So… I’ve been pretty hard on Hollywood and how it deals with anything remotely science related. In fact my opinion of Hollywood is that the vast majority (like 99%) of the people who write for, direct, produce, act in or move bits of scenery around for movies or TV shows have such a lack of interest in and knowledge of anything scientific that it might as well be magic for all they know or care.
That is a major reason for several years now I simply ignored the show “The Big Bang Theory”, in spite of several people in my social circle and at work advising me to watch the show.
Well, the show finally went into syndication, meaning it started popping up all over the dial on my satellite TV, and in spite of how little TV I watch, I suppose it was inevitable that at some point I would find myself watching an episode.
And it was pretty darn good.
I mean I expected the show to be “funny” and to have “interesting characters” and “situational comedy”, after all the formulas for those things are so firmly entrenched in Hollywood that they literally have hundreds of well-defined “tropes” surrounding the creation and execution of sitcoms. And, in fact, “The Big Bang Theory” faithfully executes most of the required tropes, including the “one girl, several guys” trope which is one of the most overdone tropes in sitcoms.
But what actually impressed me about the show is that the writers of the show actually seem to CARE about the science in the show. They don’t just make up scientific sounding nonsense like virtually every other show in Hollywood. The science stuff they do, at least the stuff I know about, is well researched and reasonably accurate. When they refer to something like “quantum tunneling” or “dark matter” someone clearly took the time and effort to at least gather a reasonably informed layman’s interpretation of the thing.
In a recent episode that we watched, Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hoffsteadter (sp?) were asked to present a paper at a scientific convention. The plot was all around how Sheldon refused to participate because he considered the paper to be beneath his level and was something that he “helped” Leonard with just to be nice. But Leonard wanted to present so he went ahead without Sheldon’s blessing, creating a rift between them that was, of course, played for comedic effect.
As part of his presentation Leonard decided to use a joke to lighten up the audience. The joke he used was something like this:
“So, this farmer hires a physicist to help him increase the productivity of his chicken raising efforts. The physicist spends a week analyzing the farmer’s facilities, evaluating his goals and finally delivers his solution to the farmer. So he tells the farmer ‘OK, so we can triple your production, but that’s based on spherical chickens in a vacuum’.”
Of course the non-physicists in the group Leonard tries this joke out on don’t even snicker. Leonard says “it would be funny if you were a physicist.”
And he’s right. It is funny for a physicist. I laughed.
Now I watch the show pretty regularly.