Breaking Bad

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The 2008 to 2013 series Breaking Bad, used the technique of using "chemical letters", e.g. Bromine (Z:35) Br (Breaking) and Barium (Z:56) Ba (Bad), and in many of its titles.

In series, Breaking Bad (TR:5) (LH:#) (TL:#) refers to []


In 2008 to 2013, Vince Gilligan, wrote and produced Breaking Bad, a dark human American television drama, which aired on AMC. The opening pilot episode was “People are Chemicals, Too!” [1]

The story centers on a chemistry teacher, Walter White, aka “Professor White”, played by Bryan Cranston, who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and who teams up with an old student to make and sell crystal meth, out of an RV, so to leave money for his financially-troubled family, e.g. pregnant wife, handicap kid, credit card issues, working two jobs (teacher + car-washer), etc., and the dark morality that mediates out of the state of the situation.

Good | Bad

The show digs into the question of how we define "good" and "bad", when looked at from the point of chemistry, aka the physico-chemically neutral view, such as broached by Goethe, in his Elective Affinities, or as stated frankly by Thomas Dreier:

“The trouble is that too many people get chemical reactions all mixed up with morals. They call ‘immoral’ what is only a normal chemical reaction.”
— Thomas Dreier (1948), We Human Chemicals (pg. 59)

The ability to discern good and bad in terms of chemistry, in the show, is stated as follows:

“Thalidomide. The... The right-handed isomer of the drug thalidomide is a perfectly fine, good medicine to give to a pregnant woman to prevent morning sickness. But make the mistake of giving that same pregnant woman the left-handed isomer of the drug thalidomide and her child will be born with horrible birth defects. Which is precisely what happened in the 1950s. So chiral, chirality, mirrored images, right? Active, inactive, good, bad.”
— Vince Gilligan (2003), Breaking Bad (S1:E3, from 10:21-10:58 (Ѻ)) (character: Walter White)

This is a system of good and bad that is particularly non-Christian in basis.

Soul scene

The "soul scene" from episode three of Breaking Bad, during which, when a body is being dissolved in hydrofluoric acid HCl, White reflects back to his chemistry classroom days, about the elemental composition of a human, and sees all the goop on the floor and thinks: "there's got to be more than this?" (to a person), during which a woman says "the soul"?

In the third episode, “… And the Bag’s in the River”, season one, the show opens to Professor White cleaning up the human that had been dissolved in hydrofluoric acid (shown adjacent; lower left), amid which his mind reflects back to, it seems, his college days, and dialogue with a woman, possibly his lover at the time, as shown adjacent right (main image), wherein she reads off the percentage of elements of a human, in moles, to him and he writes them down on a chalkboard, as follows:

  1. Hydrogen (H) 63%
  2. Oxygen (O) 26%
  3. Carbon (C) 9%
  4. Nitrogen (N) 1.25%
  5. Calcium (Ca) 0.25%
  6. Phosphorus (P) 0.19%
  7. Sodium (Na) 0.04%
  8. Iron (Fe) 0.00004%

At the end of this reflection, he comments how he thinks that something is missing:

“There’s got to be more to a human than that?”
— Vince Gilligan (2008), Breaking Bad (Episode 3) (character: Walter White)
“The soul?”
— Vince Gilligan (2008), Breaking Bad (Episode 3) (character: woman)

Soul and atoms

See also: Soul terminology reform

The history of reflections on “soul theory” and “atomic theory”, aka the “soul and atoms”, go back to the Greek atomic theorists.

In 410BC, Democritus, in his in his The Cosmos (Diacosmos), said that soul consists of fine, smooth, round atoms, like those of fire. These are the most mobile of all. They interpenetrate the whole body, and in their motions the phenomena of life arise.

In c.255, Plotinus, in his Enneads, digressed on soul and atoms.

In 1712, Francois Fenelon, On the Existence of God, in an attempt to refute the Cartesians and the Epicureans, digressed on atoms and souls.

In 1874, John Tyndall gave his "Atheistic Materialism" BAAS presidential address, and spoke about how "dead atoms" could produced mind and feelings. This was the point in the sand where in soul theory in the context of atomic theory, began to take a back seat.


The following are related quotes:

“My goal was to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface.”
— Vince Gilligan (2011), NY Times interview[2]
“I was raised Catholic, [but] I’m pretty much agnostic at this point in my life. But I find atheism just as hard to get my head around as I find fundamental Christianity. Because if there is no such thing as cosmic justice [see: justice], what is the point of being good? [see: Jeffrey Dahmer] I feel some sort of need for biblical atonement, or justice, or something. I like to believe there is some comeuppance, that karma kicks in at some point, even if it takes years or decades to happen. My girlfriend says this great thing that’s become my philosophy as well. ‘I want to believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.’”
— Vince Gilligan (2011), NY Times interview[2]
“You're going to see that underlying humanity, even when he's making the most devious, terrible decisions, and you need someone who has that humanity– deep down, bedrock humanity– so you say, watching this show, 'All right, I'll go for this ride. I don't like what he's doing, but I understand, and I'll go with it for as far as it goes.' If you don't have a guy who gives you that, despite the greatest acting chops in the world, the show is not going to succeed.”
— Vince Gilligan (2009), on the character Walter White (Bryan Cranston) (Ѻ)

End matter

See also


  1. Gerson, Kirth. (2013). “Breaking Bad Pilot: People are Chemicals, Too!” (YT), The University of College, Sep 2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Segal, David. (2011). “The Dark Art: of Breaking Bad”, The New York Times, Jul 6.

External links

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