I can’t help but love the TV show The Big Bang Theory. The dynamic characters, awkward situations, and nerd humor are right up my alley. The show revolves around the lives of four young scientists Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard, aka Wallowitz. These guys are all in their twenties working as physics researchers at Caltech with PhDs. When I watch the show I wonder how much of it is really that realistic. Come to find out a lot more than I expected. When I looked into the show on of the first articles I came across had to do with the scientific consultant on the show, the very well known David Saltzberg. Saltzberg himself has a bachelor’s in physics from Princeton, a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago, and did his post-doc at CERN. When he isn’t doing science consulting he teaches a full course load at UCLA. So, he could pretty much fact check the show with one eye closed, down to the equations on the whiteboards in their offices and their apartments.
Since his main field is physics, he isn’t technically qualified to consult on the biology in the show, however lucky for him the actress that plays Amy Farrah Fowler, Mayim Bialik, has a PhD in neuroscience, and can according to Saltzberg “back him up on the biology.”
Although the script writers themselves are pretty good with science Bialik and Saltzberg both work on checking the facts that the writers put in. Saltzberg even uses equations he’s working on in the show. One in particular was the season premier where he put up equations Saltzberg himself had been working on for weeks. The stuff on the whiteboards that most people wouldn’t really pay attention to was about a particle called an axion and a new way to find it.
Reading the article was very enlightening to me, because although I knew a lot of movies had science consultants, I hadn’t really though of The Big Bang Theory having one. Let alone a highly qualified UCLA professor who has worked at CERN. Knowing that there was a consultant on the show also made it a lot more credible to me. Yes, it’s a comedy show, but the fact that there is such a highly educated man working on this show makes it seem much more realistic. I loved the science jokes and humor, as well as the nerdy interactions, but now I know there is actually truth behind what they are saying.
But, this leads to a problem too. Having a science consultant makes people trust what is being said much more. A guy with credentials like Saltzberg seems very trustworthy, but his consulting only goes so far. What the writers want is what goes into the show no matter if it is wrong or right. It may seem wrong to do that and I agree, but science doesn’t always make a good movie or show and the writers know that.
Even though The Big Bang Theory is both hilarious and accurate many movies and or shows that seem to be trustworthy might be a hoax with a science consultant mentioned so as to give credibility. Even though it is often easy to believe what a movie tells you, especially a smart person in said movie, be wary. Question it. How much is really accurate?