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Breaking Bad: Real Science or Hollywood Science?


Author(s)

Catherine S. Haslag
Department of Chemistry
Riverland Community College
catherine.haslag@riverland.edu

Abstract

This two-part case study with a laboratory component uses a pop-cultural reference to engage students and takes the study of electrochemistry from the lecture hall into the lab. Part I of the case describes a scene from the popular television series Breaking Bad in which a series of homemade electrochemical cells are used to jump-start a large recreational vehicle (RV).  Part II of the case consists of a laboratory activity in which students recreate the electrochemical cells depicted in the television show, determine how much current is produced by the cell, and then determine if the electrochemical cells would actually jump-start an RV or if the science is exaggerated for the sake of the story line.  Students learn how an electrochemical cell works and how to use critical thinking skills to separate solid scientific facts from “Hollywood science.”  The case requires a basic understanding of electrochemistry and is suitable for majors and non-majors courses in chemistry and general sciences.


Objectives

  • Define the following terms: voltage, current, anode, cathode, salt bridge, electrolyte, galvanized, parallel circuit, series circuit, and electrochemical cells.
  • Form and test a hypothesis.
  • Explain how an electrochemical cell works.
  • Describe how a battery functions in an automobile.
  • Evaluate a scene portrayed on television and utilize critical thinking to determine if what is demonstrated is reality or Hollywood fiction.
  • Draw conclusions based on experimental data and articulate these conclusions to others.

Keywords

Electrochemical cells; oxidation-reduction; electrochemistry; circuits; redox reactions; voltage; battery; current; data interpretation; Breaking Bad; Hollywood

Topical Areas

Science and the media

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Laboratory

Language

English

Subject Headings

Chemistry (General)  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Science (General)  |  


Date Posted

02/03/2020

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