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Science of TRON

Listen to audio from the "Science of TRON" panel, featuring director Joe Kosinski, producer Sean Bailey, and science consultants Sean Carroll & John Dick. Learn More

Big Bang Theory

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How a Drawing Could Cure Cancer: Physics Diagrams as Modern Hieroglyphs

If you’re a fan of the TV series, The Big Bang Theory you're probably used to laughing at Penny and Sheldon's interactions, especially when Dr. Cooper tries to explain physics to his loveable blonde neighbor.
One such instance is captured in the picture below.  If you look at it, you could easily imagine Sheldon saying something like: “See, Penny, this equation accounts for the branching ratio of a top quark decaying into a W boson and bottom quark, as depicted by the upper-left diagram.”

Do you think Sheldon took up drawing simply so he could flirt with Penny?

Big Bang Theory: Plus or a Minus?

Scientists didn’t exactly rejoice when The Big Bang Theory got picked up by CBS a few years ago. Actually, they probably weren’t paying attention and may still be unaware of the show’s existence, even though it’s now become a major hit for the network. During the three seasons Big Bang has been on the air, it’s been pretty easy to dismiss as just another silly TV show with no mission other than to entertain. Never mind that most people spend a lot of time being entertained by watching TV.

As a result, TV is where most people learn whatever it is they know about science. But not from watching PBS or one of the Discovery networks, which have relatively small audiences. They’re far more likely to be viewing entertainment programming, including sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory.