Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sheldon, When Are You Going to Connect the Big Bang Theory and the Great War?

Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Well-Known Theoretical Physicist

Eidetic memory, or what is commonly described as photographic, is possessed by few.  The Wikipedia article about credible claimants to the almost magical ability has a very short list with only a few recognizable names like Nikola Tesla, Arturo Toscanini, and (surprise!) Ferdinand Marcos. However, TV fans know one name left off the listing is that of the internationally known theoretical physicist from east Texas, Sheldon Cooper.

And I have a grievance to address to Dr. Cooper today.

In eight seasons as the star of a series titled The Big Bang Theory, in which you have chosen to share almost every arcane fact of science running around in the enormous brain of yours, you have thus far failed to mention the fascinating connections of the actual "Big Bang Theory" (henceforth the BBT) with the First World War. For shame! Could it be possible that your eidetic memory has never been exposed to the pertinent details?  

Father Lemaître Proudly Wearing
His Military Medals
If that's the case, perhaps one of our readers located around Hollywood or Pasadena, California, will pass this on, so you can absorb it and share it with your millions of viewers.

The two individuals most important for the formulation and acceptance of the BBT were both soldiers in the First World War. One was even an artillery officer. (Artillery pieces make big bangs — get it, Sheldon?)

Georges Lemaître was the artillery officer.  After serving in the war with Belgian Army, he became a priest, and a distinguished astrophysicist. He first posited that the universe began as a condensed primeval singularity that exploded, creating the force by which the universe is still expanding.  

His theory did not  get much support at first because the theorists of the time, such as the already incredibly famous Albert Einstein, believed in a steady-state model of the universe.  However, another Great War veteran came along,and provided the first supporting evidence for the BBT.

Edwin Hubble During the War
Edwin Hubble formerly a commander of an infantry battalion of the 86th Division, American Expeditionary Force, (who probably also heard a lot of big bangs on the Western Front) later found himself head astronomer of the Wilson Observatory with a really big telescope at his disposal. He was the first to offer observational evidence supporting the theory of the expanding universe. 

He noted that the more distant a galaxy, the greater its red shift and hence its velocity relative to our galaxy.  In other words, the universe is expanding roughly uniformly, a finding consistent with the BBT and contrary to the steady-state model.

Advocates of the two theories wrestled about it over several decades, but more evidence came in, including from the Hubble Telescope (named after the former infantryman). Possibly Dr. Sheldon Cooper at Cal Tech is working on another model, but most of his colleagues today accept the BBT.


  1. Just a quick note...for several years I dated a girl who graduated from Caltech. "Caltech" is their preferred abbreviation - not "Cal Tech" which would make more sense to nearly everyone who didn't go there.

    It didn't look right to me for quite awhile, but there it is. Now I feel like I have to correct folks because I heard about how everyone gets it wrong all the time. :-)

    Their wikipedia page has it correct though.

    1. Sorry....this is the link I meant to post.

    2. Thanks CJ, that is SO Sheldon-like of you.


  2. But who really cares about Calwhatever? This is one of the most interesting entries I've ever read on our blog--it connects my favorite TV show to my two main interests: WWI and astronomy. AND it teaches me something I never knew. Fascinating and humorous--can't get much better than that :-)) DB

    1. LOL, I agree....I just knew if I sent the link her way, I should say something in the comments. :-)

  3. Wonderful article which proves that everything is connected with something else which, at first, seems totally unrelated. But then you have it. Bazinga! Big bangs lead to a Big Bang Theory ...

    Great insight.