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It’s the festive season and in good humour I’m here to rain on everyone’s parade. Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. People think it’s a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ despite so much evidence to the contrary. This is just another example of the transmission of knowledge being impeded in society.

The bible is very unclear of the date of Jesus’s birth (it’s a shame religious people don’t know more about their own scripture). The New Testament says nothing at all about the date of his birth and the earliest gospel (St. Mark’s, written around 65CE, where CE was previously known as AD) begins with the baptism of adult Jesus. Many scholars have tried to pinpoint the date of Jesus’s birth through cross-referencing dates mentioned in the bible (which makes many assumptions, the worst being that the bible is consistent, which it most definitely is not). Many have even used astrology and the dates of notable events, which are somewhat less erroneous. Regardless, one thing that scholars can agree upon is that Jesus was not born on the 25th of December. He wasn’t even born in winter, nor 1 BC/1 CE.

So where does Christmas come from? Some of you might have watched The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon points out that Christmas was actually the pagan festival of Saturnalia. Well, the Roman pagans introduced Saturnalia as a week long period of lawlessness where nobody could be punished. Things got pretty crazy; it was pretty much a full blown hedonistic celebration, complete with ritual murder, torture and rape. In the 4th century, Christianity imported this holiday in the hopes of converting pagans. They succeeded in converting a large number of pagans by promising that they could continue to celebrate Saturnalia as Christmas.

Unfortunately, Saturnalia had nothing to do with Jesus so Christian leaders proclaimed it to be a celebration of the birth of Christ. Yes, they made it up to spread their religion.

Saturnalia itself was pretty crazy. It was like ironic torture. You can find more about it if you’re interesting, I’m just here to say it was nuts.

Christmas as a placebo to spread happiness is fine. I have nothing against that. But let’s not mistake the reason why we’re doing it. It has nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, it started for pretty ignoble reasons. Then again, how much has changed? It’s still a pretty hedonistic holiday.

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As promised, the science joke. It usually opens with some sort of problem (anything really), in which a scientist is brought in to solve the conundrum. The punchline then follows with the scientist proclaiming “I have the solution! But it requires spherical chickens in a vacuum” (where chicken can be replaced for something more contextually appropriate).

Basically, the joke is that scientists can theoretically solve anything, but the practical application of their work is often hindered greatly by physical effects (such as resistance, gravity, etc.). Hence, spherical chickens (a sphere having equal distribution of forces applied on its surface) and in a vacuum (where there is no resistance). More broadly, and in the context of my previous post where I mentioned this joke, it refers to the need to make some simplifying assumptions for any science to be done at all. There’s no way to make any sort of progress by accounting for everything at the same time (which is why there still isn’t a grand unified theory). Some might say this undermines the credibility of science. I claim the exact opposite – it’s so precise that it only works in certain situations; but when you combine different scientific models/theories, you get a whole bunch of really accurate explanations that can account for a much wider range of scenarios. It’s certainly more academic to limit your parameters than to say “oh yeah, it works for everything; no explanation required”.

This nerdy joke has appeared on The Big Bang Theory.

Don’t have time for a post so I just wanted to share this funny picture for those of you who like your grammar.

As promised, a literary post. This one is a common misconception. I was disappointed when it appeared on the Big Bang Theory because the show is normally fairly accurate when making its witty jokes. I’m not sure why this one is so persistent when all grammarians agree that this claim is false.

So, what’s a preposition? Well, simply put it’s a word that creates a relationship with another word. Here are a few common ones: for, of, about, in, to, with, on, at, by, after, over, etc.

To use the Big Bang Theory’s example, Dennis Kim the genius Korean boy tells Leonard that his English is pretty good, except for the tendency to end his sentence with a preposition. Leonard replies: “What are you talking about?” (Which ends with a preposition).

Now, is this wrong? Certainly not. To avoid ending with prepositions, one would have to talk like Yoda. It would be “About what are you talking?”.

Apparently this convention for not ending sentences with prepositions began in the 18th century when some grammarians believed that English should follow Latin grammar. Regardless, it is not wrong to do it.

The only time you shouldn’t end with a preposition is when that preposition is extraneous (unnecessary). An example would be “Where are you at?”, where the “at” is unnecessary because “Where are you?” is perfectly proper by itself.

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