Episode 34: Criminal Chemistry

Breaking Bad publicity shot

Breaking Bad publicity shot from AMC.

We’re rather fond of chemistry here at Distillations, but even we have to admit that not everyone who’s interested in chemistry is inspired purely by a love of science. On today’s show we explore the uses of chemistry on either side of the law: as a poison, as a set of skills to create illegal substances, and as a tool for forensics. We chat with Jay Aronson, the author of Genetic Witness: Science, Law, and Controversy in the Making of DNA Profiling, about how the development of DNA fingerprinting technologies has changed both criminal investigations and the relationship between science and the law. CHF’s Jennifer Dionisio reviews the new AMC television series Breaking Bad, in which a chemistry teacher moonlights as a meth dealer. Element of the Week: Arsenic.

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:31 Introduction
01:08 Element of the Week: Arsenic
03:12 A Conversation with Jay Aronson
07:34 Review: Breaking Bad
10:58 Quote: Emma Goldman
11:09 Closing Credits

Resources and References

For background on arsenic, see the entry on the WebElements Periodic Table.
Find out more about the history of poisoning in this helpful overview of forensic chemistry.
We can’t vouch for its accuracy, but check out this list of victims of arsenic poisonings at Wikipedia.
Check out Jay Aronson’s book, Genetic Witness: Science, Law, and Controversy in the Making of DNA Profiling on
Trailers, previews, downloads, and more are available at the Breaking Bad Web site.


A special thanks to Jennifer Dionisio for researching the show.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music from the PodSafe Music Network. Additional music is “It’s Your Theme Song,” by Podcast Troubadour, “Under Investigation,” by Eric Dietrich, and “Blurp,” by Al Philipp and the Woo Team.



Posted In: History | Society | Technology

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