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Old 01-20-2010, 04:44 PM
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How Old Are The Character on "The Big Bang Theory" Suppose To Be?

I know how old the actors that play the characters are:
  • Jim Parsons (1973) [Sheldon]
  • Johnny Galecki (1975) [Leonard]
  • Kaley Cuoco (1985) [Penny]
  • Kunal Nayyar (1981) [Raj]
  • Simon Helberg (1980) [Howard]

So how old are the characters supposed to be on the show. Or isn't it stated?
Old 01-20-2010, 05:05 PM
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I don't think I've seen hard ages, but I'd hazard the guys are supposed to be in their late 20s to early 30s, with Penny a few years younger. Pretty much their real ages, more or less.
Old 01-20-2010, 05:25 PM
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I haven't seen the third season... Is it anywhere stated what their academic titles are? I get the impression that Leonard and Sheldon are both tenure-track (both are in a position where they can take on graduate students) while Raj is probably a post-doc (he's a PhD, but doesn't seem to get much respect). Howard I can't say, not being familiar enough with how engineers organize themselves.

At any rate, that would be about consistent with the ages of the actors. Ten years is a pretty big age gap between Leonard and Penny, though.
Old 01-20-2010, 07:12 PM
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I can't be certain, but somehow I get the impression that Howard may only have a Master's degree.
Old 01-20-2010, 07:36 PM
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Given that Sheldon claims to have graduated college when he was fourteen, I'm not sure if he's supposed to be the same age as the rest but having had his degree for longer, or if he's supposed to be in the same degree cohort and therefore younger in age.
Old 01-20-2010, 07:49 PM
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I don't remember which episode, but at some point Howard said he was 27 and in the season two Christmas episode Penny is said to be 22. I'm assuming the others are all about the same age as Howard...
Old 01-20-2010, 07:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Diz View Post
I don't remember which episode, but at some point Howard said he was 27 and in the season two Christmas episode Penny is said to be 22. I'm assuming the others are all about the same age as Howard...
Oh, that's right, there are several times when Howard and his mother are screaming at each other (which cracks me up EVERY TIME), and she says something about his friends coming over to play, and he yells "I'm 27!"
Old 01-20-2010, 08:00 PM
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I can't be certain, but somehow I get the impression that Howard may only have a Master's degree.
Yeah I think they might have said that, once or twice.
Old 01-20-2010, 08:11 PM
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...Howard may only have a Master's degree.
Who doesn't?
Old 01-20-2010, 09:42 PM
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Howard has a Masters from MIT. That gets no respect from Sheldon. What I cannot figure is how he lived in Massachusetts the requisite time to get the degree and still came back to live with his mother.

Last edited by The Second Stone; 01-20-2010 at 09:43 PM.
Old 01-20-2010, 10:26 PM
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OM f'in G. Penny was born when I was starting my senior year of high school.

Where is my walker?!?
Old 01-20-2010, 10:36 PM
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OM f'in G. Penny was born when I was starting my senior year of high school.

Where is my walker?!?
She was born when I was starting my senior year in college. No sympathy at all from me!!!!
Old 01-21-2010, 01:26 AM
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Jim Parsons is old enough to be their grandfather.
Old 01-21-2010, 01:34 AM
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Originally Posted by needscoffee View Post
Jim Parsons is old enough to be their grandfather.
It's funny, I would have guessed him to be the youngest actor on the show.
Old 01-21-2010, 03:21 AM
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Howard has a Masters from MIT. That gets no respect from Sheldon. What I cannot figure is how he lived in Massachusetts the requisite time to get the degree and still came back to live with his mother.
I bet he and his mother are FROM Massachusettes and he brought her to Pasadena when he got the University job.
Old 01-21-2010, 04:00 AM
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I am only an occasional viewer of the show, and when I first saw it I assumed these guys were supposed to be grad students, or even undergrads. I was quite shocked when it became apparent to me that Sheldon was supposed to be faculty, and even then I put it down to his being a prodigy, and continued to think of the rest as, at most, postdocs.

I actually was once a postdoc at Caltech, and knew, and visited the homes of various junior faculty. None of them lived or behaved in a way that remotely resembled the the lifestyle of the characters in Big Bang Theory. Furthermore, people actually smart enough to be Caltech faculty are generally also smart enough to be able to cover their underlying nerdiness with at least a veneer of social ease and worldliness. The guys in the show live and act like (the sitcom version of very smart and ultra-nerdy) students.
Old 01-21-2010, 08:06 AM
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They're supposed to be faculty???!!!



Okay, I really haven't seen enough of this show.



Although, to be fair, I have known junior faculty who have a.) doubled up in apartments to save rent, and

b.) lived like grad students or post-docs
Old 01-21-2010, 10:41 AM
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She was born when I was starting my senior year in college. No sympathy at all from me!!!!
Ditto. And I had dropped out for 7 years by then as well!
Old 01-21-2010, 03:23 PM
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Yeah, I knew that Howard only has a Master's, but I don't know what his job title would be, or how prestigious he would be among engineers (most of whom also don't have PhDs). I get the impression that he's actually officially with JPL, not CalTech, though the lines can get a bit blurry there.
Old 01-21-2010, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
They're supposed to be faculty???!!!



Okay, I really haven't seen enough of this show.



Although, to be fair, I have known junior faculty who have a.) doubled up in apartments to save rent, and

b.) lived like grad students or post-docs
I was under the impression that they were "think tank" workers. I can't prove that but I also don't remember hearing any references to their workplace being a college or university. Is it possible that a university supports non-teaching faculty for research only?

It appears as if they share an apartment for benefits other than saving money - ie friendship, transportation etc.
Old 01-21-2010, 05:07 PM
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I was under the impression that they were "think tank" workers. I can't prove that but I also don't remember hearing any references to their workplace being a college or university. Is it possible that a university supports non-teaching faculty for research only?
I've wondered this. Apparently none of them have students. Leonard would probably be a decent professor, but Sheldon would be a daily recipient of death threats for being boring/belittling/obnoxious to them, Raj would be unable to communicate if his students weren't all male or unattractive females, and Howard would have been fired on his first day for offering "extra credit" to any she-student.
Old 01-21-2010, 07:31 PM
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I've wondered this. Apparently none of them have students.
There was one episode where Leonard and Sheldon are both speaking to a crop of incoming grad students trying to persuade them to pursue experimental/theoretical physics, and Sheldon does end up with one of the grads working for him. There's also a mention in one episode of a class taught by Sheldon, though it's considered an ordeal to take it (that's one way to get back into his good graces, if you somehow offend him).

That said, though, it's quite routine for a university to have some research faculty, who don't teach unless they really want to, and might not even have graduate students. This is a great deal for the university, because they're often completely supported by grants (rather than by a salary from the school), and the administration even takes a hefty cut off the top from all the grants. Basically, the school gives the professor office space and access to things like the library and the journal subscriptions, and the professor brings the school prestige and money.
Old 01-21-2010, 07:52 PM
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Howard I can't say, not being familiar enough with how engineers organize themselves.
Optimally.


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Old 01-21-2010, 08:03 PM
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Optimally.


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Old 01-21-2010, 10:23 PM
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Caltech faculty have a very light teaching load compared to those at most universities, and a lot of the teaching they do do will be supervising grad students and postdocs. Caltech actually has more grad students and postdocs than undergrads. The focus is on research, not teaching. That said, it does not bother me too much that we do not see them teaching (or researching for that matter). The show is about their personal rather than their work lives. But, like I said, their personal lives are like those of students, not faculty.
Old 01-22-2010, 09:44 AM
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Leonad once had a date and told Sheldon to "get scare." His reply was:

I'm a 25 year old published theoretical physicist with three Ph.D.'s. How much scarer could I be?
Old 01-26-2012, 04:21 AM
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ages

im a big BBT fan.
each season takes place in a year. in the first season howard announced he was 26, raj is also 26 and i'm gonna say that leonard and sheldon are the same age, either 26 or 27, sheldon's probably the oldest in terms of birthdays (his birthday is in either april, may or june).
penny is 5 years younger than any of the boys, she said she was 22 in the second season. bernadette, in the third season is about 22. amy's age is never mentioned, but i'd say she's older than penny but younger than sheldon, let's say 26-27 in the fourth season.
these are good guesses and i do have some evidence for them, i just cant bother writing it down.

Last edited by theophilusrex; 01-26-2012 at 04:22 AM.
Old 01-26-2012, 05:15 AM
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Well, if you do, try using capital letters.
Old 01-26-2012, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Leonad once had a date and told Sheldon to "get scare." His reply was:

I'm a 25 year old published theoretical physicist with three Ph.D.'s. How much scarer could I be?
Scarce?
Old 01-26-2012, 07:57 AM
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Well, I've recently come around to watching this show sometimes.

One episode that provides (confusing) evidence is "The Staircase Implementation" (season 3), which is set 7 years in the past, and the guys are still shown as faculty rather than undergraduate or graduate students. Penny says she was in high school 7 years ago, so at least that is consistent with the rest of the series.
Old 01-26-2012, 08:13 AM
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these are good guesses and i do have some evidence for them, i just cant bother writing it down.
You have an elegant proof, but this message board is too small to contain it?
Old 01-26-2012, 11:21 AM
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You guys should watch the original pilot, where they aren't rich PhDs and Leonard and Sheldon sell their sperm for money, and Sheldon has actually had sex. And there's no Howard or Raj.

Jim Parsons is 38 in real life? I got the feeling that since he'd graduated college so early he would be the youngest character.

I've never seen them teach a class although Sheldon has given a lecture before. Leonard mentions that he pretty much sits and thinks about physics all day for grant money. That was in the most recent episode.

Raj is in a rat hole of an apartment and always talking about how awful it is to live in India but apparently he's actually quite rich and grew up in an affluent household.
Old 01-26-2012, 11:29 AM
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shows often use stereotypes and get mushy on details to extend their appeal.

the apartment building of Penny, Sheldon, Leonard has units that can be rented on a cheese factory waitress salary. graduate or postdoc students might share a unit to meet that level of cost. faculty members would not have to split costs and could afford much better, unless their toy budget was large or they paid for some of their research costs with their salary.

the guys are nerdy, then both retro and cutting edge fixated. so they pursue things they liked as undergraduates (even high school) to current age. so their behavior spans undergraduate to early faculty and then appeals to those age groups.
Old 01-26-2012, 11:43 AM
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I always assumed they were non-faculty researchers. They never call each other or are referred to as "Professor," so they are clearly not faculty. It's always "Dr." this and "Dr." that, so a professor position is out. Whether or not CalTech actually has non-postdoc, non-faculty research positions, I don't know -- but other institutions do.
Old 01-26-2012, 12:14 PM
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Howard is 28, he's said so quite a few times. I think the rest are in their late 20's.
Old 01-26-2012, 12:15 PM
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I'd go with late 20s. They all have doctorates (except for that underachiever Wolowitz), and work in their fields, yet are still forming personal relationships. Since the shows been on a few years, they might be in their 30s now.
Old 01-26-2012, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Sister Vigilante View Post
You guys should watch the original pilot, where they aren't rich PhDs and Leonard and Sheldon sell their sperm for money, and Sheldon has actually had sex. And there's no Howard or Raj.
Well, the pilot doesn't mention their jobs or education level, they decide to leave the sperm bank without donating, and Howard and Raj do show up. And there's no reference to suggest Sheldon has had sex, although there is a moment where he tries to impress Penny, which I interpreted as he was attracted to her. And he drinks a beer.
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Old 01-26-2012, 01:20 PM
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the apartment building of Penny, Sheldon, Leonard has units that can be rented on a cheese factory waitress salary. graduate or postdoc students might share a unit to meet that level of cost. faculty members would not have to split costs and could afford much better, unless their toy budget was large or they paid for some of their research costs with their salary.
We don't know much about Leonard's financial situation, but Sheldon is definitely living below his means. There was a plot involving him giving a loan to Penny, and it was made clear that Sheldon has money but doesn't really care about money. It would certainly fit his character to eschew a more expensive apartment when his current dwelling is perfectly adequate for his needs.

And as someone else mentioned, they probably room together more for social than economic reasons.
Old 01-26-2012, 01:21 PM
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At one point Sheldon refers to his job title as "Senior Theoretical Particle Physicist", which doesn't sound like a faculty position. Other people have commented that it doesn't look like Howard should be working at Cal-tech at all. He should be over at JPL.

It doesn't look like Raj has a faculty position either. In one episode it looked like his grant wasn't going to be renewed and he would have to move back to India. On the other hand, Sheldon made enough grant money to hire him as an assistant. It is pretty clear he doesn't spend most of his income.
Old 01-26-2012, 01:29 PM
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That doesn't mean that Sheldon is paying Raj out of his own pocket, though. It most likely means that he has grant funding which can be earmarked for various purposes, including the hiring of personnel. In other words, this doesn't say anything about Sheldon's personal income.
Old 01-26-2012, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by JoelUpchurch View Post
At one point Sheldon refers to his job title as "Senior Theoretical Particle Physicist", which doesn't sound like a faculty position. Other people have commented that it doesn't look like Howard should be working at Cal-tech at all. He should be over at JPL.
Howard does work at JPL (he mentions it many times). But JPL is administered by Caltech, so it's not impossible that his office is near the other three.
Old 01-26-2012, 01:35 PM
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That doesn't mean that Sheldon is paying Raj out of his own pocket, though. It most likely means that he has grant funding which can be earmarked for various purposes, including the hiring of personnel. In other words, this doesn't say anything about Sheldon's personal income.
In the episode where Sheldon lent Penny money, he stated he didn't spend a lot of his income.

Last edited by JoelUpchurch; 01-26-2012 at 01:36 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 01:41 PM
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True, but that's different from the point which I was addressing. I do agree that he has a lot of unspent income.
Old 01-26-2012, 02:11 PM
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Well, the pilot doesn't mention their jobs or education level, they decide to leave the sperm bank without donating, and Howard and Raj do show up. And there's no reference to suggest Sheldon has had sex, although there is a moment where he tries to impress Penny, which I interpreted as he was attracted to her. And he drinks a beer.
That's not the original pilot. There is no Penny, Howard, or Raj in the original pilot. There is a slutty chick who needs a place to stay and they let her live in their third bedroom which is off to the left of the set, opposite their bedrooms. She is not played by the actress who plays Penny.

Leonard does donate to the sperm bank and the first scene is him waiting for Sheldon to finish (he didn't like the "motivational materials" I believe, so it took him longer). They are doing it so they can have money for dinner. And there is a nerd girl Sheldon had sex with while cosplaying as Spock undergoing Pon Farr.

It never aired but it's on youtube. Some of the dialogue is word for word but they changed a lot when they redid the pilot. The original is pretty cringe-worthy.

Last edited by Sister Vigilante; 01-26-2012 at 02:12 PM.
Old 01-26-2012, 02:36 PM
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Indeed? I didn't realize. Well then, to Youtube!!! (cue dramatic music)
Old 01-26-2012, 02:40 PM
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Howard does work at JPL (he mentions it many times). But JPL is administered by Caltech, so it's not impossible that his office is near the other three.
JPL is administered by Caltech, but its campus is several miles away. (And considerably larger. Caltech is a tiny university.)

I think Sheldon, Leonard and Raj are probably all intended to be postdoctoral fellows (postdocs). Postdocs are actually the people who do most of the work of scientific research these days. They do not have much in the way of teaching duties, and are fairly poorly paid, but although they will be under the supervision of a faculty member (who will control their funding, and be responsible for getting the funding grants), in some cases they may have a fair amount of autonomy over the detailed direction of their research.

Howard is probably meant to be a JPL staff engineer.

Caltech is a very unusual university in that it has more Ph.D. students and postdocs than it does undergraduates. Research is the focus and undergrad teaching is almost an afterthought. What is unrealistic, however, is that Sheldon, Leonard and Raj do not seem to have to supervise, or even interact with, any Ph.D. students. In real life there would be quite a lot of them around, doing the grunt work of research and outnumbering the postdocs probably even at Caltech. (Somebody like Leonard would also almost certainly have a lab tech or two, and several Ph.D. students and other postdocs working with him, but when we see him in his lab he always seems to be alone. The same goes for Raj except that I do not think I have ever seen him at work, except when he was working with/for Sheldon.)
Old 01-26-2012, 02:57 PM
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I think Sheldon, Leonard and Raj are probably all intended to be postdoctoral fellows (postdocs). Postdocs are actually the people who do most of the work of scientific research these days. They do not have much in the way of teaching duties, and are fairly poorly paid, but although they will be under the supervision of a faculty member (who will control their funding, and be responsible for getting the funding grants), in some cases they may have a fair amount of autonomy over the detailed direction of their research.
That certainly sounds like the boys, yes. (Except the poorly paid part, for Sheldon - see the earlier reference to his uncashed pay cheques.)

To the OP's original question, despite the actors' ages, I think Sheldon's probably the youngest of the guys, probably closer to Penny's age - he's an insanely high level child prodigy, who seems to have gotten his PhD in his mid-teens, so about 10 years before the others, relatively speaking, but he doesn't seem to have been at the school for that much longer than them, so I'd say he's probably about 5 years younger. (Could go a bit older if his 'visiting faculty' travels went a good long while.)
Old 01-26-2012, 03:01 PM
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JPL is administered by Caltech, but its campus is several miles away. (And considerably larger. Caltech is a tiny university.)
Right. But in the universe of The Big Bang Theory, it isn't a gigantic stretch to give Howard (a JPL employee) an office in Caltech.

Quote:
They do not have much in the way of teaching duties, and are fairly poorly paid, but although they will be under the supervision of a faculty member (who will control their funding, and be responsible for getting the funding grants), in some cases they may have a fair amount of autonomy over the detailed direction of their research.
This is a pretty accurate description of their work life on the show, even including their supervisor Dr. Gablehauser.
Old 01-26-2012, 03:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Leonad once had a date and told Sheldon to "get scare." His reply was:

I'm a 25 year old published theoretical physicist with three Ph.D.'s. How much scarer could I be?
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Originally Posted by mr. jp View Post
Scarce?
Only took two years to catch that one. SCARCE.
Old 01-26-2012, 04:01 PM
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the show has a slim thread to reality with which to crack jokes and pick on some stereotypes. so not to take anything too seriously. they've spent more time in a cafeteria than i ever did post high school.

though it would be interesting to find the real math equations that appear in sequential episodes transcribed somewhere.

while they could be postdocs in The Benefactor Factor they are expected to be major actors in fund raising.
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