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This Show Looks Awful, do I have to watch it? October 25, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in Pop Culture, TV.

A friend of mine, Ann, pointed this out to me. If you look carefully at the paper white board there you’ll see a t->Wb decay written out, and a simple branching ratio calculation (which is basically correct, as far as I can make out — can’t make out the lower matrix well enough — CKM??).

Ok — so any popular TV show that puts that up, I need to watch, right? So — if you click on the “About” for the series “The Big Bang Theory”, you get:

Two nerdy physicists sharing an apartment have their lives disrupted by a beautiful new neighbor.

Sounds really bad!!! At least in the Numb3rs show they had a string theorist who was interesting (they may still have, but I’ve really stopped watching shows since I got here to France). And it has a lot of personal tension, which is about the only thing that makes a drama on TV last more than 1/2 a season. Has anyone seen this Big Bang show? Is it any good? Or just a filler show that plays on typical stereotypes?



1. Floor - October 25, 2007

I don’t know know “The Big Bang Theory”, but the in the show “Supernova” they don’t even try to get the science right. They seem to shout some technical terms and hope it sounds believable. But it’s a fun show to watch.

Stereotypes can be funny, especially in the real world. I love to watch geeks do stereotypical geeky stuff. I even have a blackboard in my bedroom I use to write down equations and I collect old computers. If that’s not stereotypical behaviour I don’t know what is.

2. gordonwatts - October 25, 2007

Hmmm — I never heard of supernova before — actually, the plot outline on the IMDB reminds me of Northern Exposure (which I like). So worth it enough to put on my Netflicks list when I get back, eh?

BTW, I agree with your comment — you can get the science wrong and still have a good show — afterall this is about telling a story. And stereo types can be fun to play with — and they exist for a reason — but some themes get a little worn out. I’ve not seen the Big Bang show, but it looks like it already is. πŸ™‚

3. CraigD - October 25, 2007


You can check if it is still there, but the first “Big Bang Theory” was free on iTunes. I watched it on a plane last week, had some funny parts, but I’m not sure I could watch the show every week. Besides, now they are bringing back all the other people from Rossane(sp).

4. Alejandro Rivero - October 25, 2007

the whiteboard says “but Flavour Changing Neutral Currents…”. it is probably the cliff-hanging for the next chapter.

5. Alejandro Rivero - October 25, 2007

Hmm next slide shows some spectroscopy, probaby quarkonia of some kind, but not sure. Also, we are informed that the names of the protagonists are “Penny”, “Leonard” and “Sheldon”. I can imagine the pun is on Susskind and Glashow… Any conjecture for the origin of “Penny”? Come to suggest a name, I’d voted Olivia, for the grand-daughter of Max Born (ok, ok, the “Born approximation” seems more a title for an spy film than for a TV comedy)

6. Floor - October 25, 2007

I don’t know if Supernova is actually worth paying for. I don’t have netflix, or an iTunes account. The tv shows I watch are the ones I accidently bump into when I’m bored. I guess I’m still old fashioned in some ways.

7. onymous - October 25, 2007

The show is pretty terrible. Apart from the stereotypes and the sexism, there’s a weird mismatch between the physics dialogue and the equations. Sheldon gestures at the top decay Feynman diagrams and says something about “a spoof of the Born-Oppenheimer approximation” and something about string theory. Obviously they’re paying someone to supply the physics….

B.S. - September 7, 2011

Well aren’t you Mr negative. I think the fact they have a physicist on staff is pretty dang awesome and so smart. You are the one that is pretty terrible to say the show is bad because they actually get it right.

8. Alejandro Rivero - October 27, 2007

UCLA is blamed somewhere about providing the physics part.

9. Mike Procario - October 27, 2007

It is both funny and offensive. In one episode the group of physicists are trying to assemble the pretty neighbor’s IKEA entertainment center. They quickly decide it is inadequate and start planning to reinforce it, add cooling, power, and other flourishes. They all go off to collect the needed equipment, and she is left to assemble it herself. I recognized myself and a lot of my friends in that scene. On the other hand, there are way too many jokes about the social inadequacies of physicists.

I cannot get overly upset about them getting the physics wrong. You need to know a lot of physics to get real physics jokes.

Brooke - September 7, 2011

How could they get the physics wrong when they have a real physicist on staff helping them making sure they get it right…

10. gordonwatts - October 28, 2007

Mike – you are totally right – I’ve done something like that more than once! And as to your last comment — I totally agree if they are trying to tell a story; physics can be amazingly complex. But you can also do qutie a bit without having to go into detail and without having to be wrong. But some bending is just fine for me.

11. anon - October 30, 2007

Before guessing the origin of their first names, check out “Sheldon Leonard” on imdb

12. Crap. I am Going to have to Watch the Show! « Life as a Physicist - March 29, 2008

[…] the Show! March 29, 2008 Posted by gordonwatts in TV, science. trackback I was trying to ignore the TV show Big Bang Theory. Mainly because it seemed like a bunch of stereotypes, and perhaps ones […]

13. Dave - February 1, 2009

Im not a physicist, nor do i understand the born-oppenheimer approximation (even though i have tried to figure it out, it went over my head at about the height the moon does) BUT I love the big bang theory. Its hilarious!!! Im a geek in other ways I just cant do advanced physics. If you can laugh at yourself being a geek there’s no reason you won’t enjoy it. I watched the extras on the dvd and the creators said that they hired a physicist to make sure the physics jokes are correct. Youtube some clips… See what you think of some short jokes

14. gordonwatts - February 1, 2009

Dave — I’ve since changed my mind. Several people have told me to watch this and I finally gave in. It is a good show! I don’t think it is top 10 or anything, and I’m not sure I’d continue watching it if I didn’t identify with some of the characters and some of the physics comments. But I do try to watch it almost every week now! And it does have its moments: I’ve laughed out loud (hard) at some of the scenes. Hey — I did that! πŸ˜‰

15. Correction: I like Big Bang Theory « Life as a Physicist - February 6, 2009

[…] I like Big Bang Theory February 5, 2009 Posted by gordonwatts in TV. trackback Ok – I’ve got an old post in this blog which seems to be getting enough link love – and is now out of […]

16. W/e - March 19, 2010

Well, actually they have a physicist helping them out with the math and calculations and all that, viewed a video bout it on YouTube…

17. Colten - September 11, 2010

On the white board is quantom mechanics, a string theory, and a spoof of the born oppenheimer approximation (physics joke). The show is amazingly funny. If you have any tiny bit of nerd in you, youl love it.

18. Brooke - September 7, 2011

I love this show! It is so good soo funny as well. If you are a nerd or not a nerd you will love this show it is hysterical. Actually I just started watching it again for the 3rd time I love it that much.

19. peter - November 10, 2011

i love it too! i saw it the first time and i immediately liked it. i liked it so much, i bought all 4 seasons currently out on dvd in a box a few weeks later. and i’ve seen it like 3 or 4 times in a row. and i still laugh about it. and i can’t wait to get upcoming seasons πŸ™‚

i’m no physicist but kind of a geek in my own way. before you comment, you should watch the show. for instance i don’t understand the comments on stereotypes. of course there are a lot of stereotypes. what’s a stereotype? some kind of standard you see in life very often, isn’t it? so that’s why it’s funny and has something realistic too it! you can see pieces of yourself in it. just watch the show and if you are honest with yourself, ask yourself how much of yourself you see in it between the lines.

and there is a comment about the born oppenheimer approximation spoof. did you listen? sheldeon pointed at the bottom of the chart, not at the top! he says kinda “quantum mechanics with string theory doodling around the edges. and that right there is a spoof of the born oppenheimer approximation”, going from top to bottom!!! so maybe you should get your facts right before complaining. i can only sympathise with the comment saying it’s good they hired an actual real scientist to support the show.

buy the dvds and watch the features about what he says: he says, a lot of scientists were concern. now he gets only positive feedbacks and they just love the show. and marketing aside, i do believe it, because i love it too πŸ˜‰ not top 10? might be, but look at the rates of imdb: currently it is rated at 8,7. i do know dexter is higher with 9,2 but i don’t remember any other higher rating!

20. SomaCowJ - July 29, 2012

Boy, don’t you naysayers from 2007 feel silly now? πŸ˜›

21. Enrich Swift - August 23, 2012

Hah, I have a degree in engineering, Computer Science, and info. sys. Engineering. I have an honorary doctorate in Engineering … though I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t deserve it. I did UC Berkeley a huge favour and that’s how they paid me… anyway, yeah the show has it’s small flaws in it’s Science for instance at one point, Sheldon claims he “switched disciplines from bosonic string theory to heterotic string theory”. Which would be great if the Scientific Community hadn’t already done that in the ’70’s. I mean, I read up on theoretically Physics as much as I can, I find the field exciting and very fascinating.
As far as stereotypes, well lets agree that it’s more of a Sociological study group. After all I can find actual connection with 3 of the five main stars… sadly, mostly Howard Wolowitz, then Sheldon Cooper wears the same type of clothes as myself. I’ve even dated a girl like Penny, and which of us doesn’t like D&D? Which of us doesn’t like both Star Trek, and Star Wars (the original three, and maybe the Timothy Zahn novels).
This is a show tailored for us my brethren! Let’s embrace it!
– Enrich Swift

22. Colin - September 19, 2012

If you watch the extras the producers even say they had a REAL PHYSICIST to help them and it is a genuine joke in a physicist’s world so stop disecting a great show and get a grip of yourself!

23. Gordon - September 19, 2012

They do have a real physicist who does the show – he is a friend of mine from grad school. He currently works on CMS – and he gets credit on the show.

24. Joseph - November 25, 2016

10 years later… if you haven’t yet, you should watch this show.

One of the most popular comedy’s of all time.

25. Axel Anaya Romo - February 23, 2019

Well look at it now

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