Other Opinions Of "Breaking Bad" | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 21 | p. 4, 51 | Letters
Issue Date: May 26, 2008

Other Opinions Of "Breaking Bad"

Department: Letters

I am surprised that the article on the television program "Breaking Bad" provoked such indignation, as expressed in the two previously published letters (C&EN, May 5, page 5). I offer the following points in response to these letters:

First, C&EN is the newsmagazine of the world of chemistry. A TV show about a chemical professional who synthesizes illicit drugs is clearly within the scope of the magazine and should be reported regardless of how distasteful it may be to some. I find wanton pollution in China and deaths from chemical accidents in the U.S. to be distasteful, but I do not hope that news of them will not appear in C&EN.

Second, we should not confuse science and morality. Chemistry itself is neutral. The moral issues arise from the uses people make of chemistry. The report in these pages on the chemistry in "Breaking Bad" is no more out of place than a report on the chemistry in "Forensic Files."

Finally, a dark cloud of ignorance seems to have grown around illicit drugs in general and methamphetamine in particular. I hear people speak of this drug as if it had some magical potential to destroy the life of anyone it contacts. Cleaning up abandoned meth labs requires full hazmat gear, and the possibility of long-term health effects from living in a cleaned former meth lab receives serious attention. My point is that some light needs to be shed on all aspects of illicit drug use. Only after the populace moves beyond a knee-jerk response to the mere mention of an illicit drug can our society begin to address the complex issues arising from such drug use.

Robert F. Volp
Murray, Ky.

One can argue the accuracy of the television show "Breaking Bad." One can argue its glorification of illegal activity. But to argue that such illegal activity is taboo for discussion and artistic expression because we work in such a noble profession is just simple. If you were to watch the show, you would know that it deals with the consequences of being around such seedy people as those involved in the world of drug trafficking.

Every person has different and finite amounts of time, talent, and treasure. What people do with theirs, including talent and investment in chemistry, can be for good or evil. How can we not chuckle at the irony of a Nobel Peace Prize?

When I do public outreach, I run into people who are uninformed yet scared to death about chemistry. These days it's not enough to say that chemistry is a noble profession above the fray. Chemistry, like life, is littered with unintended consequences and compromises. What we can do as concerned chemists is encourage people to try their best to improve lives with the best possible knowledge of chemistry.

Solito A. Sumulong
Bear, Del.

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