Science

Past is Prologue

COVID-19 has reportedly killed more than 1,400 people and infected thousands more in what could turn out to be one of the great tragedies of our times if we subscribe to the mainstream news media’s approach to almost everything. The destructive effects of the virus have certainly been felt across the world, including South Florida where Coronavirus-linked contractions in the Chinese service sectors has impacted the lobster fishing industry. Local tourism dollars are also expected to take a hit as quarantined cruise vessels are sure to cool off what has been a historically hot leisure travel market.

Sitting squarely at the top of the global supply chain, the world can barely withstand a significant disruption to China’s economy. If the virus becomes the catastrophe some have warned we could be on the precipice of a civilizational realignment comparable to when Venice, a merchant trading empire at the height of its power, met the beginning of its end through plague-infested rodents, which crawled out of their own ships and into St. Mark’s Square straight into the heart of feudal Europe.

A pandemic of relatively similar proportions afflicting China would place the current economic paradigm in dire straits. But, are the alarmists right about this particular virus or are we witnessing a familiar script from the old geopolitical playbook?

Exhuming Leviathan

Theories about the virus’ origins proliferated almost as fast as the disease. In January, a team of Indian scientists published a paper pointing to the existence of HIV strains in the Coronavirus’ RNA; a tell-tale sign that the virus had been manufactured.

Mixing HIV into another pathogen might sound like the work of a Bond villain intent on destroying humanity, but it is actually a practice pioneered by Japanese scientist, Yoshihiro Kawaoka and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, as a way to turbo-charge a virus’ replication process. His findings were published in 2011 after a series of experiments carried out on a pathogenic specimen extracted from the exhumed corpse of a frozen Alaska Native who had perished during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919; a virus that killed close to 80 million people.

The Western response to the claims made by the Indian scientists was swift, however. The widely-respected Scripps Research Institute, which receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called their conclusions into question and contributed to the pressure that forced the scientists to remove their paper.

Scripps’ Co-Chair of the institute’s Immunology and Microbiology Department, Dr. Michael Farzan, was rather vague on the issue in a recent radio interview. The main criticism of the Indian paper centered on their findings that the virus genome contained HIV “inserts”; prompting Chinese doctors to administer AIDS medication to patients afflicted with the lethal bug, which they have done with some success. Farzan admits that the Coronavirus has “similar kinds of proteins” to the AIDS virus, but chalks up the fact that China is using AIDS meds to treat the disease to simply using “what is available”. Ultimately, he leaves unanswered the question of whether anti-HIV medications work, leaving the listener to choose their own side. “As far as we can tell”, Dr. Farzan stated, “they should not be especially active against the Coronavirus proteins.”

Sales Force

The good doctor from Scripps spent about 30 seconds on the question dealing with the mysterious HIV-like proteins in the Coronavirus and the rest of the show driving home his real agenda: Drug sales.

That message had already been made on a far bigger platform four days earlier by the Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, Anthony S. Fauci when he appeared on Face the Nation that Sunday previously to relay the missive to the interested parties: “I’m seeing interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies that we didn’t see with SARS and other outbreaks”, said Fauci, clearly putting out a CTA for any Big Pharma execs who might be watching that morning.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Michael Farzan

The NIAID director indirectly exhorted drug makers to make the outlay of “hundreds of millions of dollars” required to manufacture and distribute a vaccine. Fauci didn’t belabor any of his prepped talking points, but did save this particular point for the end of the exchange. Dr. Michael Farzan of the Scripps Institute would not have to be so subtle – and most certainly wasn’t – during his prime time radio interview on Florida’s NPR-affiliate, making five separate appeals to the pharmaceutical industry.

In the middle of boilerplate answers about the virus’ characteristics, the doctor cuts himself off to get right to brass tacks. “I should state that our large challenge now is not identifying compounds that are effective”, Farzan brags by way of introduction. “But, rather, manufacturing and distributing those compounds”.

It was the opening salvo in a barrage of charged pleas to the pill shop owners, like a man who can’t get that meeting he needs. “The good news”, according to Farzan is that the scientific community and ostensibly Scripps itself, already knows everything it needs to develop a vaccine. “The bad news,” he continues, “is that it takes a good deal of time to manufacture…”.

Farzan would work this message into every answer for the remainder of the interview, no matter the relevance to the actual question. The full show is enlightening, but a clip of all the instances Farzan makes appeals to the drug-makers is as just as telling:

The campaign to woo Big Pharma through these public displays likely ties back to behind-the-scenes jostling by the CDC, who’s been refused entry into China and has been lobbying to gain access. While Farsan only touched on the issue in his interview, Fauci led with a common trope used when a non-aligned nation resists official American aid. “Our CDC epidemiologists are the best in the world”, boasted Fauci, as if the arbitrary qualification should be enough reason for China to let agents of an openly hostile government within its borders.

When he was not begging Big Pharma to put up the capital, Farzan was doing an excellent job of extolling the competence and superiority of his own institute and the Western scientific establishment, in general. The script was as tight as a Shark Tank pitch and he did not waver, despite contradicting information about the knowledge epidemiologists actually have to this point about the Coronavirus.

Farzan claims the scientific community attained nearly complete understanding of the Coronavirus since day one, and yet just days after this interview aired, Dr John Sinnott, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at USF’s Morsani College of Medicine, told WLRN that the medical community was basically in the dark. Farzan, on the other hand, spoke at length about how much and soon they already knew. “The most important information that was made available to us… was the genetic sequence of the virus”, Farzan stated unequivocally. “And that was made available to us in early January” he continued, stressing that the science on a vaccine had been all but completed and only two months away from production.

Admit One

An unstoppable, airborne virus would do wonders for the continued encroachment into the free movement of people since the Patriot Act, implementation of draconian surveillance technology at the border and legitimization of xenophobic federal entities like ICE. In the same Face the Nation interview, Fauci warned quarantined American citizens returning home in a NIAID-coordinated flight that they would be held for 14 days for further medical evaluation. The director also underlined that any American who chose to stay behind in Asia would still be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine whenever they chose to come back.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Anthony Fauci – PHOTO CREDIT: Kaveh Rezael VOA

It was an odd detail to include in the statement, considering that it is highly unlikely that any of the Americans being evacuated from the quarantined cruise ship would choose to stay behind in Asia or even be allowed to, for that matter. But, it was important in one respect: to the viewing American public, it signaled the open-ended nature of this kind of detention at all entry points.

Other questions surrounding the real source of COVID-19 have arisen, such as the location of the virus’ first appearance in the city of Wuhan, an extremely busy travel hub raising suspicions that it was specifically chosen to maximize contagion. Igor Nikulin, former member of the UN Biological and Chemical Weapons Commission, doubts that COVID-19 could develop in the wild. According to the Russian scientist, the virus shows several signs that it is a laboratory creation.

Speculating about the motivations anyone might have for the creation of a deadly pathogen, Nikulin suggested that perhaps American pharmaceutical firms were poised to make a killing on a cure they could already have in stock. Such an accusation might be taken as vile anti-Americanism by a jealous Russian, but in light of Fauci and Farzan acting like pharmaceutical sales reps, the only question remaining is how much they will ultimately profit from it.

psychics

The investigation had dragged on for three long years already, and there was still no sign of Charles Frank Jordan. As supervisor in charge of the Key Largo Customs office, which at the time boasted the most drug seizures in the country, Jordan was discovered to be one of 23 federal Customs employees working in concert to smuggle several thousand pounds of cocaine and marijuana into the United States during South Florida’s drug trafficking heyday in the 1980’s. In 1985, the self-proclaimed “Ruler of the Keys”, was charged with conspiring to smuggle 52,000 pounds of narcotics into Louisiana, along with 10 other men. The following year, a trial in New Orleans resulted in his acquittal, but after being indicted for perjury in the Spring of 1987, he decided to take his chances and run.

Reagan had just declared the war on drugs a matter of national security with decision directive 221 in 1986, opening the door for the U.S. Department of Defense to take the lead in the interdiction of illegal narcotics, both inside and outside its borders. The Pentagon’s formal role in this capacity was still a few years away, but in the meantime the DIA – official intelligence organ of the DoD – was using a controversial program inherited from INSCOM (U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command) to assist the FBI’s investigation with a highly unorthodox method: Extra Sensory Perception or ESP.

Talking Plants and Psychic Spook Roots

The origins of the government’s involvement in the paranormal can be traced to Grover Cleveland “Cleve” Backster, co-founder of the CIA’s polygraph program, who was at his New York office late one night in 1966 working on a difficult case for the FBI. Cleve Backster was, by then, a well-known figure in law enforcement circles, testifying as an expert witness in state prosecutions with regularity. The evening in question had been a long one, and in a brief moment of distraction absentmindedly fixed his gaze on a house plant his secretary had recently brought to the office. Staring at the plant, his focus suddenly started to coalesce over a harebrained idea. Could he potentially demonstrate plant consciousness by attaching his polygraph machine’s sensors to the leaves and provoke a reaction?

Cleve Backster put aside the case file in front of him and reached for his polygraph equipment. He decided to set one of the leaves on fire, surmising that this would certainly elicit a reaction from the potted organism – if there was one to be had. What happened next changed the course of Backster’s life, and set the stage for the creation of a highly classified, government program comprising a team of men and women charged with gathering intelligence of remote locations and events using their innate or – in some cases – learned psychic powers.

Backster claims that the very act of striking the match on the matchbox produced a dramatic spike in the polygraph readings. The founder of the Backster School of Lie Detection dedicated the rest of his life to the study of plant consciousness and paranormal phenomena, such as ESP and telepathy. He would go on to publish several papers in scientific journals and other publications.

One of the people who came across Backster’s research was a physicist in California, who was also dabbling in questions about extrasensory perception and related topics. Harold “Hal” Puthoff was a young 35-year physicist working at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), a think tank in San Francisco. SRI was home to many government-funded programs with close ties to intelligence and the military, which included a cybernetics and artificial intelligence divisions.

Puthoff contacted Backster in a letter, proposing an experiment involving quantum biology inspired by Cleve’s recent work. The former polygraph expert introduced the physicist to Douglas “Ingo” Swann, a gifted psychic Backster had been using as a subject for his own research into ESP. In 1970, Swann would travel west to participate in a sophisticated experiment designed to test his extrasensory abilities under strict laboratory controls at SRI. Six doctoral candidates, in addition to Hal Puthoff witnessed what seemed to them an impossible task as Swann successfully disturbed the operation of a magnetometer – a state-of-the-art piece of physics research equipment created to detect quarks – using only his mind’s intent.

Puthoff shared his findings through a report with a few colleagues at SRI. A couple of weeks later, he got a knock at the door. Two CIA agents, holding Swann’s test results were asking to come in. As a former Naval Intelligence officer, Puthoff was perfectly suited to hear what they were here to tell him. The Agency’s concern over the Soviets’ continued research into parapsychology and possible advances in so-called “psychoenergetic” weapons, was growing and they were looking for a research laboratory, that could carry out their own, low-key investigations into these same phenomena.

For the next decade and a half, Dr. Puthoff would serve as the lead scientist in several iterations of government-funded research of the ‘supernatural’, and develop the protocols for the development of a team of “psychic soldiers”, who would put their sixth senses to work in the service of Cold War targets and other intelligence gathering needs of the U.S. government.

intelligence
FILE PHOTO – Defense Intelligence Agency headquarters building at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington D.C

Where in the World is X

The Army needed to distance itself from the esoteric nature and derisive perceptions surrounding ESP, especially within a military environment. Part of this effort centered on what the advertising world calls copy writing. Scientific-sounding terminology was created to replace much-maligned words like telepathy, psychokinesis and psychics, mainly for the purpose of credibility in the eyes those holding the purse strings on Capitol Hill.

RMS, RP, and RV, were all acronyms designed to give ancient divination methods a modern technological sheen. Remote Map Sensing, Remote Pertubation and Remote Viewing, respectively, appeased the overwhelmingly skeptical Pentagon officials who, nevertheless, dedicated at least two decades to the use of these ‘occult’ arts.

Despite efforts to duplicate the talents of Swann and other innate psychics, who passed through the secret ESP programs and experiments by developing training techniques, the truth is that the military never really ascertained the source of these mysterious forces, and barring very few notable exceptions, were never able to turn ‘regular’ soldiers into psychic mediums. The earliest program, code named “Grill Flame”, employed six “remote viewers”, whose work consisted in carrying out reconnaissance missions of far off places in the world from a building in Fort Meade, Maryland using the power of concentration and, essentially, magic.

Joe McMoneagle was one of those notable exceptions who was able to ”learn’ his psychic abilities, although certain events during his tour of duty in Vietnam point to the possibility that they were simply dormant in him. In any case, McMoneagle was the program’s first (official) star remote viewer, delivering exceptional results in many of his RV sessions. One of his most celebrated occurred during Remote Viewing Session C54, when he was able to ‘see’ a clandestine Soviet submarine project, which contemporary spy satellite imagery could not possibly discover. The Soviets were building a massive new submarine vessel in the Severodvinsk Naval Base, inside a concrete structure several yards inland. McMoneagle described the vessel as it was being constructed, and even discerned its name. Satellite image confirmation arrived months later, when pictures of the “Shark” stationed on the water at Severodvinsk were seen by astounded Pentagon officials.

Regardless of McMoneagle’s success or that of his peers, remote viewing showed little to no actionable value, since confirmation was almost always required. It also didn’t help that the research continually failed to identify the source and mechanisms behind this seemingly supernatural power. As long as no one understood how it worked, trusting it as a viable intelligence tool would be very difficult.

The Gifted One

Angela Dellafiora had known she was psychic since childhood. As a civilian woman in a male-dominated environment – first at the FBI, where she worked filing criminal fingerprints in a database and then at INSCOM working for Army intelligence – her career was not bereft of obstacles. Her paranormal abilities didn’t necessarily make things any easier, even when she became a part of Sun Streak, as the remote viewer project was now named. The black program had been absorbed by the Defense Intelligence Agency after the original INSCOM project was cancelled a month earlier by Brigadier General Harry Soyster, who came on as INSCOM’s new commander, forcing General Stubblebine – the project’s biggest sponsor – into retirement.

Grill Flame had run into some PR trouble as a result of a hoax perpetrated by James Randi, a popular magician, and militant skeptic of the entire psychic/telepath/paranormal milieu. For years, Randi had been aggressively pursuing any avenue to discredit people who claimed to have any sort of psychic powers. Uri Geller, the famous Israeli spoon-bender in particular, was one of his favorite targets. Randi’s latest campaign centered around a new age retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains called the Monroe Institute, which offered psychic training programs to the public, among other things. James Randi recruited two young men to pose as psychics and undergo several of the tests offered at the Institute. Despite largely failing to prove anything with the stunt, Randi – who had a platform – made a bit of a scandal out of the whole affair. While the incident barely caught people’s attention, the fallout in the Army was severe enough to end the program at INSCOM.

The program Angela Dellafiora would be a part of would add many more layers of secrecy and compartmentalization to the already black project, so as to avoid situations like what had occurred with Grill Flame. Her natural talents, however, grated on some of the empirically-minded project managers and her “psychically-trained” colleagues, as well. Having no need to follow the steps established by SRI in their remote viewer protocol designed years earlier, Dellafiora followed her own process, which produced far quicker and more accurate results than any other non-psychic team members.

The day they asked her to locate Charles Frank Jordan, the Sun Streak supervisors had already tried sessions with the other remote viewers, each of whom came up with different locations -from Mexico to Minnesota. Dellafiora focused her mind on the target and, within minutes gave Jordan’s location as Lowell, Wyoming. Fern Gauvin, the operations manager, suggested she meant Lowell, Massachusetts, since the former location doesn’t exist. But, she insisted. After consulting an atlas, Gauvin found a Lovell, Wyoming. Dellafiora confirmed that was the location, and the psychically-obtained intel was forwarded to their point man at DIA, Dale Graff.

A few weeks later, she was asked to do another session on Jordan. Dellafiora then revealed he was living at or near an old Indian burial ground, adding that if they didn’t get him now he would escape them. A few days later, a ranger at Yellowstone National Park recognized Jordan from the alerts issued by the Customs Service. He was apprehended 50 miles from Lovell, Wyoming, where the FBI later confirmed he had been.

The Hidden Hand of Fear

The story of the U.S. government’s interest in the paranormal goes back decades before the creation of Grill Flame and its subsequent – possibly continuing – iterations. In fact, the search for mystical knowledge is a ubiquitous feature of most regimes in the history of mankind. Still, the mystery of the origins and functioning of these abilities continues to escape us.

Yet, it almost seems that the more we look for it; the more we try to find ways to bottle it and sell it on street corners, so to speak, the more elusive it becomes – and, ironically, the more paranoid we get.

MKULTRA, the most notorious mind control R&D initiative undertaken by the American military industrial complex, was born out of the same desire and paranoia. Much of the technology we “enjoy” today has emerged out of these and similar programs. Highly advanced research, dating back to the late 50’s has already yielded a technologically feasible imitation of telepathic communication, where thoughts are transferred directly to the mind of another human being thousands of miles away.

From a certain, trivial perspective, that might seem like an amazing feat. But from another, it is quite sad. In our hyper-connected, increasingly privacy-deficient world, instead of asking how we can distill and package psychic abilities or mind-reading, maybe we should ask ourselves why such faculties occur so infrequently and appear so tenuous and intangible. Or better yet, don’t ask at all. Can we live with the unknowable or are we too afraid?

Author’s Note: Much of the research for this article is based on Annie Jacobsen’s book “Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis”

The “Big Bang” is a popular term for the prevailing scientific view of the origin of the universe; a secular creation story of sorts. For most people of a certain younger generation, though, it is just a funny show on T.V. “The Big Bang Theory” has been a highly successful situation comedy on CBS for all of a decade and given the characters’ backstories, ubiquitous scientific jargon and mathematical references it wouldn’t seem wrong to assume that science is the thematic basis for the show’s title. But if we take off our Einstein-colored glasses for a moment and adopt a less ‘Sheldonesque’ perspective, we might come away with a far more mundane view of the matter.

In our 21st century slang lexicon, the word “bang” occupies a special place. Crossing cultural, class and even racial barriers this verb has become a universally accepted expression for casual intercourse. The one barrier it did not cross is the one between the sexes. In the largely genderless English language, this particular example of urban cant is decidedly masculine and, to some degree, sexist.

The ‘big bang’, stripped of its scientific connotation and placed in the context of comedy and popular culture, can easily be interpreted as a euphemism for sexual debauchery. Taken just a bit further, it closely resembles a term coined by the porn industry: the gang bang. In another, though no less significant, definition of the word it can mean a loud explosion, usually from a gun or a bomb.

By breaking down the structure, elements and characters of the show, a strong case can be made that “The Big Bang Theory” show is an allegorical depiction of sexual roles in society rather than a teleplay about a group of quirky scientists. It can also be speculated that it targets a very specific and uniquely traumatized segment of the American population.

Molecular Composition

The show revolves around the lives of five characters, four males and one female. The men are all high-achieving members of the scientific community, intellectually gifted but socially awkward. The female is much the opposite; portrayed as vastly inferior to the men in mental competence, yet adept at social interactions. These are the basic character profiles upon which the show’s storylines hang; all of which center on sex.

Adding credence to this idea is the fact that producers had originally given one of the protagonists, Sheldon Cooper, the sex-fiend, incorrigible ‘horn dog’ character traits, which eventually ended up as part of the less important role of Howard Wolowitz.

Instead, the tallest cast member is made to play an asexual genius who constantly talks down and passes judgement on the social-sexual habits of his circle of friends. The brunt of his contempt is reserved for the lone female character. Penny is an aspiring actress who is otherwise portrayed as a slut and identified in a running gag as nothing more than an ape with breasts. It is between these two polarities – from the unblemished mind of a theoretical physicist to the alcohol-bruised brain of a promiscuous Midwestern girl – that the creators of The Big Bang Theory want to weave a story about sexual dynamics in our society.

Penny is literally the “girl next door”, a well-established archetype in American culture, which enshrines the permanent male fantasy of an accessible woman. She’s a “one-of-the-guys” kind of gal who’s into sports and unambiguous about her sexual desire. In other words, Penny is the anti-woman. Directly opposite her character is Leonard, who is himself an anti-man figure. He is an emotionally open, if fragile, individual who compensates for the lack of a nurturing mother by seeking solace between Penny’s legs. The girl next door, however, doesn’t want children, which is part of her appeal. She’s at arm’s length – both within reach and requiring no commitment.

The Big Bang Theory has been on T.V. for at least a third and at most half of the average viewers’ lifetimes. In 2014, 84.2 million people watched at least 6 minutes of the show; roughly 30% of the U.S. population. – source: Vulture
Odel Gauri
Writer & Editor

Big Bang Genesis

Procreation, as the ultimate purpose of ‘banging’ is an ever present element on the show through the parental relationships of the characters, who interact with their parents in important ways.

Rajesh, the Indian astrophysicist, regularly communicates with his wealthy parents via internet video chat, who always seem to be concerned with the preservation of his genetic lineage, even as his best friend, Howard, relentlessly makes him the butt of all manner of racist and bigoted jokes. The point is further reinforced by Rajesh’s sister’s doomed relationship with Leonard as a result of her parents’ interference. The dark-skinned immigrant character is firmly established as undesirable by his own impotence around women and only alcohol can help him overcome his crippling inhibitions. It is also worth noting that his parents represent the only parental couple who remain in a traditional bond of marriage.

Both Leonard’s and Sheldon’s parental situation must be considered together, since these are used as plot points to present opposing world views. In each case, the father is absent by either divorce or abandonment. It is through the mother’s differing viewpoints that the conflict between creationism and evolution is engaged and it is through the perceived status of each offspring within their respective families that it is resolved.

According to Sheldon’s mother, her son’s superior intellect is the result of forces beyond her comprehension, which she is happy to ascribe to her religious beliefs. Despite the ideological chasm between her and Sheldon, she considers him nothing less than extraordinary. Leonard’s mother, on the other hand, sees her son as an underachiever whose value as a guinea pig for her child psychology experiments superseded any sort of maternal instinct. The same dynamic is repeated in the relationship of the roommates themselves, where Sheldon considers Leonard to be of inferior intellectual stock, while Leonard begrudgingly accepts his friend’s genius. Closing this odd oedipal circle, Sheldon and Leonard find a kindred spirit in each other’s mothers.

The Freudian nightmare intensifies with Howard. Echoing Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece, the scrawny space engineer still lives with his mother, who exists only as a screeching disembodied voice in his childhood home. They are constantly getting into shouting matches about trite domestic issues like an old married couple. Even though we never see her, we know she is obese and requires special attention, which her son reluctantly provides until she is literally killed off and replaced with a wife/mother figure in Bernadette who moves into the same house. As the proverbial “momma’s boy” with an unchecked libido, Howard resides in a quasi-incestuous reality.

Penny’s family history is not as developed as that of the other characters for reasons we’ll touch on below, but she also comes from a broken home with the salient difference of having been raised by her father, which sets her up for the “daddy issues” stereotype associated with easy women.

Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS

Penny, Penny, Penny

The Penny character is key to our understanding of the show’s underlying message. Among the more subtle factoids about her is that, among all the characters, she is the only one whose last name is never mentioned at any point during the show. This omission cannot be attributed to gender alone since the other two supporting female roles are given last names. In order to fathom why the lead female character would lack such a significant feature, we must delve deeper into the symbolism behind her character.

The lowest denomination of American currency is the penny. The one-cent, copper mint has developed several different connotations in society, such as stinginess, frugality and others. But, the most common association the coin has is with the concept of luck. “See a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck” is a phrase most Americans know.

Immortalized in the hugely popular coming-of-age musical ‘Grease’, this melodious expression perpetuates the idea of the lucky penny from generation to generation in one of the few relics of oral tradition. The fortuitous nature of luck makes activities like gambling irresistible for millions of people. The fear of losing it all combined with the possibility of striking it rich has proven addictive in many cases, perhaps because it mirrors a biological imperative. Mating in human society requires a willingness to put ourselves on the line and take a chance on another human being. Penny is no ordinary character in the show, but rather a pivotal and esoteric element in a sophisticated farce, who represents the mating principle in a universe where the four male characters live to “get lucky”. She is the fertility goddess through which the reproductive probabilities of the other characters are determined.

Probability theory, a pillar of 20th century physics, is expressed in mathematical equations where probability itself is represented by the letter “P”. Penny’s name, therefore, is a parable designed for those who understand the scientific “keys” in the riddle of “The Big Bang Theory” and, as such, last names and backstories are of no importance when it comes to her character.

Masculinity Revisited

Across the hall from the cute, bubbly blonde is a constellation of social outcasts striving to “score”. Each of the four male characters represent one particular formula in the grand equation of perpetuating the species.

In this allegory, Sheldon Cooper is the sexually innocent fawn who is constantly flummoxed by the social rituals his clumsy friends perform in order to “score”. He lives in his own mind, protected from the uncertainties of the real world through highly regulated schedules and strictly worded, and literal, social contracts. Blissfully unaware of others’ needs, the brilliant Dr. Cooper towers above everyone else in physical stature and is also meant to tower, metaphorically, over society as presently constructed.

This androgynous, asexual and asocial specimen whose life unfolds with mathematical precision is held up as a beacon to guide the others through the labyrinth of current human society towards a ‘scientifically’ sound future where natural selection will be replaced with calculated election.

His roommate, Leonard Hofstadter, is the probing adolescent with self-esteem issues who harbors idealistic views of love and indulges in romantic escapades. He lives in “our” time, doing is best to conform to the expectations of an entrenched social order. In a sense, Leonard is like a bridge that connects yesterday to tomorrow, sacrificing himself in the process. He’s a martyr who struggles in a world that still values traditional male archetypes and gives a voice to all the nerds that ever tried to hit on the hot girl or wish they could. Leonard is a tragic figure who lives in the professional shadow of his roommate and the eternal disapproval of his mother.

Howard Wolowitz is the fully-grown geek. Never content with merely theorizing about social acceptance, he embraces his sexual exuberance throwing himself at anything that moves. Howard is Jewish – a fact deemed important enough to warrant repeated mention throughout the show – and he is the most accomplished of his peers, having conquered man’s last frontier: space. Despite his diminutive size, the smallest of the group, Howard Wolowitz emerges from under his mother’s skirt to become the victorious dork and the only one who manages to reproduce.

Rajesh Koothrappali is the perpetual third wheel from the third world, relegated by his own insecurities to the realm of platonic infatuations. His ambivalent sexuality and foreign origin underscores his role of the outsider. As an astrophysicist, he gazes on the cosmos from an impossibly large distance, which mirrors the great gap between his need for companionship and his inability to find it. He is the legacy human, ruled by his emotions and destined to contemplate the light of stars that perished long ago.

SEASON 9 POSTER for the Big Bang Theory showcasing Penny, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Rajesh

Dark Matters

In all character dynamics, Penny (Chance) always has the upper hand with one notable exception: Sheldon. Wrapped in the guise of logic and rationality, Dr. Cooper’s behavior is actually riddled with manipulation and subterfuge directed at the viewers through his relationship with Penny. Sheldon’s role is nothing less than that of a warlock casting spells on the unsuspecting T.V. audience. His robotic demeanor and droning voice are utilized to insert repetitive command cues that underlie the show’s plot points.

Performing like an expert hypnotist, Sheldon always calls on Penny in the same rhythmically spaced knocking pattern and vocalizes her name three times. This is a neuro-linguistic programming technique designed to drill trigger words into a subject’s subconscious mind. This specific trigger is meant to activate base sexual desire every time her name is mentioned. The “Soft Kitty” lullaby is used to deepen this subliminal message. Sheldon teaches Penny to sing Soft Kitty to him in bed, which is a euphemism for masturbation.

In order to assert Sheldon’s authority, all characters are made to adhere to his quasi-legal and completely arbitrary “agreements”. The most often-quoted contract is the so-called “roommate agreement”, which he always manages to enforce despite any resistance. Sheldon is the high priest of this faux scientific universe and his word is not to be questioned.

An important element in this universe are numbers. But on the show, the number 4 makes its presence felt more than any other. We have the four male leads, of course; the apartment numbers are 4A and 4B; the show’s title has four words and in many instances, the characters are written into scenes that occur in groups of four.

The symbolism of the number 4 spans many different interpretations, but for the most part, they all merge into the concept of stability and established truth. The square represents the ‘known’ and certainty, which is something many of the show’s viewers are subconsciously seeking.

The average age of The Big Bang Theory’s viewing audience falls within the range of 18 to 35. These are, of course, the years in which many of us embark on the process of becoming who we will eventually become. But, if we consider the historical context of these particular 18 to 35 year-olds in America, we’ll find that they are especially vulnerable and more likely to seek out structure and reassurance. We are talking about the 9-11 generation, no less. The “Big Bang” is their origin story, too.

Conclusion

Nearly every character in The Big Bang Theory is a highly educated professional and yet they are all portrayed as infantile, dependent and socially immature people. In addition, the permanent backdrop of the comic book store, toys and games that are carefully positioned within the brightly-colored set design has a high visual appeal for young children.

The general bounce-house atmosphere, early time slot and repeated syndication virtually guaranteed that an entire generation of children and teenagers, who are now entering adulthood, have been consuming a steady diet of subliminal messaging about gender roles, sexual behavior and self-worth, presented in a pseudo-scientific packaging.

As it enters its eleventh season, The Big Bang Theory can be considered an important, if subliminal influence on the world view of youngsters who have followed the boisterous clan of nerds for a decade. Just like the show “Friends” created a cult-like following among Gen-Xers who saw themselves in the scripted lives of the six East Coast roommates, this new band of fictional West Coast buddies has been crafted to appeal specifically to the tech-savvy, code-writing youths of the new Millennium, both reaffirming and conditioning their role in society.

Fracking

A Fracking Disaster

On September 10th, 1969, a few miles from the town of Parachute in western Colorado, the U.S. government detonated a nuclear device two and a half times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It was a test to determine the viability of using nuclear weapons for non-military purposes; in this case, the extraction of natural gas.

Just three weeks earlier, Woodstock had brought over 400,000 people together for a four-day festival of music and art, which marked the end of a decade of social strife in America, where anti-war protests, civil rights marches and free love collided with state oppression, political assassinations and a burgeoning military-industrial complex.

Project Rulison, as the nuclear fracking experiment was called, had captured the greedy imaginations of fossil-fuel-hungry capitalists and their federal partners who hoped to release hundreds of billions of cubic feet of natural gas at the experiment site. After an exploratory test well was drilled, scientists concluded that “no flow of water, or water supply” could be harmed by the atomic explosion. Much to their dismay, however, only 455 million cubic feet of gas was freed – falling well short of the billions estimated – and rendered useless by radioactive contamination.

Despite the disastrous results of the Rulison project, one more experiment was conducted on the other side of the Colorado River at Rio Blanco with not one, but three nuclear devices to raise the stakes to one hundred kilotons, or seven and a half Hiroshimas put together. Needless to say, the gas yield was far below expectations and radioactive.

Plowshare, the name of the federal program of which these short-sighted tests were a part of, was finally terminated in 1975. Its task was to repurpose the country’s over-supplied nuclear arsenal for geo-engineering projects, such as storing fuel oil under the seafloor off the coast of Guam or blowing up mountains to facilitate the construction of highways and railroads.

Roy Rodgers was slated to close the Woodstock with Happy Trails, but he declined, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall. Instead, Jimi Hendrix performed his iconic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner foreshadowing the torturous and disintegrating road our fossil-fuel addicted country was determined to embark on.

All three nuclear fracking experiment sites, Gasbuggy, Rulison and Rio Blanco are still monitored for surface contamination by the Department of Energy. According to them, no radioactivity associated with the tests has ever been found.

Unclassified Department of Energy newsreel film about Project Rulison

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