The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 206: Breaking Bad Special

Premier Date: August 12, 2013

The myths in this episode were drawn from the AMC drama series Breaking Bad. Creator/producer Vince Gilligan and actor Aaron Paul appeared as guests.

Concentrated hydrofluoric acid (HF) in a bathtub can completely decompose a human body and eat a hole through the tub and the floor below it. (From the episode “Cat’s in the Bag…”)


At a lab at UC-Berkeley, Adam and Jamie observed as small portions of hydrofluoric acid were poured onto samples of materials that would have been present in the bathroom: steel, wood, linoleum, drywall, cast iron, ceramic tile, and pig flesh (as an analog for the human body). After 8 hours of soaking, the materials had deteriorated to various degrees, but none were completely destroyed. Adam explained that although fluorine is the most reactive of the halogens, it forms the weakest acid of the group when combined with hydrogen. Therefore, for the full-scale tests, they switched to concentrated sulfuric acid along with a secretive “special sauce” chemical that was used to turbocharge the acid.

At a landfill, Adam and Jamie built a bathroom set positioned above a catch tank to contain any spills. They filled a cast-iron tub with part of a pig carcass and 6 gallons (23 L) of the acid mixture (three times the volume shown in the scene). The tub contents eventually began to bubble, smoke, and give off heat, but after 20 minutes, some of the pig remained and neither the tub nor the floor leaked.

Acting on suggestions from Vince and Aaron, Adam and Jamie decided to increase the quantity of acid to 36 gallons (140 L) and to use a tub made from a more susceptible material, which ended up being fiberglass. When the acid mixture was added to this new tub, the reaction was so vigorous that the entire set was briefly obscured by smoke/steam. After 5 minutes, Adam and Jamie found only black organic sludge where the pig used to be. Much of the liquid had boiled over the sides, but the tub and the floor remained intact, thoroughly busting this myth.

A chunk of solid mercury fulminate (Hg(CNO)2) will explode if thrown on the floor, and the blast will break windows and injure bystanders. (From the episode “Crazy Handful of Nothin'”)


At a remote rock quarry, the Build Team enlisted the help of an explosives consultant to concoct a batch of the compound. To demonstrate the explosive power of the material, they obliterated a pumpkin with a 5 gram charge detonated by a squib.

Grant built a mechanical throwing arm (“throwbot”) to throw the charge down at the same speed Tory could throw, while Kari and Tory built a room similar to the one seen on Breaking Bad. They placed mannequins in the scene and set rupture discs next to each, calibrated to burst at 13 psi (90 kPa) to represent injury and 75 psi (520 kPa) to represent death. A charge of 50 grams failed to explode when thrown down, even when thrown at super-human speed. To observe the effects of a 50-gram charge, the team resorted to detonating it with a blasting cap. The “injury” rupture discs did burst during this explosion, but none of the windows blew out.

In an attempt to replicate the explosion in the scene, the team set off a 250-gram batch with a blasting cap. This time, the resulting explosion completely blew the walls and ceiling apart and burst every rupture disc. Because much more mercury fulminate was required than used in the show, and because throwing it did not cause an explosion, the team declared this myth busted.