David Saltzberg

At­ten­tion The Big Bang The­ory fans! He­len Pilcher talks to the hit TV com­edy’s sci­ence con­sul­tant, par­ti­cle physi­cist David Saltzberg from UCLA

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How did you get in­volved in The Big Bang The­ory?

Back in 2006, a friend of a friend of a friend who was a pro­ducer was putting the pi­lot to­gether, and wanted ad­vice from a lo­cal sci­en­tist. I read the script and cor­rected a piece of physics about Spe­cial Rel­a­tiv­ity. Then, when the show was com­mis­sioned, I be­came their sci­ence con­sul­tant. I had no idea that would last for 12 years.

Do you watch the show be­ing filmed?

Yes, but it’s very rare they need me. Once Leonard dropped a bot­tle down an el­e­va­tor shaft and the sound ef­fects guy needed to know how long to wait be­fore you hear the crash. I did that in my head while a live au­di­ence was wait­ing for the an­swer.

Do you get to add any jokes?

Not of­ten. Once, Shel­don needed to tell a bad physics joke and I wrote it. When they recorded it the au­di­ence laughed, but then they edited out the laugh­ter be­cause it wasn’t meant to be funny!

Have you been in the show?

I was an ex­tra in a cafe­te­ria scene once, when Howard first starts dat­ing Ber­nadette. I was only on-screen for a sec­ond, but my in­box the next day was filled with peo­ple who saw me.

Are any of the characters based on real life peo­ple?

Only very loosely. A long time ago, one of the co-cre­ators worked with some peo­ple in the com­puter sci­ence world. That was the jump­ing-off point. Since then, the characters have all de­vel­oped and now, after 250 episodes, it’s as if they’ve all be­come real peo­ple.

Do you work on spin-off se­ries Young Shel­don?

Yes. In that, Shel­don is a kid… so in­stead of do­ing high-level dis­cus­sions of par­ti­cle physics or string the­ory, I get to do ninth grade chem­istry home­work!

What’s your big­gest worry?

I con­stantly live in fear of mak­ing a mis­take on the show. If I do, there’s a whole in­ter­net out there that will pile on. Part of my job is to be some­one that the writ­ers can for­ward hate mail on to!

What’s been the high­light of your ca­reer so far?

I’ve al­ways tried to work at the big­gest atom smash­ers I can find. The best mo­ment was when we dis­cov­ered the top quark, the heav­i­est known par­ti­cle ever dis­cov­ered. We were all over the news­pa­pers – it was very ex­cit­ing.

What has The Big Bang The­ory done for sci­ence?

En­rol­ment in physics at UCLA has tripled since I came here in the late 90s. If The Big Bang The­ory shows peo­ple there’s a good life to be had from a ca­reer in sci­ence, I think that’s a pos­i­tive out­come.

Dr David Saltzberg

is a pro­fes­sor of physics and as­tron­omy at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los An­ge­les. Asteroid 8628 David­saltzberg is named after him.


The Big Bang team vis­ited David’s stu­dents at home, but de­cided their digs were “too dark and gloomy” to be the model for Shel­don’s apart­ment. MY LIFE SCI­EN­TIFIC

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