High school chemistry teacher Walter White has terminal cancer. Concerned about leaving his family with mountains of medical bills, he begins cooking up and selling primo crystal meth. He also uses his chemistry skills to dissolve dead bodies, burn through locks and make undetectable poison.
White isn’t a real scientist — he’s a fictional character on the television drama Breaking Bad. The show has won six Emmy awards, and some consider it one of the greatest TV dramas of all time. But Breaking Bad is not without its detractors. In a commentary in the September Nature Chemistry, chemist Matthew Hartings and communication researcher Declan Fahy lament the “chemophobia” plaguing society. A news release calling attention to the commentary cited Breaking Bad specifically, asserting that “the show plays into our preconceived notions that chemists are mad scientists and that chemicals are bad for you.