Engineer & Entertain

Ideas I grapple with

Archive for the tag “television”

Ricin to the finish

One of the greatest series in the history of television ended a few weeks ago. Before you continue reading this post, please note there will be Breaking Bad spoilers in this post.
While I am not surprised by debates of its meaning and other post game analysis, I was surprised to see people question the logistics of Walt poisoning a nervous, stevia addicted, tea fancying, methylamine supplier. This is the guy who built a meth empire, destroyed several ring leaders, had ten people killed in prison in two minutes, and jump started a RV with science.
Ricin is a poisonous protein from castor beans. It kills by shutting down the protein factories in your cells called ribosomes. The signs and symptoms a person experiences depends on how the poison is introduced to the body. If it is inhaled then the person will die of respiratory failure, while ingestion will terrorize the GI tract. Eating 5-20 castor beans can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tachycardia, and seizures for 4 days until your inevitable the death. There is no antidote and treatment typically focuses on treating symptoms and organ failure.
A stevia packet contains 1 gram of stevia. If you wanted to poison a 120 pound executive of a German conglomerate which owns a fast food chicken company, then you would need roughly 109 mg of ricin. With a LD50 of 20 mg/kg, if Lydia weighed 180 lbs you would only need 1.6 grams.
180 lbs * 1 kg/2.2 lbs * 20 mg/kg = 1636 mg
There is clearly enough space to accommodate the poison and sugar substitute. So how do you get the poison in the packet and reseal it?
I am not a sucrologist so I could not tell what the packet was made from. If it is plastic then you could cut it open, add the poison, and reseal it using an iron or other heating element. Not all that different than how it was made.

If it is a paper sachet then the glue keeping it closed could be dissolved with acetone or goo gone, the poison added, and then resealed.
So what would hinder this plan (aside from having the ethics to not kill people)? Not a whole lot. Ricin is very stable over a wide pH range and does not break down when exposed to UV light. If it is exposed to 80*C temperature for over one hour though it will denature and become nontoxic. Depending on the tea, it should be prepared 76*C to 100*C. The temperature is hot enough to render the ricin useless, but the tea is not likely to be at the temperature for a long enough time.
The biggest issue with the plan is making sure Lydia received a packet with ricin. There might be one stevia packet at the table or a waiter could be bribed to bring her a specific packet.

In conclusion, poisoning Lydia was a minor task for Walt. Let us go back to discussing color and its meaning in Breaking Bad.

The Prisoner of Benda Therom

Any time a sci-fi show runs into a problem there is usually some manipulation of the known world which solves the problem.  Typically, the solution is a completely wrong extrapolation of something we learned in high school science with jargon flying left and right to misdirect and make it sound creditable (I’m looking at you, Eureka).  When this occurs geeks and nerds across the Internet get on forums and discuss the unrealistic minutiae while being content with the Moon actually being blown off its orbit instead of being blown apart.

I digress, a writer of Futurama decided to make a mathematical proof of the plot point so as to not remove its viewers from a suspension of belief.  You can read more about it here.  You can also get a clear view and explanation of the therom here.

*Jamie & Paul, should I have said therom when I meant proof or proof when I meant derivative just imagine it was a typo.

There Was Pop Up “News Radio” Too

I crave useless information like an obese person with no self esteem craves Oreos.  There are over 31,000 McDonalds in the world so obese people can always eat their feelings, but before there was Wikipedia, Mental_Floss, and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, retrieving useless information in more than Snapple cap sized portions was difficult.

Thankfully, VH1 recognized the need for more substantial bits of information and created Pop Up Video in 1996.  Not only can you watch recorded episodes on YouTube, but one of the production companies, Spin The Bottle, also hosts a decent playlist on their website.

The one issue I have with Pop Up Video is that I cannot find how to cite it in APA format.

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