My theory on the Big Bang Theory January 30, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in humor, physics, science, science fiction, societal commentary.
Tags: Big Bang Theory, physics, stories, suspension of disbelief, TV
I really don’t watch much TV, but I do own all of the Big Bang Theory that’s available on DVD. Most of my friends really enjoy it, too, and I have a theory why that is: I think that it’s one of the few TV shows that nerds can stand to watch because it is far more factually correct than most TV shows.
Most of the nerds I know are the ones who annoy everyone else at movies by making commentary throughout about the impossibility or improbability of what they’re witnessing. (In particular, my older son is this way. Of course, he also likes to tell you what’s going to happen next, so he’s been banned from speaking during movies.) Suspension of disbelief becomes a little harder when you’re faced with something you know cannot possibly happen.
I think this became obvious to me in one scene where Sheldon was waxing (un)poetic about how great Isaac Newton was. Leonard made some comment meant in sarcasm, and Sheldon’s response was to say that Leonard disputed Newton’s claim that he invented calculus so Leonard wanted to put Leibniz at the top of the Christmas tree.
Most people who have no clue about calculus would probably laugh at this scene because Sheldon missed the point of the sarcasm. On the other hand, those of us who know anything about calculus might have been laughing because we knew exactly to what he was referring. And it made me ponder…would I want Newton at the top of my tree, or Leibniz? For the record, I would have been fine with Newton at the top of the tree because he did a lot more than invent calculus…but I still am glad for Leibniz’s wonderful notation. Either way, you couldn’t have just thrown any mathematician or physicist’s name out. It HAD to be Leibniz because the rivalry is so historic and well-known among mathophiles.
As I go through the show, I find little details like that a lot, and I really enjoy them. Whether or not I want to, I tend to pay attention to those points and letting them go is tough. Sometimes they even draw me in more than just the storyline does. In the episode where Sheldon is attempting to teach Penny physics, I kept thinking, “There’s better ways to explain that.” And when she was supposed to answer a question, it felt like sitting in a classroom and wanting to blurt out the answer.
It’s a real treat to watch a show that doesn’t use science as some sort of nifty backdrop to the story, where the science actually is important to the story or at least makes it more fun. And better yet, it still manages to entertain all the non-physicists out there, too.