Crime of Science, Science of Crime: Breaking Bad and Science Olympiad

AMC’s Breaking Bad

In about a week, thousands of nerds talented high school students will gather for Science Olympiad Nationals, annual team competitions in science and engineering from May 20th to 21st. One of the many events is “Crime Busters,” in which students must identify perpetrator of a crime through investigation of unknown powders, liquids, metals, footprints, fingerprints, and tire tracks. Give in to high school nostalgia and study these extensive experiment notes on paper chromatography, polymer detections, and qualitative chemical analysis.

That’s using science to solve crimes. What about situations where science is the crime?

That brings us to AMC’s Emmy Award-winning show, Breaking Bad. Vince Gilligan, who also worked on The X-Files and The Lone Gunmen, is the creator and producer. Two episodes (“Full Measure” and “No Mas”) were nominated for Edgar Award this year.

For those who missed the first three seasons, here’s the premise. Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), underpaid, underappreciated high school chemistry teacher, gets diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. With no legitimate means of securing the financial future of his family, he decides to partner up with a delinquent former-student, Jesse Pinkman and run a meth operation. (Check out an mini-episode pilot for Season 1.) Using his knowledge and expertise in chemistry, Walter makes his way up the drug ring ladder. Here are some memorable applications of science for criminal purposes from past seasons.

After delays in production, the new season of AMC’s Emmy Award-winning Breaking Bad is now scheduled for July. As Jesse said in one episode, “You got a plan? Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah science!”

Comments

  1. Vick

    can’t wait for the next season. this show rocks.

  2. Frank Doughty

    If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be the ricin one. Great episode. Inspired me to do a reread of Clancy’s Red Rabbit. Georgi Markov story never gets old.

  3. Cathy Zhu Chen

    I voted for the battery experiment when they were trapped in the desert (though I’m not surprised Mercury Fulminate got the most votes). It’s not directly crime-related like the other ones mentioned in the article but you’ve [u]got[/u] to admire the ingenuity of their escape.

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