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In which TV show should Stephen Hawking make his next cameo appearance?

By James Dacey

Stephen Hawking appearing on the Big Bang Theory

Sheldon meets one of his heroes. Courtesy: CBS

Later today, fans of the hit comedy series The Big Bang Theory are in for a real treat, because the show includes a special guest appearance from Stephen Hawking. The 70-year-old theoretical physicist will be playing himself in an episode called “The Hawking Excitation”, which will be aired at 1900 (CST) on the CBS television channel. Details of the plotline are scarce, but this picture released by the CBS network shows the programme’s chief protagonist (or leading geek, I should say) Sheldon, meeting Hawking in a library.

These days Hawking is just as famous in popular culture as the epitome of intelligence as he is as a physicist. This rise to pop-culture icon was fuelled by the phenomenal popularity of Hawking’s popular-science book A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide since it was first released in 1988. But in recent years, Hawking has also made several appearances on television. In addition to appearing in science shows, he has also starred in Star Trek, as well as several episodes of The Simpsons, the ever-popular animated sitcom.

So here at the Physics World HQ, it’s left us speculating as to where Hawking might crop up next. After much agonizing and heated debate, we’ve managed to draw up a shortlist of four popular TV shows. In this week’s Facebook poll we want you to choose the one that you think would make the most entertaining viewing.

In which TV show should Stephen Hawking make his next cameo appearance?

Doctor Who
How I Met Your Mother
Red Dwarf

Have your say by casting your vote on our Facebook page. As always, please feel free to explain your response by posting a comment.

In last week’s poll we addressed the topic of alien life, as we asked you “How common is life in the Milky Way?”.

The question was prompted by recent results from the European Southern Observatory’s High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument, revealing that our galaxy could be awash with rocky super-Earths orbiting within the habitable zones around faint red stars. The international team of researchers claims that there may be tens of billions of such planets in the Milky Way alone, and probably about 100 in the Sun’s immediate neighbourhood.

62% of respondents chose the option “We are by no means the most intelligent civilization in the galaxy”. 29% opted for “The galaxy is teeming with primitive organisms”, and just 9% believe that “We are alone in the galaxy”.

One voter, Peter Frederick Woolman, wrote “A galaxy teeming with primitive organisms is almost a certainty. I’d find it very surprising if we were the most intelligent civilization in the galaxy, but the existence of intelligence is still far less certain than the existence of primitive organisms.”

Taking a more hard-line stance was Dale Who, a voter who wrote “You’re not even the most intelligent civilisation on the planet”, which also raised some interesting questions about Dale himself.

Thank you for all your participation and we look forward to hearing from you in this week’s poll.

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