Good reasons to watch TV – part 3

The Big Bang Theory is currently shown on NRJ12 in France. This is the closest portrayal of real life as a researcher since Beaker got a job as a technician working for Dr Honeydew at Muppet Labs.

The Big Bang Theory features a gang of roommates, labmates, and neighbours, all trying to live the dream in Pasadena, California. Each of the characters is striving for professional success in scientific or artistic spheres while searching for romance and friendship.

WHAT YOU CAN LEARN

1. Words for the life scientific. Although the science fiction and US college references make many jokes hard to understand, there is plenty of realistic lab-related banter to learn from in and around the apartment of theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper. Listen out for the vocabulary and references to grant proposals, competition for funding, difficult bosses and cloying colleagues, international competitors, animal experimentation, university management, the pharmaceutical industry, awards, formulae, publication, qualifications and personal ambitions.

 2. Be a walking thesaurus. Watch out for neurobiologist Amy who is played by the qualified neuroscientist Mayim Bialik. Amy and Sheldon revel in technical conversations. The comic results are a good reminder for biologists to keep communication simple  (see Good reasons to watch TV – part 2). However sometimes technical terms are unavoidable and can actually be useful so we must master them. A good exercise to improve your vocabulary is to start with a simple word or idea and then make it as complicated as possible. For example, my mug of milky tea might make me think of words like ceramic, porcelain, cup, receptacle, vessel, container, drink, beverage, thirst-quenching, Camellia sinensis leaves, infusion, water, aqueous, lacteal fluid, nunc est bibendum. We arrive very rapidly at complicated technical terms that are often rooted on Latin or Greek words describing those very same simple concepts like cup, water or milk. The writers of the Big Bang Theory have done exactly the same exercise with the titles of each episode, like The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification or The Prestidigitation Approximation.

Go to the official CBS Big Bang Theory YouTube channel for classic clips from the series.

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