Very worthwhile to read Okazaki’s Nerds vs. Breaking Bad. I have just watched the first three episodes of this show and I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not giving it a review here but just want to make three observations.
First, the plot line is sometimes really stupid I mean, you need to be really, really dumb, implausibly dumb, to object to shopping for plastic containers for an application of hydrofluoric acid (“HF”), apply it instead in a bathtub, and do it by pouring it from plastic container bottles.
Second, the characterization of science there is that it is magic and wizardry, unapproachable by the common people. That’s just wrong, and it is why the American public, in my opinion, is so hopelessly at sea dealing with climate change policy, cybersecurity, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and all manners of risk assessments. Because they don’t know, never learned, or have forgotten their basic mathematics, statistics, and science, they have no choice but to try to decide things by listening to “experts” on the subject. The reason why that’s difficult is that people with vested interests can easily march forward “their experts” to oppose others. There is no choice but to educate yourself on these issues and make the decision based upon that. Don’t have time to do that now? That’s what school was for. (Direct link to the final article cited there.) And it is why the idea of limiting a student’s time and interest only to those subjects which “they will use when they get a job” is so foolhardy.
Third, as entertainment, and despite its popularity, Breaking Bad, in my opinion, has little to offer. Characters wrestling with moral choice, murder, mayhem, the present versus the long term? Breaking Bad does a poor job of conveying human internal conflict on those points. Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Goethe’s Faust do it better, and with greater angst. Macbeth is, to me, totally blood curdling and rivetting, especially some of Lady Macbeth’s lines.
Postscript 0017 ET, 17th October 2013. I have stopped watching at Season 2, Episode 1. This show gives me nightmares, and I continue to feel, as statistician, scientist, and long time nerd, it is insulting, offensive, and highly misleading to a public which is already badly misled about science and technology. I dislike it. I am sorry I subjected myself to it. The show is crap, in my opinion. Why should I want to watch a previously talented guy get anointed with the designation he has lung cancer, and turn himself into a monster in the process?
Oh, and as to those who think I’m being some kind of intellectual snob about all this, I say, No, I’m just a nerd, and if you want to understand Nature, the Universe, and work with Her, you had better be particular about what’s fact and what’s not and not be sloppy. No, this isn’t just about fiction. And in that company, I think nerds, who obviously now rule the world, are no better represented than by Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, who complained to author, director, and producer James Cameron that the star field in the North Atlantic was incorrect. Cameron later fixed it.