Posted by: COSI | January 20, 2010

Science Stereotype or Affinity?

My wife Dottie and I are fans of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory—one of the very few TV shows I take the time to watch. Just watched a new show this week—and enjoyed it.

I have a Physics degree buried in my past and I’m sure that I am understanding/picking up some of the physics comments and concepts that are sprinkled in the script that maybe the majority of viewers don’t catch. And the little comments about concepts like Higgs boson add to my enjoyment of the show. But what puzzles me is the show’s popularity. Why? Do you watch it?

The science base of it appeals to me, and it’s well written–but is the general public watching the show because they like the science geek stereotypes, or regardless of them?

Are we further eroding the ability to see scientists as normal, but inquisitive people with interests in science areas? Or are we letting people feel more comfortable with science topics or reinforce the idea that only “out of the norm” geeks do science? (At least the characters beat the old “evil” scientists stereotype from many movies.)

While I’m thrilled to see a show with a quantum physics foundation to it, I don’t know to be happy or sad that others are watching it enough to make it a hit. What’s your take?



  1. I love the chemistry and characters of the show. I’m not sure how the scientific “stuff” comes in for me, but I know that I love the show as a whole. I do like how the “science geeks” are normal (helping those of us nowhere near that intelligent) see them as real people with real hobbies, etc. Well, with the exception of “Shelton”, I suppose 😉

  2. I think any TV show that prompts a growing interest in discovery, science and general curiosity about things we don’t understand is probably a good thing. (Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” is another example of science meets fun.) Personally, I enjoy BBT because I think the characters are quirky, but lovable. I’m less amused by the Penny character who often takes a “why bother to understand” attitude. Thankfully, they’ve been adjusting that in the more recent episodes. She has a lot of potential to show that science is accessible to anyone if you’re willing to learn. Of course, having funny and brilliant friends as your teachers is a bonus in her world.

  3. My gf and I watch it, but we are geeks.

    Just went to COSI, fulfilling a bucket-list type wish, and we want our honeymoon to coincide with ComicCon. So I’m not sure if we’re who you were asking…

    That said, my biggest worry about the show is the same I had with ‘A Beautiful Mind’. That being, when science appears magical, or that one would have to be a total genius to “get it”, I feel it alienates those who would otherwise have an interest, but feel that it’s too out of reach for them. This ignores the hard work factor in science.

    A brilliant mind certainly helps, but the same can be said of any field, not just the sciences.

    A kid will see swirling numbers and think that they can’t possibly attain that level of knowledge, not knowing all they’d have to do is study as hard as they play video games.

    So basically, It’s an awesome show, but the main characters’ extreme personalities may mislead aspiring geeks into thinking they’re not good or smart enough.

    Of course, I could also have no clue what I’m talking about.

  4. My wife and I also love the show and enjoy it on a variety of different levels. On the one hand we can relate to the relationship between Penny and Leonard. My wife is a closet science fan and I work in a variety of technical and scientific areas. On our first date I was wearing a Newton Message pad on my belt (which she called Merlin) and somehow against all odds I managed to get a second date. We watch Penny and Leonard and smile at one another since every once in a while the smart guy gets the girl instead of the bad boy or the really cute one.

    We also like the science references and find it refreshing that a show can be smart and clever without being dumbed down. I was also reading recently that science and technology are becoming more frequent topics of conversations in more and more places. With the advent of the new generations of smartphones, home broadband and wireless routers the average household is more tech savvy than ever and can appreciate the characters and their penchant for science. I don’t think we are laughing at them but with them since most of us can relate to the social awkwardness the characters experience.

    Along these lines, has anyone noticed how much edgier and a little less geeky Leonard has become since he has started dating Penny. He is no less interested in science but he is becoming more confident and comfortable with who he is. He is also learning that some pursuits were okay as a younger person but as you grow a little older and start developing additional relationships and responsibilities some of those activities lose some of their appeal.

    The transition has been fun to watch and it is starting to spill over onto Howard and Rajesh as they start to develop their own relationships.

    Some say the geeks will inherit the earth and there are certainly more and more of us out there and more people who can relate to us in one way or another. I think this is the primary appeal of the show and not that these guys are an object of ridicule.

  5. I love Big Bang Theory and so does my family! I’m an engineering major and “get” many of the jokes myself. You’d be surprised at how many science-types I meet that watch the show! I think it’s helpful for non-science types to watch the main characters and see that they do indeed have a (somewhat normal) life outside of science, even if that means they’re playing Halo and building robots. I’m glad you watch the show too!

  6. I think it’s great. It’s one of the few shows that everyone in my family likes.

    As both a sci-fi fan and physics minor I get more of it than most probably do, but I don’t think that necessarily matters a lot. The characters are what makes the show and I don’t think many can help but love them.

  7. Wow–this blog has gotten about as many responses as when I mention something about OSU sports! 😉

    I find the comments all interesting. Would love to hear more.

    (BTW–Found the spot where they are having reruns already–interesting to watch the character development that Tony observed)

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