Tuning in to Science on TV, with Mayim Bialik

Scene from “The Workplace Proximity” episode of The Big Bang Theory. Image Courtesy of CBS, via thebigbangtheory.wikia.com.

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About This Episode

Is science trending on TV and in pop culture? Could that encourage women to get into STEM? Find out from Neil Tyson and his guests this week: neuroscientist and actress Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory), astronomer, STEM advocate and StarTalk All-Stars host Summer Ash, and actress/writer Taryn O’Neill. You’ll hear how a high school biology tutor inspired Mayim, who was starring in Blossom at the time, to believe she could become a scientist, eventually earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA even though it didn’t come naturally to her. Summer describes how the reality of women in science goes deeper than the “extreme nerd/girly girl” dichotomy, while Mayim discusses the difference between Amy and Bernadette on TBBT when it comes to “sexiness.” Data journalist Mona Chalabi dives into the statistical discrepancy between how men and women are treated in science, and Taryn explains why it’s so important to showcase stories of women scientists, from particle physicists at CERN working on the Large Hadron Collider, to entomologists in the Amazon rain forest. Find out about the reality of imposter syndrome, and the role hard work plays in success. Explore the differences between geeks and nerds with co-host Chris Hardwick, the original Nerdist, who revisits some early nerd role models and explains why it’s better to be punched by a jock than attacked by a nerd. Plus, Chuck Nice heads out into the street to ask people if they can name any women in science, and Bill Nye talks about science on TV and the importance of harnessing all our available brainpower (i.e., women!) to change the world.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Tuning in to Science on TV, with Mayim Bialikas well as Neil’s extended interview with Mayim Bialik here.

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  • Yeah, sciencey stuff has been appearing in TV and other mass media more often. Has that inspired people to invest time and effort to learn math and science? I’m skeptical.

    For example Tyson tweets about the Coriolis effect and field goals. Most NFL fans will shrug their shoulders and say “Coriolis effect? That’s kind of cool” and forget about it. How many would invest enough time that they recognize the expression
    -2 Ω X v ?
    Or how about
    1/2 a t^2 ?

    Judging by the number of people that call Neil out, I’d say zero. I would hope at least half a dozen might be inspired to learn basic physics and tell Neil “Half an inch Coriolis deflection on a 50 yard north bound field goal? No, Neil! Let’s say something different, not that — because it’s just wrong.”

    Most of the new science fans pay lip service to science but in truth are just posers.

    • Miles Herrbach

      Neil is a great astrophysicist, but he does simplify concepts a bit because the average public may not understand the full science of something. He is trying to get people curious enough so people can find out more on their own and so everyone can think for themselves.

      • But how many are finding out more on their own and thinking for themselves? When Neil says something wrong, most nod their heads and smile. So I’d say not very many.

        • Edison

          “So I’d say not very many.”

          Very scientific, dawg.

          • You want stats and data? The Program For International Student Assessment (PISA) measures student math and science skills. The U.S. still lags behind most other industrialized nations in spite of the legions of IFLS followers and Neil’s millions of Twitter followers. Or maybe because of it — these groups aren’t much more numerate than Trump’s birthers.

          • Edison

            “in spite of the legions of IFLS followers and Neil’s millions of Twitter followers.”


          • Edison

            “Or maybe because of it”


    • Edison

      Lol, it’s the guy who has a weird fixation with crapping on Dr. Tyson, everyone. Small internet.

    • Edison

      “Most of the new science fans pay lip service to science but in truth are just posers.”

      LOL, science hipsters.

      • Exactly.

        • Edison

          I liked impossible objects before they were mainstream.

    • Joshua M Engel

      You should get your own show and teach them how to do it correctly!

    • Jessica Hagley

      This may come as a complete surprise but physics is actually pretty complex for your average person to comprehend, especially when you turn a physical experience into something completely mathematical.
      The reason why people like and watch Neil Degrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, Mythbusters, the Big Bang Theory, etc. is that they all make scientific concepts and the overall idea of science approachable, enjoyable even. I think that was a big discussion point of the episode anyway (aside from the women in science thing).
      When people, like yourself, treat those of us that don’t understand physics with disdain, you’re discouraging us before we even try. From what you have said below, it appears you were fortunate enough to a) attend high school (regularly), b) were able to learn successfully within the current education system, and c) likely raised by people who valued education enough to give you a good start in life. Not everyone is so fortunate.
      So Neil makes mistakes that are, for the most part, not even understood by the average fan? Sadly humans make mistakes. At least he is making science concepts accessible to everyone. Whether a person makes the choice to explore it further is up to them.
      You are clearly a highly intelligent person, instead of using it to bring people down why not build them up? A little humility and empathy go a long way.

      • If Neil exercised a little humility and empathy, I’d cut him some slack. But he’s boorish in addition to being incompetent.

        Check out Neil Tyson on Idiot Doctors. The first half of the video he argues surviving cancer isn’t proof of divine intervention. I’m fine with that. But his obnoxious rant against the American Medical Association is horribly clueless.

        A doctor doesn’t simply tell a patient “you’ve got six months.” Rather the patient is given statistics. “90% of patients in your condition die within 6 months.” is the way info is often delivered. Does someone living longer than 6 months mean the three doctors are idiots? No, it means there are statistical outliers on a bell curve. It is… astonishing. Astonishing Neil and the physics 101 Prof aren’t familiar with freshmen level statistics and probability.

        It is also astonishing that Neil thinks someone who has flunked Physics 101 would make it into med school. There are idiot physicists, I assure you.

        Would you like another example of Neil being a sneering, clueless jerk?

  • matt

    Chris Hardwick is trying waaay too hard = annoying.

  • Daniel

    This have reused material in the interview with Mayim?

    • This is the podcast version of the episode that ran last week on StarTalk TV on the National Geographic Channel.
      But, if you’re asking if we reused any material from her guest appearance at StarTalk Live! Big Brains at BAM, the answer is no. Some of the same subjects may have come up, but that’s often the case with repeat guests, like both episodes with Whoopi Goldberg, or with Seth MacFarlane.

      • Daniel


  • Edison

    “call Tyson out”


  • Tim Wescott

    “If you want to sit in a cube and do coding, sure, go ahead, but if you want to be creative…”


    “BUT if you want to be creative”? Has anyone in the discussion ever written original software? Played a video game? Used a really good app? When you write good software, every line is an act of creation. If it wasn’t, there’d be machines to do it.

  • Edison

    You + internet access = lulz


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