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In Breaking Bad, Walter White chooses to go by Heisenberg. I know that there has to be some significance behind both why Walt chose the name and why the writers chose that name as opposed to any other physicist's. It would make sense for it to have something to do with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, which postulates (in broad strokes) that any system is fundamentally unstable on a short enough time frame. The connection between that and Walt's specific character eludes me though.

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Surprised this isn't a duplicate –  DustinDavis Mar 8 '14 at 0:36
Me too. Guess there are enough places other than stack exchange that have already answered it. –  vastra360 Mar 8 '14 at 0:46
if you haven't found an answer elsewhere, maybe reconsider the answer I've given so we can wrap this question up. –  DustinDavis 15 mins ago

2 Answers 2

Because of the "uncertainty principle" which was created by the real Heisenberg and other similarities to Walter White.

As stated in this article

First of all, like Mr. White, Werner Heisenberg was a teacher. In fact, in 1927, he was appointed ordentlicher Professor (ordinarius professor) of theoretical physics and the head of the department of physics at the Leipzig University. In 1932, Heisenberg picked up the Nobel Prize for Physics for his theory of quantum mechanics — but what he's most famous for (arguably) is his Uncertainty Principle. I don't claim to fully understand this by any means, but here's what I gather: It's impossible to exactly measure both the position and the speed of a particle, because to measure the position, you'd have change the particle's speed, and to measure the speed, you'd have to affect its position. The Principle is also sometimes loosely interpreted as "we cannot know the present with enough precision in order to predict the future with certainty." I mean, right? Better call Saul.

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle may also be an interesting metaphor for Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. You can't affect one of them without affecting the other. As the series has progressed, every time our master cook and his sous-chef try to part ways, they're brought back together, both willingly and unwillingly. Kind of like magnets, bitch!

And also the cancer

One more notable similarity, and a striking difference: Like Walter White, Heisenberg had the big C. On February 1, 1976, the scientist succumbed to cancer of the kidneys and gall bladder.

If you think about when he first stated his name it was after his encounter with Tuco. At that point he is contrasting his old self to his new self meaning he knows his position, but not of his momentum. Or, he is uncertain of what his new momentum will do to his position. This is basically the uncertainty principle. This is also just my speculation.

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Good answer! Moreover, one should not forget that Walter was probably not prepared for a question of Tuco and since he did not want to share his real name, he had very little time to think about it. A scientist's name known to him was the first thing coming to his mind. The explonation is maybe mixed up with this kind of randomness. –  Markus Klein Mar 8 '14 at 0:43
I do so think that it was chosen on the spot, but not necessarily randomly. Since Walt is a chemist, if he were to pay homage to a great scientist, why not one from his own field? But being in that particular moment I think it made more sense to use Heisenberg. –  DustinDavis Mar 8 '14 at 1:07
Maybe that's to make it less obvious. Ask some chemist about his name, he says Nobel, Curie, Faraday, Carver,... it sounds more obvious that he might be lying. But picking a random name outside your own field of expertice, it might appear more plausible. On the other hand, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is something that affects chemistry as well. Actually, I remember talking about this in chemistry class, but not physics (didn't name it; but the fact that you can't really determine the positions of electrons for example has been mentioned). –  Mario Mar 8 '14 at 10:08
I'm still unsatisfied with the answer. The article you quote is hearsay and conjecture, and it doesn't get at the deep, thoughtful connection that Breaking Bad has for so many small elements. It's pretty coincidental. There may not be an explanation that would give me that deep "Oh, that's it" feeling...but I feel like there is one. –  vastra360 Mar 11 '14 at 18:42
@vastra360 have you been able to find a better answer from a "more reputable" source? –  DustinDavis Mar 18 '14 at 17:10

Wikipedia for Uncertainty Principle by Heisenberg says that "the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice-versa." Kind sums up the situation, nobody knew what Walter would do next and how he would do it. Also, he required to come up with a name when confronting Tuco for the first time and what better a name than Heisenberg.

Just to state some examples:

  1. He bombs Tuco's office with a crystal. None of us saw that coming.
  2. He lets Jane die. Again, none of us thought he wouldn't save her.
  3. He poisoned the little kid with Lily of the Valley.
  4. Lastly, and most importantly, he cooked the finest meth. I mean, a chemistry teacher who works at car service station with little money to live on, cooks Meth! So awesome.

and a lot more situations where Walt just rocked!

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