The Big Bang Theory is a polarizing show. Some people believe it's a farce of true nerd culture, while others try not to think too hard about the fact that it paints all nerds with a large brush stroke, and instead focus on laughing at the dorks hamming it up on screen. But one aspect of the show has had a surprising amount of pop-culture staying power: Dr. Shedon Cooper's catchphrase, "Bazinga!"
Cooper, played by Jim Parsons, is an eccentric theoretical physicist who doesn't quite understand social norms. He's not exactly quick to laugh, but he does enjoy playing tricks on people; when his deception is discovered, he blurts out, "Bazinga!" It's the kind of thing your uncle might giddily squawk after he tells you that all the hot dogs at his Fourth of July barbecue will be served on hamburger buns, and all the hamburgers will be served on hot dog buns. It's something consumed out of weariness, not pleasure.
But two physicists have found new inspiration in the tired shtick: by combining barium, zinc, and gallium (BaZnGa, you see) Paul Canfield and Na Hyun Jo, a professor and a graduate student at Iowa State University, respectively, created a new compound. BaZnGa forms a brand-new crystal structure. The only problem? Like the catchphrase itself, it appears to be functionally useless.
A Big Bang Theory Commercial Inspired Na Hyun Jo To Create BaZnGa
After seeing the above commercial, which points out that Dr. Cooper's catchphrase corresponds pretty perfectly with the elements barium, zinc, and gallium, graduate student Na Hyun Jo had a stroke of inspiration. Jo and her professor, Paul Canfield, had already planned to study three-part compounds containing barium and zinc. According to Live Science, "When Jo saw 'BaZnGa' flash on the TV, it seemed to be a message from the universe."
BaZnGa Forms A Seemingly Useless Crystal Structure
When Jo and Canfield combined barium, zinc, and gallium, they got a never-before-seen crystal structure, which is super exciting. What's not so exciting is that it doesn't appear to have any use at all. Jo and Canfield's study reports,
"Our discovery of BaZnGa, combined with our structural, magnetic and resistivity data provide a clear validation of what we refer to as the BaZnGa dualism. Whereas we have shown that BaZnGa is a well-defined ternary compound, it also manifests the gestalt of its original meaning, to be an a posteriori signaling of a (often poorly constructed) jest or jape. As such we checked to see if this new compound was quasicrystalline, BaZnGa; we searched for high temperature superconductivity: BaZnGa; we tested for Stoner and near-Stoner magnetism: BaZnGa; we searched for spin-, charge-, and spin-orbit-density waves: BaZnGa. Given that we have not yet measured either the thermal conductivity or the thermoelectric power, it is possible that new record values may well be found: BaZnGa (i.e. probably not)."
Basically, BaZnGa is a joke in itself: the fact that it exists is enough to get your hopes up, but then the crushing reality of its uselessness leans in, and whispers, "Bazinga."
Still, Jo And Canfield See The Creation Of BaZnGa As A Worthy Experiment
Even though they can't find a use for it, Jo and Canfield are still cheerful about the discovery of BaZnGa. Canfield told Live Science, "Whenever you find a new structure, it's nice because it gives you further information on how nature arranges atoms." The discovery of BaZnGa may lead to bigger breakthroughs in the future. Ultimately, that's the kindest take anyone could offer on The Big Bang Theory itself: a necessary, though frustrating, gateway to smarter television.