Did y’all catch last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory on CBS? In one scene, Sheldon is walking down the steps of their apartment building and reciting a little ditty about the nearest stars to the Earth. How did he — heck, how do we — know what stars those are?
Happily, BBT science advisor David Saltzberg has a blog describing each episode, and he talks about this very thing! And what’s this? Why yes, he mentions that your host here on Bad Astronomy helped him with the pronunciations of the star names! David sent me an email a while back asking me if I could lend a hand (well, a vocal cord) to pronouncing some of the names which weren’t all that obvious. I love the show, and was glad to help.
And how weird is it to hear Sheldon saying stuff I was emailing about? Pretty weird. But also totally awesome, too.
Now if I could just get my URL to appear on their white board…
One of the secondary goals of the Fermi gamma ray satellite is to look for the signature of dark matter. One idea for dark matter is that it’s composed of weird (and as yet undetected) particles called WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles). A very odd property about them is that they are self-annihilating: when two of them touch, they turn into energy (and other, more easily detectable particles). When I first read about this several years ago I was pretty excited, because this is finally a testable hypothesis about dark matter.
My fellow Hive Overmind blogger and astronomer Sean Carroll writes that it’s possible Fermi has done just this. The data are not conclusive, but very provocative nonetheless. He has the details.
But I can’t resist adding that on The Big Bang Theory a few weeks ago, Raj and Sheldon were investigating building a detector to look for this very type of dark matter. I wrote David Saltzberg, the science advisor (whom I met on the set last month when I was visiting LA; more on him and that at a later date) and told him this, and he noted that I was right. Well, how about that! It had to happen sometime. Now, to publish…
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.
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.
But 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.