How bang on is The Big Bang Theory?

Harry Wilcox is a physics graduate studying a PhD* at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation at the University of Portsmouth and a massive fan of the Channel 4 show.

*PhD = Doctor of Philosophy sometimes called a doctorate. It’s the highest level of degree you can achieve and allows you to put Dr in front of your name.

Do you watch The Big Bang Theory?
I have probably seen every episode several times. I went through a phase of watching an hour a day
for months.

Tell us about the show…
It’s got a science theme, especially physics and the characters talk and joke about scientific theories. The main male characters all work at a university. Sheldon and Leonard are physicists and Howard is an engineer, so he builds things. Sheldon often makes fun of Howard for not having a PhD. Raj is an astrophysicist and so are lots of people who work with me at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.

How accurate is it?
The science is good and quite complicated. They are supposed to be geniuses, so they can’t have gibberish. The show has an adviser, a professor of physics and astronomy, who checks the scripts and gives them examples. Mayim Bialik (the actress who plays Sheldon’s girlfriend Amy) has a doctorate in neuroscience in real life, so they go to her when they need facts about biology or neuroscience.

What’s not bang on?
I’ve noticed one inaccuracy. Howard is working on the Mars Rover Project and tries to impress a girl by letting her drive it. Mars is really far away and it takes about ten minutes for a signal to reach the planet, but they do it in real time. So, if you pushed forward on the rover, in reality it would take about ten minutes to respond, but on the show it was instant.

Do you have to be a genius to do what you and The Big Bang characters do?
No – thankfully not. You have got to enjoy maths. I imagined I would do maths at university, but then I did GCSE physics and preferred it because it’s more practical, applying maths to the real world. I really like space and that drew me towards astrophysics.

Favourite story line:
When Howard becomes an astronaut because deep down it’s what everyone who works in astronomy dreams of doing.

Favourite character:
I like Leonard the most.

Harry’s research involves measuring light around clusters of galaxies to map the universe. Did you know?

  • A galaxy is a system of millions or billions of stars, gas and dust, held together by gravitation.
  • Nobody knows how many galaxies there are but the best guess is about 100 billion.
  • The universe is expanding and so galaxies are moving away from each other but those in galaxy clusters are moving towards each other.
  • As light from distant galaxies comes towards us, all the galaxies and things in between bend it.

Astronomy = the science of celestial objects such as planets and stars, space, and the universe.
Astrophysics = a branch of astronomy that deals with the physics of the universe.
Cosmology = the science of the origin and development of the universe.
Physics = the science of matter and energy.

How Big Bang Character are you?

This quiz tests entrants knowledge of the hit TV series The Big Bang Show and in particular our article about it.


Websites
spaceplace.nasa.gov
coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu
cosmos4kids.com

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