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I know a lot about Theoretical Physicists from Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory. I know about parallel universes (and I wonder if one codingtales in one of the parallel universes believes if parallel universes do not exist).

I'm sorry, but this is just for fun. But I've real questions:

  • Are all the equations that appear on the board and Sheldon tries to solve true?
  • How is a Rocket Scientist different from a Theoretical Physicist?
  • I figure out some errors in the definition of a "Screw" that Sheldon gives. He says he is on an inclined plane wrapped helically around its axis. As far as I know there are no inclined planes with axes. Can you please explain it to me?
  • Any other suggestion that would help me understand Big Bang Theory better would be appreciated.

(And please forgive the tags. I didn't find "Theoretical-Physics" tag. I have to bluntly use some other alternative.)


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closed as off topic by Mark Eichenlaub, space_cadet, Noldorin Dec 29 '10 at 21:17

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The thing about the screw being an inclined plane is a common explanation of how a screw works. See… – Greg P Dec 29 '10 at 14:27
Ok. I see how the screw is an inclined plane. Thanks! – Abdulsattar Mohammed Dec 29 '10 at 14:32
I seriously don't think it's an appropriate question for Physics SE. If the frequency of these questions increase I'm sure Phys SE will slip into an irreversible bastardisation process and will no longer remain a nice place for serious postgraduate level questions. – iii Dec 29 '10 at 14:59
I'm not sure this is an appropriate question for this site either; the mods will probably discuss this soon. For now, it should at least be CW, so I've done that. – Noldorin Dec 29 '10 at 15:49
We've discussed this as mods, and I think the consensus is that this is not a valid question for the site. Sorry, it must be closed. – Noldorin Dec 29 '10 at 21:16

Well, speaking from my own experience, we are pretty much the same as Hollywood portrays us, but even better looking.

You cracked me up! +1 – Raskolnikov Dec 30 '10 at 11:41
And experimental physicists are much better looking than Leonard. – Martin Beckett Mar 19 '11 at 5:39

The equations on the whiteboard are, in fact, drawn from real physics. They have a scientific consultant, David Saltzburg of UCLA, who gave a talk at the March Meeting last year about his work with the show. Apparently, he faxes them pages of relevant equations that they copy over onto the whiteboard. He also has a blog where he talks about his work with the show, and the science topics that turn up in each episode.

There's video online of another talk he gave, at the KITP two years ago (with Jennifer Ouellette and David Grae): – Matt Reece Dec 29 '10 at 16:27
  1. So far, from the few episodes of Big Bang Theory I've seen, all equations on the boards correspond to real physics problems. Kudos to the makers of the TV series for actually presenting real equations and not some mumbo jumbo. The flip side is that very often, the equations are undergraduate or graduate level, but not really worthy of someone doing PhD research. I don't think Leonard or Sheldon would still be busy calculating the eigenvalues of the hydrogen atom.

  2. The rocket scientist is doing applied science and is thus mostly an engineer. The theoretical scientist is focusing on fundamental science and is often doing so by using mathematics and conceptual thinking rather than experiments. Both do use computer simulations nowadays, and even rocket scientists go back to the drawing board and do maths, but their math are not aimed at understanding the fundamental workings of nature but rather at how to build this or that device.

  3. Can't help you here, I don't really get Sheldon's point. Maybe he's talking about the osculating plane? There are some nice pictures on the page for the Frenet-Serret formulas for the case of a helix.

  4. Do you mean understanding the TV series or understanding the cosmological model? ;)

There are a few 'Rocket Scientists' who aren't 'Rocket Engineers' ... they do research and experiments into motor design, fuels, solar sails, materials to minimize vibration, etc. (yes, it'd still a fuzzy line between it and engineering, but they're doing more research rather than just applying it) – Joe Dec 29 '10 at 17:42
The work is still engineering, even if their background isn't. – Raskolnikov Dec 30 '10 at 11:41

I think it's fair to say there's some similarities with Sheldon, but not including his personality... The ones I know are actually pleasant to be around, although perhaps somewhat into conversations that most people just don't understand...


I have seen every one of the traits displayed by the characters on the show, but spread over far more people. I'd say the most common thing that we do is to use physics in places where it doesn't belong, but who doesn't think about the world in terms of things they know; we just sound way dorkier doing it.


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