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Television Science

Ask David Saltzberg About Being The Big Bang Theory's Science Advisor 226 226

For seven seasons Dr. David Saltzberg has made sure the science on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is correct. As science consultant for the show he reviews scripts for technical errors, fixing any problems he finds. He also adds complex formulae to whiteboards on set. Before his life as a science advisor, Saltzberg received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago, performed post-graduate work at CERN, and currently is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA. He writes The Big Blog Theory, where he explains the science behind each episode of the show. Dr. Saltzberg has agreed to answer any questions you have about the show or his previous scientific work. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
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Ask David Saltzberg About Being The Big Bang Theory's Science Advisor

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  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <> on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:47PM (#47827331) Homepage Journal

    As long as we're being honest: my friends and I think it's hilarious. We've all been Leonard, probably too often for comfort, and we all have at least one friend from the rest of the gang. They talk about stuff we enjoy and do things (we would hate to admit that) we do. It's not Fine Art, sure, but it's fun.

    Even though the show is basically about me and my friends (and apparently you and your friends, too), I never felt like it was making fun of me.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @12:49PM (#47827381)
    Even though the charcters are awkward, they seem to have much more lively social lives than when I was in grad school. The students were almost all male then.
  • by Ravaldy (2621787) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @01:20PM (#47827701)

    It doesn't teach to laugh at geeks and nerds. It laughs at the stereotypes tied to geeks and nerds. When we make fudge packing references do we laugh at homosexuals? The answer is no.

    I was a geek/nerd in high school and although I relate to many of the stereotypes they are mostly exaggerated and intended for comedy. I find this show helps makes geeks and nerds look cool.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @02:36PM (#47828667)

    And this is different from the shows that teach you to laugh at the dumb jocks, the shows that teach you to laugh at dumb guys, the shows that teach you to laugh at dumb women, the shows that teach you to laugh at plumbers, doctors, fathers, mothers, politicians, laywers, etc. What group exists that is not laughed at?

  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @03:16PM (#47829079)
    In season 3 episode 1, where Sheldon was being mocked for saying he confirmed string theory, Sheldon gave a speech about Einstein and Einstein's greatest blunder, the cosmological constant. Barry Kripke responded that research into dark matter vindicated the cosmological constant and therefore it was not a blunder.

    The problem - the assertion by Barry Kripke was wrong. Einstein's blunder was he invented the cosmological constant to show a static universe. At the time it was not known if the universe was moving or not. Einstein's early equations showed a moving universe. That bothered him, so he invented the cosmological constant to show a static universe. Later Einstein met astronomer Irwin Hubble who was able to show Einstein the universe was moving and not static. The cosmological constant was a blunder in that it was used to show a static universe. The fact that the cosmological constant was used elsewhere successfully is irrelevant; that did not change the mistake Einstein made.

    Someone should have picked up in that.
  • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Thursday September 04, 2014 @04:12PM (#47829529)

    but the show isn't about nerds laughing at themselves; it's about non-nerds laughing at nerds, and nerds not "getting" what's so funny.

    That's your opinion, and you're certainly welcome to it. I've mostly seen early seasons of the show, but my impression is that it's only partly about what you say.

    In general, the show is often about a failure to communicate. The non-nerds laugh at the nerds, it's true, but the nerds get plenty opportunities to laugh at the non-nerds too. Have you seriously missed all the jokes made at Penny's expense? (And I'm not talking about Sheldon's weird attempts at humor that the other nerds often don't find funny -- I mean jokes about Penny's ridiculousness, her ineptitude, her inability to function in some everyday tasks, etc.)

    The show points out the problems that both sides have with ineffective communication, and that's a big source of humor. But, on the other hand, the show celebrates the virtues of both sides too. The nerds often solve problems or do awesome things, and the non-nerds are suitably impressed -- when the problem solved is actually something "practical" and not something having to do with comic books or sci-fi or some weird technological achievement with no obvious practical benefit. Penny sometimes occasionally demonstrates some sort of "obvious" solution to a problem that the nerds missed because they got mired in details and couldn't see the simple solution. Both of these things happen in real life, too.

    So, if you don't like the show, don't watch it. But I'd say that the "non-nerds laughing at nerds" is only one part of the show. It's a pretty "equal opportunity offender" in targeting the ridiculous characteristics of ALL characters, nerd and non-nerd alike.

"History is a tool used by politicians to justify their intentions." -- Ted Koppel