Chemical industry hooked on TV show "Breaking Bad"

Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:20pm EDT
 
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By Ernest Scheyder

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Watching the success of AMC's "Breaking Bad" has been a guilty pleasure for the chemical industry.

It is a show that likes to wow audiences by explaining to them how a battery can be jury rigged with potassium hydroxide and spare change, and how hydrofluoric acid eats through bone but not plastic.

With an eye for the smallest technical details, "Breaking Bad" has made it cool to like chemistry again. That explains in part why chemical industry executives, academics and shareholders are addicted.

"It's great to see chemistry become cool again," said Ross Kozarsky, a chemical engineer by training who advises chemical and materials companies at Lux Research.

The show chronicles the downward spiral of Walter White, a 50-something high school chemistry teacher in the throes of a mid-life crisis who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

To leave a nest egg for his wife and two children, White, who is played by actor Bryan Cranston, uses his chemistry knowledge to make and sell methamphetamine, an addictive street drug also known as crystal meth.

"There's a lot of instances in the show where Walter White draws on his knowledge as a chemist, traditionally a nerdy profession, and applies them in kind of innovative and intimidating ways," Kozarsky said.

More than 1.6 million people watched the third-season finale in June 2010, solid numbers for any cable show.   Continued...