The Big Blog Theory

By Phil Plait | November 17, 2009 12:00 pm

A little while back, I made a sojourn to Los Angeles to get a few things done. You know, the usual for a science blogger: get a tattoo, hang out with a man crush, watch a live taping of a smash hit comedy show, meet and greet with TV execs.

Ho hum.

But one very cool thing that happened was that while watching the taping of one of my favorite shows, "The Big Bang Theory", I met David Saltzberg. David’s a physicist and astronomer who has serious bona fides in science. All that is very cool and all, but most importantly as far as I’m concerned is that he is the official science consultant on BBT. This is basically my dream job, so I’m very jealous.

Saltzberg_PradyBut not bitter, because David’s a great guy. We met up on the set and immediately started chatting and having fun. And to cement himself in my pantheon of Very Cool People, he gave me his copy of the script so I could follow along with the show. Whoa! [Bill Prady, the co-Executive Producer of the show, also gave me a copy of the script for my daughter; Bill and David are the ones in the picture, courtesy CBS, from a UCLA article interviewing David.]

When you watch the show, take a look at the whiteboards littering the character’s apartments and offices. They always show a barrage of equations, notes, and diagrams. Those are all real! Yup, David’s work. When Sheldon and Raj argue over dark matter detection, or Leonard spouts off a line about physics, the core science is from David’s brain.

In a very wise and fun move, David has started a blog tying the science in the episodes to what’s currently known in the field, using BBT as a springboard to explain real cutting-edge stuff. It’s called The Big Blog Theory (also available en Español), and is a great read. if you’re a fan of the show, and a total science nerd (and as I always point out, if you read my blog then congrats! You’re a nerd) then you should put Big Blog Theory on your must read list. It adds a dimension to the show that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible except through ten-dimensional matrix transformations of the standard general relativistic metric, and while those are trivial to do it’s a step you now don’t need to take.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, Science, TV/Movies

Comments (28)

  1. Devin

    What does the sequence of numbers on dude’s T-shirt mean?

  2. Gunter

    I have yet to catch that show, but maybe I’ll start making an effort. I hate when shows have terrible math and science to further the plot so it’d be nice to see something on the flip side of that.
    Also, I can’t believe there’s been no mention of yesterday’s xkcd:
    xkcd.com/663/

  3. Mike

    OK, I’ll be the first person to ask…what does his shirt mean?

  4. Love David’s t-shirt.

    I did notice, though, that the guys took a telescope to a meteor shower event. OK, sure, I suppose, y’know, they could’ve dragged it along to look at Jupiter while they were waiting for the Leonids to peak, or something.

  5. I understood the T-shirt immediately. (Okay, so I first had to zoom it full-size in order to read the last number.) Sorry, I’m a geek through and through.

    Just remember…

    There are 10 types of people in this world. Those that understand binary, and those that don’t.

    And, gotta love those school teachers with the VW minivan. (Though I suppose brownies instead of cookies would have been too obvious.)

    And, maybe the telescope was there so they could see the satellite they were using to get HBO?

  6. “while those are trivial to do” – in your head

    Hey, clever t-shirt.

    What part of
    1000001
    1010011
    1000011
    1001001
    1001001
    Do you not understand?

    There are || kinds of people in the world. Those who tally on sticks and those who tally with stones.

  7. I’m not getting the shirt. I was able to decipher Dennis’s riddle, but is there an offset I should be using on the numbers on the tshirt?

  8. ppb

    Carey,
    They are in Hex, if that helps any.

  9. Ah, well that explains it :)

    I was getting AMCII by adding 24 (the difference between 40 in hex and 40 in decimal), and I figured something was still amiss…

  10. Carey:

    The problem is you need to not count with your pollices and halluces.

  11. I guessed the shirt’s coding right away, but when I checked and saw the values were in Hex, I liked it even more.

  12. DrFlimmer

    Oh, BBT. I LOVE BBT.

    In fact, I watched the first episode last week and now I watch one each evening. I’m having SO MUCH fun! :D It is absolutely awesome! And the thing is: It is so close to reality. I find myself in so many scenes. :D

    It is so f***ing great!

  13. I’ve got one of these shirts. Requires a bit more mental gymnastics but same principle.

  14. Tree Lobsters:

    Yup, that takes a little more mental gymnastics as you say. But, being a true nerd/geek, it only took a few seconds longer. Of course, at first, it reminded me of Conway’s game of “Life”.

    Now, how do I get my kids to stop singing “Soft Kitty”?

  15. Nuno Lucas

    It actually took me about 15 minutes to understand the t-shirt. I’m a computer engineer, but that output doesn’t resonate with my way of thinking. Looking back, it was just too obvious for me.

    I was expecting something more interesting. Things like 0xB00B5 or 0xDEADBEEF.

    Hey, the right numbers should have been 42 30 30 42 35 !!!

  16. PG

    It bothers me that it took me so long to understand the t-shirt. Had to look up the codes.

  17. Ken B: Yeah, it does look a bit like a “glider”.

  18. Gary Ansorge

    It would have been better if his t shirt said “What part of E=MC^2 don’t you understand”.

    Now, THAT’S funny.

    GAry 7
    PS 6. Dennis, I think you missed some zeros there?

  19. Gary Ansorge

    Dang. I can’t watch the BBT on Hulu. All they have are clips.

    GAry 7

  20. Timmy

    BBT……best thing on tube.

  21. Gary Ansorge:

    Dennis, I think you missed some zeros there?

    Sorry, but there are only 7 significant bits. Bit 8 can be used for parity. BTDTGTPT*

    *: PT = “Punch Tape”

  22. Gary Ansorge

    21 Ken B:

    Oops! Clean forgot about the parity bit. My bad! It’s been many a year since I worked on computers, so I’ve managed to forget a few details(Young whipper snapper. I done forgot more than Y’All will ever know,,,snark). Hey, I have to make room for the new stuff.

    Gary 7

  23. Gary Ansorge:

    Young whipper snapper. I done forgot more than Y’All will ever know,,,snark

    It’s been quite a few years since I’ve qualified for “young whipper snapper”. (Though I’m hardly ready for “old foagie” any time soon.) My current net connection is nearly 200,000 times faster than my first computer connection, via an ASR-33 with an acoustic coupler to dial into the computer half a county away.

    And you only think that you’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know. The truth is, the only thing you’ve forgotten is that you never knew it in the first place. :-)

  24. Gary Ansorge

    23. Ken

    MY first PC modem was 14 kbaud. Now I have a 6 Meg DSL line. I know! I COULD go to comsat and get 10 Meg, but hey, this is fast enough for active movie downloads and besides, it’s only $49/month(ok, so, I’m a Jewish/Scotsman). I used to have to repair Teletype KSR 28s. What a bunch of Rube Goldberg construction THAT was.

    I remember Hex, Octal and binary. Rarely used Hexadecimal for anything and even though I had to occasionally write machine language programs (for the Univac 1108) for troubleshooting purposes, I am anything BUT a programmer. Hey, what’s that new fangled thing in programming? Top down/structured programming? Yeah, like THAT will ever replace GoTo,,,snark.

    Gary 7
    Ps Yes, I really AM that old,,,sigh,,,

  25. Sili

    With all the hinting I’ll assume the numbers say ASCII (seems to fit the spacing).

    I don’t get the Nerd Grid shirt, though.

  26. Buzz Parsec

    No, Gary, *you* are the young whippersnapper. (I was happy when I upgraded to 300 baud…) Anyone remember 5-level Baudot? (at 50 bps?) I didn’t have to log in over it, but I did need to generate it (on a PDP-11) for international telexes.

  27. Oh good! Tienen un blog es español!

    That’s really cool! And of course, I am a proud nerd! hehehe

    Clear skies!

  28. 25. Sili:

    It says “Nerd” in binary (in eight bits – including the leading zero).

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