The Autotrophs began to drool

At the behest of my friends who recently came to stay, I have started watching The Big Bang Theory. To be honest, I’d tended to avoid the show, largely because I couldn’t stand the whiny American accent of the Bernadette character. Further, I instinctively dislike comedy shows with laughter tracks. Obnoxious and over the top laughter tracks are intrusive and unnecessary in my opinion.

Having said all that, the show is unique in celebrating intellectual characters and in portraying people who fall outside of the social norm – often derisively labelled as ‘geeks or nerds’ as likeable people. It’s also quite clever and funny in places.

Anyway, the discussion point of this post actually revolves around the lyrics to the theme tune at the beginning of each episode. Here are the lyrics in full:

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait…
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

A friend pointed out that he had ‘Googled’ the lyrics to check that they were sung as ’14 billion years ago’ and not ’14 million’, which would be incorrect – unless you’re a crazy Creationist.

OK, so at the time, I may have mocked this particular acquaintance and rudely equated him with the Sheldon Cooper character in the series. But then I started to listen to the lyrics, and one particular part just didn’t sound right. That sentence is that ‘the Autotrophs began to drool’.


An Autotroph creates its own food supply…

Now, I’ll be honest here. I had to use Wikipedia to remember exactly what an Autotroph was. My Wife was right, they are basically plants – organisms that use light or chemicals to ‘feed’. You can read a more complete explanation by visiting Wikipedia yourself.

So, how does a plant drool exactly? Well, I’ve read a couple of explanations – the best of which highlights that the key-word in the lyrics is ‘began’. This lyric refers to the evolution of an Autotroph into a Heterotroph (a consumer of Autotrophs – like you and me). This explanation can be attributed to The Skeptical Samuri, who writes that

The Big Bang Theory” intro is paying tribute to the specific line of autotrophs that branched off and evolved into the 1st heterotrophs.  Now it should be noted that the 1st heterotrophs would not have drooled, as they would not have even had what we would describe as a mouth to drool from, but seeing as we have a modern/popular/hit show promoting evolution and science, I think that we can let that slide!


As a cynic, I might point out that ‘drool’ happens to rhyme with ‘cool’, but perhaps the composers knew that Autotrophs don’t drool and the song is making a joke here? after all, it is a comedy.

Either way, by researching such trivial ephemera, I’ve learnt something.  In a world full of Creationists, Climate-change deniers and people who think that beliefs trump facts, it’s nice to watch a series with characters who value logic and science.