Favorite Science Moments

I would like to start off by introducing the man behind all the science in each episode, Physicist and Astronomer, David Saltzberg.  Dr. Saltzberg is a professor at UCLA, “where he works on neutrino astronomy using radio-detection techniques.”  He still finds time to serve as the consultant for The Big Bang Theory.  As the fact-checker, and science afficienado, Dr. Saltzberg is responsible for reviewing all of the scripts and checking for inaccuracies.  In addtition to that, he is also the person who writes the whiteboards for every show.

One of the most science-filled episodes was The Bat Jar Conjecture.  As you may recall, this episode contained the physics bowl competition.  Throughout the episode, the characters are practicing and answering scientific questions.  One of the most iconical questions was the finale question in the physics bowl.  All of the main characters on the show, so the equation and were stumped.  They were not able to solve the problem.  Then, out of no where, Sheldon’s random assortment of teammates spoke up and gave the answer, -8πα.  We then find out that the university janitor that Sheldon got to be on his team, was a physicist in Russia.

Moving back towards the science, the equation put on the screen is a Feynman diagram.

Feynman Diagram, “The Bat Jar Conjecture”, “The Big Bang Theory”

Feynman diagrams were invented by Nobel prize winner, Richard Feynman.  The diagrams are used to create a simple visual to explain the behavior of subatomic particles.  They are helpful in imagining what is actually going on, instead of just looking at the mathematical equations governing the particle’s behavior.  In the context of The Big Bang Theory, some critics claim that the answer given as the correct answer (-8πα), is not correct.  I do not have the ability to fully judge the physics myself, so my personal opinion is that it is correct (at least in some circumstance).  The TV show has a physicist consultant from a university writing these problems, and checking their facts.  So, since I was not able to see any credentials listed by the critics of the accuracy of this equation, I will assume The Big Bang Theory’s interpretation was correct.

An interesting point that I will continue to discuss in the future is that most of time the show is very accurate, but in interviews, Dr. Saltzberg tells us of some of the mistakes that were made on air.  In future posts, I hope to mention some of these.  Thanks for reading!

Sources:

http://sciencescene.nsf.gov/obj/expert/5fcca0c6-172e-4c78-b746-0fa270768a2d

http://bigbangtheory.wikia.com/wiki/The_Bat_Jar_Conjecture

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/09/tv-fact-checker-big-bang-theory/

http://www.scribd.com/doc/58206115/Tbbt-Physics-Bowl-Analysis

 

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One Response to Favorite Science Moments

  1. Wow, that’s pretty neat! I still don’t know how that’s a “simple visual” to explain the behavior of subatomic particles, haha. But then again I’m not a scientist that knows anything about subatomic particles other than what they teach you in CHEM 110. I always did wonder who checked the show’s facts and who wrote on all their white boards! So I’m really glad you talked about that!

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