But as brilliant as the writers are, the show is not just for laughs. Behind every joke hides real science. Particle astrophysicist David Saltzberg makes sure of that. The equations on the whiteboards are real physics and change every episode. Reports NPR:
Saltzberg also reviews scripts in progress. They arrive with unfinished dialogue and brackets reading, "Insert Science Here." He fills in the blanks, as in an episode where Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a puffed-up theoretical physicist, keeps bumming rides from a neighbor.
"She couldn't understand why Sheldon never got a driver's license," Saltzberg explains. When she asks what Sheldon was doing at age 16, when everyone else was learning to drive, he answers, as per Saltzberg, "Examining perturbative amplitudes in N=4 supersymmetric theories, leading to a reexamination of the ultraviolet properties of multiloop N=8 supergravity, using modern twistor theory."
As it happens, that's "a real, important project that one of my friends is working on," Saltzberg says.
Saltzberg points to the whiteboards, where he makes sure the equations are relevant to the jokes that week. What inspired him to become a physicist?
Saltzberg says he became a scientist partly because of popular culture, such as Isaac Asimov's science fiction and the '70s TV show Space: 1999.
The Big Bang Theory is sure to influence a next generations of scientists. Saltzberg's students at UCLA enjoy being part of the live audience for the show and every week, a student gets to visit the set.
Want more Big Bang science? Saltzberg blogged The Big Blog Theory until 2011.