The Big Bang Theory is a sitcom that features a couple of socially awkward yet brilliant male physics postdocs who live across the hall from a sociable "blond bombshell" actress/waitress of "average intellect." And of course one of the geeky geniuses finds love with his hot non-genius neighbor. I've never seen it, so I don't really know what it's like. The description makes it sounds like nerdy male fantasy fulfillment, which isn't really my cup of tea.
The season finale was on May 19, but it was apparently popular enough that they are talking about next season. Science recently ran an article about the show's science advisor, UCLA physicist David Saltzberg, who apparently keeps the physics fairly accurate. So does The Big Bang Theory include any female physicists?
Leonard, plyaed by Johnny Galecki, is the experimentalist who longs for [actress/waitress] Penny and has a disastrous fling with Leslie, a brilliant labmate, who spends part of their tryst correcting an equation. In the episode in which Leonard firs asks Leslie for a date – "a biosocial exploration with a neurochemical overlay," he calls it – the two test how long it takes a powerful lab laser to heat up soup.You can watch the clip on YouTube. If you enjoy scientist stereotypes - thick glasses, uncombed hair, poor social skills - you'll probably get a laugh out of it.
Leslie is the only female research on the show, a complaint [creator] Prady and Saltzberg hear often from women, whether scientists or journalists. Prady promises that more female scientists will appear. "The [female-male] ratio is actually higher on the show that it is in my part of the field, which is pretty bad, Saltzberger unhappily adds.There are fewer than one? I guess he's talking about the ratio of the single female physicist character to the 3 or 4 male physicist characters. But hey, it's a fantasy, so why not have two female physicists - and have one of them date a sexy actor/waiter.
The show's production team actually visited the UCLA physics department and apparently received a depressing picture of what it's like to be a woman in physics - which, of course, they'll include in the show:
Prady met a physicist who lies about what she does in social situations, because she feels her career intimidates men. "We're going to have Leslie do that," Prady says. "Whenever anybody says they lie about who they are, there's a rich story to tell there."At least I find it depressing. The article goes on to talk about how much physicists - male and female - love the series, so maybe it's just me. I doubt I'll bother to give it a go when I can watch the socially inept but brilliant Gregory House instead.
- Watch the video clips that accompany the Science article.
- Watch some recent full episodes of the Big Bang Theory at CBS.com.
Tags: The Big Bang Theory, physics, women in science