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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Mercury Fulminate - Breaking Bad

By March 5, 2008

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Episode 6 of AMC's 'Breaking Bad' has a scene where our hero, Walt, passes a plastic bag of mercury fulminate off as crystal meth. Why mercury fulminate? I guess there aren't many easy-to-make explosives that look like crystal meth. The thing is... I don't think fulminate of mercury looks like it was portrayed in the tv show.

Mercury fulminate [or fulminate of mercury, Hg(ONC)2] was first prepared in 1800 by Edward Charles Howard. It is an explosive that mainly was used in favor of flints to ignite black powder in a firearm. It's pretty easy to make... the synthesis involves dissolving mercury in nitric acid and adding ethanol to the solution. However, you end up precipitating a white to grayish-brown powder (depending on purity) like what you see in this photo and not big chunks of glassy crystals, as seen in 'Breaking Bad'.

Although mercury fulminate is easy to prepare, you don't want to try it. The explosive is highly sensitive to just about everything... shock, sparks, flame, friction, and heat. I don't think Walt could have been so casual handling a bag of it without having a little accident. If you don't blow yourself up with the compound, you could gas yourself with fumes from the synthesis (reaction should be done outdoors or inside a fume hood). Then there is the product... mercury compounds are toxic. The mercury doesn't magically disappear when the compound explodes.

The episode got me wondering. If you were in charge of props for a tv show and were asked to come up with 'crystal meth', what would you use? I'm going to guess using the illegal drug would not be an option. I am betting they used rock candy. What do you think?

Breaking Bad - Elements in the Body | Breaking Bad - Hydrofluoric Acid
Photo: Mercury fulminate is a grayish powder of orthorhombic crystals. (Tobias Maximilian Mittrach, Wikipedia Commons) Add to Technorati Favorites

Comments

March 5, 2008 at 8:26 pm
(1) frank says:

I think they used rock salt that is commonly used as an antiperspirant/deodorant

March 12, 2008 at 7:05 am
(2) Patrick says:

There was an article in Chemistry and Engineering News that talked about the prop department choices. The crystal meth was a silicon rubber that is usually used to simulate broken tempered glass.

Walt was involved in crystallography among other things, maybe he is just that good that he can make gigantic, clear crystals of mercury fulminate : )

He definitely slammed the bag of mercury fulminate against the wall in that episode- that wouldn’t have been good.

March 14, 2008 at 3:37 am
(3) tedrock says:

he does say when asked what it was “Mercury Fulminate with some chemistry magic” so in the world of the writers he could have added something to it to make it look more like meth and more stable.

March 25, 2008 at 10:01 pm
(4) Big Al says:

I was asked at one time by a law enforcement agent how to set up a fake meth lab.

The conclusion was to use jugs with water, salad oil, a little powdered nutmeg to look like red P , and a drop or two of xylene or toluene to give the room that ‘just cooked’ smell.

Large pieces or rock salt with a coating of salad oil would give it the right ‘feel’ and spraying some purple dye onto kosher salt gave it a look damn near like iodine crystals.

He went back to the department, and with about $100 in glassware, it looked like they were running the ‘crank of the month’ club!

And, no, I won’t tell you where this was done, as they would really like to run several reverse stings with this layout.

April 26, 2009 at 2:33 am
(5) 2nd Opinion says:

I reviewed the handling of the mercury fulminate (FM if I may)by Walt and he did not slam the bag, Patrick. When he got in the car he did hit his cash filled hands into the steering wheel.

In Tuco’s crib the concussion definitely would’ve set off the bigger quantity. My dad had a horn of gun powder go off during his muzzle-loading days. He was firing the gun 4 to 5 ft from the horn on a hot AZ afternoon. Gun powder is more stable than the FM. Funny, referring to gun powder as stable.

Oh, and the career for the Irish guys who cleaned out the mercury ovens during the late 1800′s was about 3 days to a week, then they’d die.

June 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm
(6) Blehmaestro says:

Tedrock, he actually says, “Fulminated mercury, a little tweak of chemistry.”

So, uh no.

July 20, 2011 at 10:45 pm
(7) Eyeigore says:

Actually, I think he said ‘Fulminated Mercury, with a little tweak of chemistry.”

July 6, 2009 at 9:53 am
(8) Gabriel says:

But would just a little piece of the fulminated mercury have exploded with enough force to blow out the glass out of the windows along with the evaporative coolers?

July 26, 2009 at 4:59 pm
(9) jonny says:

You have a Ph.D work it out! its a little bit of what most people would call exaggeration, but writers call “dramatic licence” haha. It was probably a case of the writers saying to their chemistry buff, “This is what we want to happen in the scene, work out the chemical technicalities” and he just cobbled something together loosely believable. They tend to be lazy that way, when they aren’t looking up “facts” on wikipedia….

September 10, 2009 at 3:28 am
(10) Pizza says:

Actually, I’m surprised that a little itty bitty amount of that fulminated mercury could have done that much destruction.

December 6, 2009 at 6:48 pm
(11) Sidhe81 says:

So far as I read, no one has adressed if the ammount of ” mercury fulminate” used could cause such an explosion…

February 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm
(12) Tas says:

Definately overblown about the size of the explosion from the crystal. The “snaps” or “poppers” – the little tadpole of paper that you can throw down, or squeeze between you fingers to make them pop are mercury fulminate… That is about a pea size. I can’t imagine even thirty times that amount being any more dangerous than a regular firecracker.
And if you’ve ever opened up the paper, they are little crystals in there, although I remember them being a honey color, instead of the quartz-looking from the show.

June 8, 2011 at 1:56 am
(13) JL says:

Silver fulminate actually, the mercury would be too toxic for the kids… If you unravel them and gather the powder together into one lump… It will explode in your face.

September 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm
(14) Will says:

You guys are both incorrect, those little “poppers” are packed with gun powder. Have you ever disassembled a party popper? They are packed the same way. A very small cinnamon stick looking roll of gun powder. Definitely not mercury or silver fulminate, those compounds are entirely too explosive to sell in stores.

March 8, 2010 at 4:49 am
(15) UMWANZISIWEMUREMYI Oscar says:

How can xylene be prepared in laboratory and in industry ?(i need procedures,chemicals reactions and required conditions for xylene ) could you give me the answer on muremyioscar@yahoo.fr.

March 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm
(16) rick says:

what he says is mercury fulminate, a little FREAK of chemistry

April 27, 2011 at 8:47 pm
(17) wizzfizz says:

I agree, I thought I heard him say freak of chemistry as well

October 1, 2011 at 1:16 pm
(18) kushibo says:

I’ve been watching this on Netflix, and I came to this site while trying to read up on how realistic the scene was.

Anyway, the subtitles have him saying, “Fulminated mercury and a little tweak of chemistry.” There’s a definite pause between the first part and the second part and the “and” is barely audible (in fact, it could be “with”).

That last part about a “tweak” is probably just enough for the writers to feel they have artistic license to “tweak” the properties of mercury fulminate. After all, Walt is the chemistry genius who can make glass-like meth that everybody in New Mexico wants.

March 29, 2010 at 3:22 pm
(19) Ellis D. Tripp says:

The “crystals” in the fun snaps look like quartz, because they are. They are simply grains of sand which are COATED with a thin layer of the explosive compound. The sand grains rub against each other on impact, creating enough localized friction to detonate the explosive.

I believe that fun snaps use nitrogen triiodide or something similar nowadays, because of the toxicity of Hg compounds.

April 15, 2010 at 9:59 am
(20) Sam says:

The “snaps” or “poppers” commonly use silver fulminate a substance even more unstable then fulminate mercury.
They contain approximately 200 milligrams of fine gravel impregnated with a minute quantity (approximately .08 milligrams) of silver fulminate.
Since the detonation of the both substances does not destroy the metals used in there production and mercury being a heavy metal it would never be used in a child toy.

June 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm
(21) Alex says:

“The explosive is highly sensitive to just about everything… shock, sparks, flame, friction, and heat.” I would imagine an explosion powerful enough to blow out the windows would set of the rest of the bag of mercury fulminate. Eh. I suppose he could have made a plastic explosive (Semtex) that looked like meth….but then he’d have to be fumbling with a detonator….

June 17, 2010 at 2:51 am
(22) Chris says:

There’s no reason the whole bag had to have mercury fulminate in it – it could have been rock candy and Walt was just bluffing (like he did earlier in the episode while playing poker against Hank).

November 11, 2011 at 12:48 am
(23) Timbo says:

Excellent answer! However, Tuco was the one who picked it out of the bag. Perhaps it was the biggest one, but I’d think it was pretty chancey to rely on Tuco grabbing that ONE crystal and not smashing it and snorting it like he always does!

June 17, 2010 at 10:45 pm
(24) Cy says:

No, it had to be the whole bag: he had no way of knowing which crystal Tuco would extract from it.

June 20, 2010 at 10:57 am
(25) G says:

About that…when Tuco chose his crystal, didn’t he smash it with his knife like he did with the actual meth?
Surely that would have set it off…

July 7, 2011 at 9:57 pm
(26) R says:

he did that w/ Jesse’s meth not Walt’s.

August 13, 2010 at 2:15 am
(27) Fascinated says:

Now, it seems to me, one of the unspoken questions this article brings up is, what could possibly fill the bill for what explosive Walt uses. I propose that he could have simply used ultra-pure ammonium nitrate (carefully grown in long crystals by slow precipitation out of a solution) coated in a thin film of mercury fulminate. Therefore he had a large crystalline explosive that detonated upon impact. The amount he used could also likely have enough force to break windows in an enclosed room like that. However, that is not to say they would explode outward like in the show. I don’t think that that is to far of a stretch for the writers to come up with do you…

September 11, 2010 at 3:01 am
(28) John Doe says:

Hollywood tends to use a fair amount of dramatic license whenever an explosion is concerned. Just watch almost any action movie, if an object contains even the smallest amount of a possibly explosive substance, it will explode in a huge fireball at some point.

This is especially true in regards to gas tanks in cars and propane tanks. Neither would explode when shot, yet they’re Hollywood staples.

November 15, 2010 at 11:17 pm
(29) interval says:

G: “About that…when Tuco chose his crystal, didn’t he smash it with his knife like he did with the actual meth?”

I just finished watching this very episode and no, he doesn’t, he just pulls out one crystal with blade of his bowie knife and just stares at it. Remember that he had just sold the meth he took from Jessie, he assumed it was the same stuff, which Tuco said sold like hot cakes just before Walt took the crystal and blew out the wall. In the dimly lit office even if the FM looked different from meth he wouldn’t have noticed.

December 29, 2010 at 7:37 am
(30) continuity says:

When Tuco is in the car demolition yard he is given a bag of big crystals and snorts a sample however he has nothing there to crush it on or with, so this is a bit unbelievable.

January 2, 2011 at 8:31 am
(31) grape says:

Hehehe I see some interesting points that several people have pointed out on ‘Breaking Bad’. I am reminded of Star Trek “Nitpickers Guide” and how so many fans questioned alot of the science behind Trek. One thing you must take in consideration about fulmonate of mercury is that it’s highly unlikely that was the explosive used in the scene where Walt blows up Tuco’s place. Therefore the real explosion of mercury of fulmonate probably wouldn’t look much like that. In that explosion I saw alot of fire and it probably wouldn’t look much like that. Also, fulmonate of mercury could look like meth if the base were HCL.

January 20, 2011 at 9:34 am
(32) Ross Bearman says:

Thought I’d post this link here, this is a video of a chemist deflagrating ~0.2g of mercury fulminate .

MERCURY FULMINATE (explosive) demonstration

January 26, 2011 at 2:24 am
(33) Figaro says:

@Interval

the Episode before, Tuco takes a crystal, smashes it with his knife and forces Jesse to take a hit. Then Tuco puts it up his gizza, claiming that its pure and hits you fast. In hindsight that was actually mercury fulminate…. not meth. So how did he get high? Why didn’t the ‘meth’ explode when he hit it? Continuity error anyone???

October 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm
(34) Bob Slob says:

Why would you think Jesse brought him MF? Walt had no idea Tuco would even be a problem.

February 4, 2011 at 6:49 am
(35) John Doe says:

@Figaro

Actually the scene with Tuco and Jesse happened in the same episode. The pound that Jesse bought WAS meth. It was only after Tuco assaulted him that Walt devised the plan to bring mercury fulminate instead.

April 26, 2011 at 7:42 pm
(36) Chris says:

It does specify that Walt’s an expert with crystals. I suppose the idea was that, because he’s a genius, he could cause mercury fulminate to crystalise into the huge shards that we see in the episode. It’s also not a stretch to believe that the one piece he blew up (which I’ll admit was a little too big for such a small amount) could have been the only bit of Mercury fulminate and the rest was just for show.

And since it’s a television show I’d also like to add 3 final words: Suspend disbelief guys.

May 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm
(37) Gestotamoseke says:

Before I say this – know that i’m not a chemist. Never even passed the class in highschool. And i didn’t graduate from highschool.

But to me it sounds like the MF was the spark of something else probably in there.

I’m not trying to defend the writers, they probably didn’t think up, and neither did the chemists probably think up anything else.

But if you really wanted to make a small bomb out of that crystal – i’m sure you could use MF as the ‘spark’ and something else to create the BOOM.

Just my opinion of what could be possible in the realms of reality concerning this scene.

May 20, 2011 at 10:51 am
(38) River_CIty says:

Walt’s comment to Tuco, as I watched the episode last night, was “…Fulminate of mercury, & a little tweak of chemistry.” The inference, with a shrug, was that he had done a little something extra to get it to look the way it did.
The footage of the explosion, seen from outside, looks a bit there were a couple detonations, so Gestotamoseke might be on to something. But then… most movie explosions seem to be a cascade of ever-growing holocausts, no matter what’s blowing up!

June 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm
(39) phantlers says:

You only have to read through these comments to understand why the writers would make such a leap in disbelief. I’m only surprised ppl aren’t asking how to actually set up a meth lab.

July 19, 2011 at 11:36 am
(40) Derdirk says:

People dont question a lot of things… As far as the scene is concerned, he could have brought a smaller bag and after smashing it to the ground somewhere in the corner… he could have grabbed the big one…

All in all it might have worked out… Imagine this really happened and television simply adjusted the visuals for the audience… as they do it all the time with bios or other depictions… unless they dont call themself the cohen brothers…

July 22, 2011 at 10:45 pm
(41) CapnCooK says:

He said Mercury Fulminate “with a twist of chemistry” so it didnt have to look like your posted picture…. he could have done anything to form that crystal

September 8, 2011 at 11:22 pm
(42) Tuco says:

I’m just now watching the show and catching up, and I had to Google fulminated mercury;

-I just love how it blew the windows out, yet only made everyone in the room dusty, rather than completely destroying their bodies, especially Walt, who threw the thing down right at his feet. Artistic license at it’s finest for sure, but it was an important moment to bring a little more action into the show, and for Walt’s character.

September 19, 2011 at 12:28 am
(43) Walt says:

In breaking bad, he said he crystallized it, eg, “fulminated mercury, with a tweak of chemistry”.

October 19, 2011 at 3:17 am
(44) Jimmy Joe says:

Piggybacking on Tuco’s post:
To blow out the windows the blast overpressure would have to be in the 1-2psi range, which would also rupture the eardrums of everyone in the room. The room appears to be 30x40x10 (12,000 sqft). You could calculate the net explosive mass necessary for such an overpressure using Wiebull’s Formula 160(m/12000)^.72. I understand that artistic license is taken in these shows. To be fair, when Walt gets in the car and pounds on the steering wheel from the rush he does have a bloody nose. Blood from his ears might be more accurate, but might mess up future episodes.

November 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm
(45) Neo says:

I love these comments. It’s great to see we have a lot of smart chemists out there. You guys must have been hell on MacGyver but great at Alamogordo.

I do enjoy the show just because it shows kids that there really are real-world applications for science out there. Although, there is a “Mad-Scientist” bent to it, it still makes me wish I did pay a little more attention in chemistry. Smart is definitely sexy.

That sequence with the windshield washer squeegee shorting out the battery was priceless! Have to wonder if the hydrogen gas in the battery exploded. Don’t recommend anyone try that. It would go instantaneously if it actually worked.

November 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm
(46) James says:

The thing is, Walt is supposedly a MASTER chemist. Even if you proved to me it couldn’t be made that way and it would have been too sensitive, I’d still believe that Walt would find a way to make it happen.

December 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm
(47) dfsdf says:

Subtitles state, “Fulminated Mercury… and a little tweak of chemistry.”

December 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm
(48) Capn Crunch says:

How did it blow all the windows on the floor yet every person remained unharmed other than some ash on them?

January 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm
(49) Lucek says:

Someone asked how much Mercury Fulminate would be required to cause the effect seen in the video. For the moment lets ignore the windows. If we assume they are fitting of the room and there fore not very strong what happened to them could happen from an explosion. Now what other indicators do we have of how powerful the explosion was. At about 3-5 feet Walt didn’t die or even suffer serous injury, so we know the blast wave was less then so 50lb/in^2 and at the outer edge of the room people had hearing issues meaning at about ~20. the blast wave was greater then .25lb/in^2. Well do the math and we find that this is actually impossible. At the range that Walt was from the explosion and the range some of the thugs were there is no safe pressure wave that would also deafen all the thugs. Either Walt would have died from the pressure wave or some at the back of the room would have not been effected.

cinematic but not scientific.

January 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm
(50) Marc says:

You all are forgetting the nom de guerre that Walt used when he introduced himself to Tuco: Heisenberg.

January 22, 2012 at 6:18 am
(51) BH says:

As Blehmaestro noted, there is no doubt that what Walt says is:

“Fulminated Mercury…A little tweak of chemistry”

Not FREAK, not MEEK, not WEEK…but TWEAK

There is also no AND or WITH or any other term your mind would like to fill in.

This of course doesn’t answer any of the other questions (as if they really need to be answered in a fictional TV show). However hopefully it will put to bed the debate on the verbage.

How do I know this is what he says? Well two reasons. I have functioning eardrums (obviously not blown out by a MF explosion) and this is exactly what I heard. Then, when I turned on subtitles on Netflix it is exactly what was shown. Playing it back 6 times to confirm and trying to fathom how some of you heard what you think you did…

February 9, 2012 at 1:55 am
(52) nick says:

if any of you have ever been into counter culture and the world of meth heads, you would know that most people who smoke meth on the regular are called “tweekers”/or “tweakers”.

what Walt actually says, which is a little play on words..is actually

“Fulminated Mercury….a little tweeker chemistry.”

as in, being the chemistry genius and the meth-chef that he is, he used his knowledge of chemistry and the science behind making the purest meth known to the world, and put his own little spin on the process to create something that he would be able to use in his favor, and to get the upper hand on his opponents – something that would look inconspicuous to his enemies, and as such, he waltzed right in the door with a trojan horse to end up getting things his way. something that the opposition would have never known anything about and that was unknown in their world.

March 13, 2012 at 1:36 am
(53) Autarchus says:

Lucek: I have seen an ammonium perchlorate salute the size of that FM crystal bow out the the windows (but not break them) of a cabin the same size as that room. It was in a 1/2″ pvc pipe about 1.5″ long. The single occupant was dazed and annoyed.

April 12, 2012 at 9:31 am
(54) watch episodes online free says:

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April 13, 2012 at 11:53 am
(55) watch tv shows online free streaming says:

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July 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm
(56) Billdude22 says:

Within the whole context of the show, it is possible Walt could have laced or impregnated actual meth crystals or any kind of crystal with the Mecury Fulmate much in the same way they make those fourth of July throw on the ground noise makers.

July 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm
(57) Jake Witmer says:

Some guy named Ragnar Benson wrote a book about explosives that goes into great detail for all you budding bombthrowers out there. I also recommend the book “Unintended Consequences” for those of you who are seeking a philosophy that goes beyond the vacant stare and drool you learned in the government youth propaganda camps we euphemistically call “public schools.” As far as dropping a crystal on the floor, or even slinging it at the wall furthest from him, Walt White would have been wiped away by an explosion such as the one depicted.
1) The walls were shattered and cracked, all the way through, on the outside.
2) This happened with so much force that it blew an airconditioner down, outside the window.
3) People further away than Walt were messed up and dazed by the explosion.

July 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm
(58) JW says:

Well, at most, it could have cracked a window or two, without disabling Walt, who was closer to the blast. But Walt would have had to have been wearing earplugs and eye protection to be reasonably safe from the blast himself.

I would have liked for them to have thought this through a little better, because the rest of the show is so excellent. Even the hydroflouric acid leeches calcium, and can destroy bones, so it’s a fix for a newbie trying to destroy bones and dental records, even if they screwed up by not wearing gas masks for it, and chose an unnecessarily poisonous acid.

I think it would have been better if he had a baggie of the “rocks” and made it function like a large “pop-rock” bag. This actually works, if you remove all the pop rocks from all the little poppers (noted above) and put them into one bag, as well as worn earplugs into the meeting. He could have also thrown the bag at the wall behind Tuco, and rolled another one with a detonator on it behind him, like two flash grenades. Of course, even flash grenades wouldn’t have blown the walls apart like that, hefting an air conditioner into the air beyond the wall.

…But it would have allowed Walt to make a point, and realistically remain in the land of the living himself. He could have even plunged a detonator into the bag, to make himself seem smarter and scarier, and it would have made his later bomb more believable.

The long and short, is that I would have liked to have seen Walt not have to be superman in order to avoid the destruction of this “mercury fulminate crystal.” If it blows through building walls better than a DEA flash grenade, then it’s going to do more damage than a flash grenade, and Walt is going to be just as dazed (or blown apart) as the rest of them.

July 18, 2012 at 7:47 am
(59) Nate says:

I just want to confirm that the author of this article was correct about the prop “crystal meth” used in Breaking Bad. Bryan Cranston (Walt) was on Conan O’Brien’s talk show and as a joke he gave him a giant bag of blue rock candy (they use this as their fake meth on the show).

August 8, 2012 at 2:50 am
(60) Tee B says:

I made silver fulminate when I was 14. Yes, it precipitated as a white powder, and yes, it was extremely explosive on contact. Don’t mess with this stuff. Now I teach chemistry at a college and am very glad I did not blow myself up. Generally, any heavy metal will work for fulminate, but mercury is easiest to make. Thanks.

August 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm
(61) Breaking Bad Fan says:

Who gives a s***. It’s a great show. It’s called – suspension of disbelief.

August 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm
(62) Carl Wright says:

As a chemistry undergraduate, I used to make (and showed some friends who were physics graduate students how to make) nitrogen triiodide. These dillweeds made perhaps 3-5 g of the stuff (sugar cube or less) and when they detonated it all at once, it almost took out the windows in their office and darn near got them kicked out of school as well as to deafen them for several hours. God, I love explosions.

August 22, 2012 at 11:59 am
(63) Bryan says:

So, assuming we let the beautiful scene succeed on its own terms, faux chem, plausible explosion or not, the only actual issue seems to be that there is a whole bag of the stuff that should have exploded when the first one went off.

But we aren’t dbags. Great scene.

September 11, 2012 at 10:36 am
(64) Geek says:

Yous guys powers of observation is sorely lacking:
Walt said “fumigated baloney, with a side of cole slaw.” Get it right , please.

September 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm
(65) Adam savage says:

Guess we’ll have to chaulk this one up to MYTHBUSTERS lol ;)

September 28, 2012 at 12:24 am
(66) Bk says:

During an internship this summer I learned that meth was commonly cut with dimethylsulfone due to appearance.

November 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm
(67) Waitandsee says:

Not to be like, suggesting something dangerous here but if Mercury Fulminate was used in favor of flints to ignite other substances, and the only requirement for those other substances is that they can be ignited by mercury fulminate, then I think our tweak of chemistry is a stable explosive, stuck to the mercury fulminate. Could he not have prepared a more stable explosive, prepared it for ignition with the FM, and used that?

November 27, 2012 at 4:54 am
(68) heisenberg says:

Any idea what cable network is going to pick the show up? Because amc is Clearly trying to end the show…

December 30, 2012 at 3:32 am
(69) Lee says:

Before the solution completely turns to powder, add tree gum, it will nof necessarily crystalize, but it will become ball like and larger, plus it will eliminate some of the unnecessary moisture, and perhaps even absorb some of the potentially dangerous ‘shock’. ( but as always boys and girls, please o please don’t try this at home)

January 2, 2013 at 9:11 am
(70) GMan says:

If you start nitpicking the FM explosion, then you should also look at the business of dissolving a body using acid, and the part where Walt totals the guy’s BMW by shorting his battery using a windshield washer. There are lots of incidents where it is best just to suspend your disbelief and sit back and enjoy the show.

January 17, 2013 at 5:55 pm
(71) WerX says:

Just my thought on the handling of the mercury fulminate and the fact the rest of the bag didn’t explode. Disregarding the stupid size of the explosion, my assumption was that the mercury fulminate was inside something like looked like meth, so it would take a certain amount of force to break the casing as it were. It’s also possible he was bluffing and the largest rock in the bag was the only explosive one.

March 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm
(72) Irah says:

They use crystallised sugar as a prop for the meth, i’ve made some myself and it’s pretty realistic compared to the real deal

March 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm
(73) Daniel says:

He specifies that it is fulminated mercury *with a tweak of chemistry* and that is the key phrase, Walt is a master of crystallography so im sure he found a way to crystallize the powder and reduce its sensitivity to friction, heat etc… making it require a higher friction force, like throwing it hard on the ground like he did.

April 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm
(74) Del Pino says:

Ok guys,calm down….i think there’s been a little too much of overanalizing the episode here….first things first: “How do we know that bag was fulminated mercury?”….

June 24, 2013 at 4:08 pm
(75) sculptingman says:

Under the right conditions, almost ANY compound can be made to crystalize.
This is what you have to do to use diffraction crystallography to even identify their atomic structure. The show established previously that this was Walt’s particular expertise.

Whether a crystalized FoM would be translucent and colorless I don’t know.

Questions about the size of the explosion relative to the size of the crystal are immaterial. Obviously, all you need to blow windows out is a sudden overpressure, Any explosive in almost any small amount could do that if it the room was sealed. Windows would always blow “out” from an internal overpressure. The air condition wasn’t ‘blown’ out… it Fell out. From the loss of the window to hold the air conditioner.

Walt threw the crystal across the room so that the resulting explosion would be well away from him and the rest of the explosive… The pressure wave would follow an inverse square law… at 30 feet away, not enough to kill, but enough to daze and deafen.

Notions that it might have been just a film of FoM over a supporting and lower velocity explosive are also feasible.

If Walt is the chemist he’s made out to be, he can calculate both the yield he is seeking, and stability and tailor his “meth”-looking explosive accordingly.

July 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm
(76) Russ says:

Watch that episode again…He says fulminate or mercury with a touch of chemistry….” It’s his own chemical compound not plain Mercury Fulminate”…..

Attention to detail………

July 15, 2013 at 10:31 pm
(77) Roger says:

All of the comments miss the vital point that mercury fulminate is actually not that sensitive to percussion. It requires a very sharp hit (eg hammer) to set it off. Simply throwing it will not do it.
Although, who knows how the hypothetical crystalline form would behave.

July 21, 2013 at 11:56 pm
(78) Wyatt says:

Maybe he put the powder in the meth

July 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm
(79) Szabolcs says:

I would use Potassium-sodium-tartrate as Meth. It’s easy to make and not dangerous (you can even eat it: E337)

August 6, 2013 at 8:54 pm
(80) anon says:

They said in the Inside Breaking Bad video that they used a blue rock candy.

August 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm
(81) Joe Dohn says:

Mythbusters have proven that throwing 50g of mercury fulminate at the ground will not blow out the windows of a room the size depicted in the show. they had to use about 250g triggered by a squib to achieve the same effect. besides, how can Walt walk away from a blast that can potentially maim him at ground zero and not suffer from mercury poisoning?? I love Kari Byron.

September 12, 2013 at 11:37 am
(82) Derek says:

Sorry, I just skipped to the end; regarding the debate on whether or not the amount Walt used could’ve “blown out the windows” in a room that size, I’m not 100% sure having foregone duplicating the conditions, but all the research and number crunching I’ve done on mercury fulminate (and explosives in general) seem to indicate that an explosion that size is indeed possible, but Walt would’ve definitely had to have used the *entire bag* to do it.

Here’s the catch: the one thing the writers seem to have overlooked *completely* is a little thing called *shockwave*, or the concussive blast of an explosion.
Overlooking the fact that Walt was the one *nearest* the point of detonation and wouldn’t have been able to simply get back up and meander back to his car, he wouldn’t have been able to get back up *at all*. Nor would anyone else in the room, for that matter.
A room that small containing an explosion that blows out not just one, but *all* the windows, maybe, *maybe* the guys standing nearest the door walk away. *Maybe*.

September 25, 2013 at 4:00 pm
(83) schmoog says:

myth busters covered this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyA1mJTV3WY

September 27, 2013 at 1:11 am
(84) Peter says:

Well you are obviously wrong. You see Walter White is a freaking evil genious of science. He makes meth so pure it’s blue, so he make some extra potent mercury fulminate and kicks some ass

September 27, 2013 at 7:35 am
(85) thor745 says:

Ok, well my comment is this. An explosion is a rapid chemical reaction the can very dependent on the speed of the reaction and the amount of solid or otherwise dense material turning to gas. Bombs can be fiery or just concussive. Bombs that kill people are generally made with bits of metal such as ball bearings, nails, or some other type of shrapnel. Grenades are lethal because of the casing. Flashbangs are loud violent explosions without the lethal shrapnel. As long as you don’t jump on it your probably not going to be hurt. You can light a moderate sized firecracker in your open hand and receive little injury. Close your hand and that changes. I have ran fire rescue for 16 years and one incident comes to mind. The Gannon power plant in Tampa exploded with enough force to be hear several miles away. I know. I heard it. I also ran the call. Several workers died from the hydrogen explosion but they were not ripped apart. One was thrown off the building. The others died from burns later in the hospital. These workers were inside the building when the explosion took place. The walls of the power plant are made to blow out in case of such an explosion and were ripped apart and hurtled several hundred feet without causing structural damage to the building.. If they did not release the energy in this way the explosion would have been much greater. And if not for the fiery nature of a hydrogen gas explosion, and the fall off the building of course, they would have probably survived. I would have rather been inside the building in breaking bad than outside of the window where the blast would have been concentrated and flying glass acting as shrapnel. Think about “human bombs” or whatever they call themselves. They contain themselves in loosely built boxes and with a moderate charge, blow the box to smithereens. And walk away. As for the UNKNOWN crystalline explosive, it is quite possible for such a small quantity to release that much energy. As we see with nitrate bombs.

October 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm
(86) Julian says:

In Breaking Bad Walter said that it was fulminated mercury with a tweak of chemistry which I assume is what made it appear crystallized.

October 12, 2013 at 10:02 am
(87) Brian says:

Just a thought. If closed room survivability is in question, look no further than the assassination attempt on hitler. Two lbs. of C-4 in room that I believe to be smaller than 12,000 sq. ft. Of course the oak table leg is what saved hitler, but it is a good starting point. They even recreated it recently on a t.v. show.

October 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm
(88) buttjuice says:

Wow. Everyone so up in arms over something so arbitrary. Can we all just concede that the entire thing is Obama’s fault?

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