motris (motris) wrote,

Is Breaking Bad not respecting the chemistry?

There are a few shows I watch where weird visual quirks dominate my viewing. The clock on 24 has long had this trait, with the change to HD adding even more extra "features" to the clock than I used to recognize. In HD it is now clear that the digits 1, 2, 5, 7 have graphic elements in the form of sharpened corners in just the upper-right/lower-left/upper-left/upper-right of the 1/2/5/7 that imply extra LED elements that are not seen in these positions for all other numbers. Then there is the most significant problem, the 1 has a half-bar at the top which is not at all typical of LEDs AND the display has a kerning issue whenever a one is displayed leaving a smaller than normal LED space for that number, just at that time. As this would be visually jarring, the clock almost never has a 0 become a 1 or a 1 become a 2, except on the few occasions when the change of hour forces such a turn over and the editors have done extra work to undo the kerning mistake so it is not a problem. If I peek real closely, I believe some kerning issues can also be observed at other clock changes but at the level of a pixel from say the 8 to the 9 where the loss of the lower-left bar slightly shrinks the overall width of the character. Anyway, the problem with the 1s has been explained on the internet and you can find some good posts about the problem's origin being a computer "clock" font that had these stylized mistakes so when 24 chose to use it, they got the good and the bad.

Well, one of my favorite shows right now is Breaking Bad and unfortunately it has a visual mistake that is now a nagging curiosity too. In its title logo it uses boxes for the elements bromine and barium to highlight the first letters of each word in the title. During the intro, these atomic symbols pop out of a periodic table where all representations of the elements are reasonable and consistent. However, once in the titles alone, the Ba in breaking bad has had its electrons thrown off to match Bromine. Instead of stating 2-8-18-18-8-2, which is an absolutely fabulous symmetric distribution of electrons, it says 2-8-18-7 to match Bromine! For shame! Moreover, in the title shot the boxes are not the same size; instead the Ba box is about 95% in width/height of the Br box (I measured), and more noticeably the font sizes of all elemental information are shrunk and positioned somewhat inconsistently with the other case. Amazingly, none of these visual changes, even a smaller font as the electron shells get larger, are present in the correct periodic table that precedes the main title, so simply copying and pasting those two boxes from the correct graphic, instead of "stylizing" by an artist, would have given a much better result. Of course, this neglects to mention that if you wait 5 more seconds, on the (Cr)eated by Vince Gilligan image, Chromium is listed as 2-8-18-7 as well, and somehow in all cases the average weight and oxidation states are correct and its just the electrons that are funky.

For a show whose main character in a recent episode commented on the need to "respect the chemistry", this seems unfortunate. So, only having season 3 episodes at the moment to consider where I see this error universally, I went online to find how else the title graphic has appeared and to find if this has been mentioned anywhere before. Here the story takes another weird turn. There are apparently several versions that seem to be used for DVD releases and other promotional materials, including one that just gives Br and Ba with the atomic number in the upper-right, as well as a much more similar one to the one in the titles that has the correct information for Barium's outer shell but with the change in font sizes! This suggests that at some point a graphic artist had made the size inconsistencies between Br and Ba but had the right data for the electrons. So when did things get screwed up? Was this a conscious choice to simply improve the "look" of the numbers? Is 56 too many electrons to list? And has the title mistake really gone unnoticed for three seasons? When I caught up on the first two seasons on DVD the problem was less noticeable as it occurs once per episode, but now that I'm watching the show on AMC it is displayed at each commercial break too. Even other links inspired by the show don't respect the chemistry. This image of a (He)isen(Be)rg t-shirt imagines a universe in which, say, a +10 oxidation state for the element exists when it just has 4 protons to begin with. Really?

For now, I'll just refer to the show as Breaking Brd, Breated by Vince Gilligan, until they fix the electrons (if not the other graphical inconsistencies). The show may have a chemistry teacher as a main character, but Breaking Brd has no respect for the chemistry.
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