Skip to main content

TV and Physics don't quite get along

CBS just launched The Big Bang Theory, a new sitcom about two physics guys with no social skills and a hot “blond” girl with a cell phone. Putting aside reviews, TBBT makes me question whether or not TV has given scientists a bad rap.

There tend to be three prominent stereotypes that follow physicists wherever they go, and TBBT embraces all of them (I will note that these apply far more to male physicists): physicists are socially inept (except with other physicists), they like people of the opposite sex but turn into goop around them, and they constantly speak in overly complicated jargon.

But wait! Since George Clooney’s reign on ER it’s clear that not all TV scientists are created equal. Doctors have not only beat the rap of nerds, but are triumphantly portrayed as abnormally attractive.

And this isn't an isolated incident. Multiple shows have run off with the hot doctor idea despite the fact that there are physics concepts around every defibrillator!

On the X-Files, Gillian Anderson’s character got her B.S. in physics, but then went to medical school, putting her somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Still, Scully was dubbed the “scientist” of the duo. She had ONE date in NINE YEARS.

Gilligan's Island definitely added to the idea that we should just accept the jargon that scientists throw at us and never question a radio built out of coconuts. The Professor was was kind of rugged and calm, not up-tight and glued to an inhaler like other nerds. Yet the non-sexuality played in at a new level because he seemed kind of gay.

Jerry Lewis pretty much defiled chemists for all time with the Nutty Professor.

While I hate to see my beloved physicists turned into nothing but a stereotype, sometimes I wonder if we haven’t got it coming.


  1. An article on BuddyTV says that The Big Bang Theory has a real-life physics PhD consulting the writers on the physics thats added to the script. It's the least we should expect, but still, props to the writers for seeing it as an important step. The article also says that the actors mingle with the UCLA physics department as research. Read more here:


Post a Comment

Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know: "What's going on in this video ? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream. (We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux ) Image Credit: St0rmz via Flickr Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?