One of my classes has been very persistent that I watch the Big Bang Theory. I have resisted all the bribery on offer to let them show me clips from YouTube at the end of the lesson, but finally one of them has thrust the box set into my hands and told me to watch in the comfort of my own home. They do genuinely want to find out what a "real Physicist" thinks of the show. This weekend I obliged.
As far as I can make out, the show involves two post grad Physicist who share a flat, there is a very attractive girl across the hallway who sells cheesecake for a living. They are extremely intelligent but socially inept and desperate for meaningful sexual encounters. There seem to be two types of laughs available. Firstly some very sharp one-liners that seem to be a common feature of the best of the TV shows from the States. I like this sort of humour, where the tongue is put to good use by being completely subservient to the intellect. Secondly there seem to be laughs at the inadequacies of the protagonists. These are mainly due high end autistic spectrum behaviour (admittedly quite common in Physicists) causing sheer incompetence when amorous feelings start to surface. I'm less keen on this type of humour and for me it simply doesn't ring true.
Casting my mind back to the time when I resided nearly exclusively in the company of Physicists I simply do not recall this level of sexual frustration. Well certainly I didn't notice any, but perhaps that is because I'm a Physicist. I can remember one particularly pleasant evening in an Oxbridge post graduate college (the post grad colleges have the best food). Our host was an expert in muons. Now I was at the height of my anti-fermion prejudice, bosons rocked my world and I had little interest in muons or any other type of fermion. However I had to admit that it was mesmerising being in the company of someone who really knew his stuff, who listened to our questions and replied like to them like we were sentient beings capable of understanding what he was saying. My colleague who was also listening intently, sighed and whispered to me, "wow, this is better than sex". I think this was the first time a Physicist had ever actually admitted to me to having sexual experiences, well she must have done because she had two children.
Now it has to be admitted that female physicists are a bit of a rare breed and certainly not seen as sexual beings by the male of the sub-species. Perhaps, having my formative years in the company of men who did not view me sexually has had a deep impact on me. I do believe that there is something very special when close friendships are formed between the sexes that are simply not sexual. We have different ways of approaching problems, there is a complementarity between us, we are different, not sex-less, and we work very well with each other. Sometimes I wish more people were like the Physicists I knew and were less slaves to biological urges and less obsessed with biological function and could see some underlying hidden attributes and complimentary gifts men and women bring to the world. I'm sure in the long run procreation and child rearing would be less fraught.
So no, the general premise of the show that these guys may understand the Big Bang, but are somehow stymied by and incapable of experiencing a "big bang", is not one I can go with.
However this is not the review I will take back to my class.....
And the set designers need telling that no self respecting Physicist would have periodic table t-shirts or shower curtains. That is Chemistry; a small, unimportant backwater of science that basically relies on Physics to make it make any sense. Physics few of them understand, because actually the Physicist don't understand it either.