Here’s a random bit of trivia for you: physics is a really tough field of science that most students usually shy away from when choosing majors. Becoming a physical scientist—or any sort of scientist, really—or an engineer requires years of meticulous studying and being really good at it.
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We suppose it should not come as a complete surprise that people’s choices in life are based on the stuff they watch on TV, but it still amazes us that a comedy show about two bumbling physicists can get students more interested in the subject.
According to the publication, there was a 10% increase in university acceptance numbers for physics courses when the show first started airing in the UK in 2008–09. And they are still increasing, with admissions this year 17% higher than in 2010. Physics, which until as recently as 2005 was considered a “vulnerable” subject, is now among the ten most popular choices among A-level students.
Tom Whitmore, a 15-year-old student from Brighton, said that the show has made the subject “cool”, adding that, “The Big Bang Theory is a great show and it’s definitely made physics more popular. And disputes between classmates now have a new way of being settled: with a game of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.”
Even a spokesman for the Institute of Physics, Joe Winters, acknowledged that the show had played a part in the resurgence of the subject. Bear in mind while you process all the information above that we are talking about a TV show that chronicles the life of two extremely nerdy physicists who most people would describe as the very opposite of trendy or cool.
Despite the idiosyncratic reason behind its popularity though, we are certainly glad to hear that more students are choosing to study science than before. We only hope they are aware that not every real physicist has as active a social life as Leonard Hofstadter’s nor as tolerant a set of friends and neighbour as Sheldon Cooper’s!