The Science of the Big Bang

15-Nov-10 12:20 PM by
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Big Bang Theory a show about a bunch of geeks, is not shy in parading scientific celebrities before the camera. Steve Wozniak, Wil Wheaton, and Neil deGrasse Tyson have all appeared on the show, matching the stars' fictional genius with authentic brilliance.

But there's just as much intelligence behind the camera, too. While Leonard and Sheldon debate over quantum physics and incomprehensible calculations, David Saltzberg is making sure the math checks out.

As detailed online at Scientific American, this UCLA physicist isn't writing BBT scripts but is double-checking the theories and equations discussed and displayed on the set. Since the show likely attracts a high caliber of viewer, it's sensible to ensure the crew doesn't get risk their credibility by getting caught passing off unbalanced equations. Even Star Trek, with a similarly brainy crowd, had its science and continuity checkers — though its futuristic setting allowed them to get away with more fantastic postulations. When asked how the Heisenberg compensators worked, Star Trek technical expert Michael Okuda famously replied, "It works very well, thank you,"

What I found most interesting in the SciAm piece was this passage:

There are parallels between Saltzberg's day job and his side job, he says, adding that "comedy is an experimental science." The show is taped in front of a live studio audience. If the audience doesn't respond to a laugh line, the writers immediately rework the script to make it work.

I knew the show to not use a laugh track, but I didn't realize that live shows could be so fluid in their scripts. To redo a line or scene while changing more than the delivery sounds more akin to improv, a talent very different from traditional acting.

But in the end, it's worth it — because is there any subject funnier than physics?

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