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How "The Big Bang Theory" Portrays Scientists

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Physics Today magazine features a special article this month examining science stereotypes in the popular TV show 

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 5, 2017 -- Love it or hate it, you've probably at least heard of CBS’s hit TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” now in its 10th year of production. But how accurately does it portray scientific culture, and does it break or reinforce stereotypes? A free article in this month’s edition of Physics Today and a companion Inside Science video interview with its author explore these questions.

Read the Physics Today story at http://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/PT.3.3427.
Watch the Inside Science video at https://www.insidescience.org/video/how-scientists-are-portrayed-big-bang-theory.

Science has seen a recent renaissance in pop culture in positive and affectionate ways. The widely popular CBS comedy, whose two lead characters are fictional Caltech physicists, has played no small role in this shift during its decade of production and tens of millions of annual viewers.

The show serves as a rich, recognizable backdrop for Margaret Weitekamp, a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to investigate the stereotypes and portrayals of scientists. Her article, “The Image of Scientists in The Big Bang Theory,” is featured in this month’s Physics Today and is now available for free download.

Weitekamp’s article offers a thorough, objective examination of how these characters portray (or notably don’t portray) many cultural quirks and gender idiosyncrasies commonly associated with science and academia. Introducing her perspective in the article she said, “The characters and comedy of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ both build on and play against enduring stereotypes of scientists as depicted in popular culture.”

To accompany Physics Today’s publication, Inside Science, also published by AIP, produced a short video featuring an interview with Weitekamp where she discusses her motivation for writing the article and the significance of show’s success.

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ABOUT PHYSICS TODAY

Physics Today is the flagship publication of the American Institute of Physics. Each month it includes a mix of in-depth feature articles, news coverage and analysis, and fresh perspectives on scientific advances and ground-breaking research. See: http://www.physicstoday.org 

ABOUT AIP

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of scientific societies in the physical sciences, representing scientists, engineers, educators, and students. AIP offers authoritative information, services, and expertise in physics education and student programs, science communication, government relations, career services, statistical research in physics employment and education, industrial outreach, and the history of the physical sciences. AIP is home to the Society of Physics Students and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. AIP owns AIP Publishing LLC, a scholarly publisher in the physical and related sciences. More information: http://www.aip.org 

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