate towards the season’s finale this week, with virtually all the characters abandoning half measures and going full-tilt. Science and cooking take back seats, so this episode contains little of note. Check back soon!

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

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The non-science of Fringe: Johari Window

January 19, 2010

Fringe: Season 2: Episode 12: “Johari Window”

The usual suspects.

The usual suspects.

The Fringe team find themselves investigating murders and deformities in a very small, close-knit community. No way there could be some gigantic secret that the whole town is hiding. Nope. The usual medical impossibilities and plot deficiencies aside (which are reported on better elsewhere), this episode contained very little worth commenting on. Check back soon!

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

The camouflage field is quite a nice concept, but unfortunately way too impractical to be taken seriously. Leaving aside the fact that the eye doesn’t work the way Walter described (it might have been better to say that the EM field altered the brain somehow), what’s more puzzling is how the field can be so selectively applied. The eye takes in light from everything in your field of vision (that’s how you see things), and so the EM field would change the trees, houses, food etc in the same way as the people and butterflies.

Other posters have (correctly) pointed out that EM fields do not hum. However, the hum could potentially be caused by the field generator (or repeater equipment), or an effect like magnetostriction (which causes power lines to hum).


The science of Breaking Bad: Phoenix

November 26, 2009

Breaking Bad : Season 2 : Episode 12: “Phoenix”

Walt shows off the college fund.

Walt shows off the college fund.

As the season nears a close, it looks like Walt and Jesse are going to divide the profits and part ways. Events have conspired to (mostly) keep Walt out of the lab and classroom, so this episode contains nothing of note. Check back soon!

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

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