Fanfic / The Many Worlds Interpretation

This is an ongoing crossover fiction by A.A. Pessimal and brings together the Discworld and The Big Bang Theory. Specifically, The Science of Discworld.

Take a group of eccentric and unworldly academics. The sort who, while brilliant, are suspected of only being able to get their shoes on the right feet every morning after two tries. They inhabit a university full of oddballs and pervaded by seething academic rivalry fuelled by overlarge egos where Faculty members exist in an atmosphere of icily polite mutual hostility. Where academics strive to avoid students and do as little teaching as possible. Then move them from Unseen University, Ankh-Morpork, to Caltech, Pasadena, and watch what happens.

Add HEX, the supercomputer, who is governed by the Prime Directive of the Roundworld Project: to get human beings thinking and working about the need to get off the planet and colonise Space in large numbers. And to nurture those brilliant scientific intellects who will contribute to the space colony mission. But as with every occasion where the Wizards have entered the Roundworld to intervene, Something is out there trying to stop them...

Professor Ponder Stibbons, accompanied by an Assassin, visits California and both end up on a working holiday. Assassin Johanna ends up bodyguarding the Caltech crew against some of the usual perils and hazards. Ponder, meanwhile, ends up teaching Physics at Caltech. He finds it to be a place full of seething academic rivalry, inflated egos, and very eccentric academics. She finds Los Angeles to be a place with a pervading bad smell which is full of thieves, overworked cynical cops, and assorted mortal perils. It's just like home for both of them. It is possible that as the tale unfolds, the Caltech gang will be given the opportunity to visit the Discworld where Howard Wolowitz will find a whole new world of women (of various species) to mortally offend. Penny has the potential to make vast amounts of money and forge a lucrative career in Ankh-Morpork. How? Read on. Amy Farrah-Fowler needs to learn the distinction between monkeys and apes. Very badly. Sheldon Cooper will be offered an opportunity to be appalled by the bathroom facilities. And will Leonard discover he can make it as a Wizard?

The unfolding tale may be found at the Many Worlds Interpretation

This tale offers Sheldon Cooper an opportunity to critically dissect tropes like this:

  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Sheldon Cooper has a brush with the DEATH of the Roundworld, but DEATH is not to his liking. He has a sulky and adamant debate with DEATH as to the the form he should adopt
  • A Lady on Each Arm: On Cosplay Night at the Comic Book Store, Raj practically begs to be photographed in between "Wonder Woman" (Penny) and "Poison Ivy" (Johanna) so he can claim online bragging rights. The girls happily indulge him.
  • Alien Among Us: Johanna encounters UFO-nuts who are absolutely convinced of The Masquerade and earnestly warn her that beings from another world have taken human form and walk, unseen, disregarded, and perfectly camouflaged, in the midst of humanity. She admits this cannot be disproven, keeps a straight face, and walks on.
  • Alien Autopsy: Johanna Smith-Rhodes is given the non-invasive version by Amy Farrah-Fowler, who is excited by the idea of investigating the brain functions of a genuine bona-fide alien visitor. Assured that scalpels and sutures will not be involved, Johanna subjects herself to CAT-scanning, and Amy discovers this alien is also 100% human.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: HEX and the Time Machine ultimately run on this. The Glooper is another example, as is the, er, Fishingnet.
  • Beware the Nice Ones; Johanna Smith-Rhodes is a trained Assassin, a veteran of many hard fights, and scared of nothing. Much. But even she thinks twice before getting her boyfriend Ponder Stibbons angry enough to shout at her. She prefers to avoid this. Penny confesses she feels the same way about Leonard Hofstadter. The other thing that frightens Johanna is Mrs Whitlow. But that's a different story.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: Johanna's pet Ridgebacks. When they come to California for walkies, the first person they freak out, with unerring doggy instinct, is Sheldon Cooper. Even though when called for, these can be two examples of the Angry Guard Dog, Sheldon eventually discovered they'd rather drown the victim in gallons of doggy spittle as they're so happy to make new friends.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Johanna speaks Afrikaans, generally when swearing. Astronaut Dimitri adds a bit of conversational Russian. Raj is heard to be not very complimentary, in Hindu, about Pakistanis in general and a Pakistani colleague in particular. And use of a particular k-word causes a three-way misinterpretation.
    • "Soft Kitty" is at least partially translated into Afrikaans, and the (now discontinued) South African National Anthem is sung at one point.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Sheldon Cooper unerringly pisses off Lord Vetinari and brings poetic retribution on his head. Vetinari, in as many words, concedes a science-based education has its advantages over an arts-based one. As proof of this, Sheldon is sent to do something useful for the city of Ankh-Morpork during his visit, which only a true scientific genius is capable of. He is placed in charge of Empirical Crescent - a residential block designed by Bloody Stupid Johnson - and invited to make sense of the place. As this has baffled the Discworld's finest intellects and carries overtures of actual physical hazard, it is possible Vetinari got very pissed off indeed. Most of the visiting Caltech crew, with the exception of Penny and Leonard, go over there with him and it becomes their apartment block whilst on the Disc. With interesting and strange results.
  • Brain Bleach: HEX offers to tell the most probable futures for the Caltech gang to Leonardnote  so long as he agrees to have his memories erased afterwards, leaving only an impression as to why it is vitally important they apply their minds to space colonisation. Leonard absolutely insists on a memory wipe - when HEX assures him Amy and Sheldon will marry and work out how to have children.
  • Busman's Holiday: Ponder ends up as a university teacher. Johanna Smith-Rhodes ends up having to deploy her combat skills.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Johanna is concerned that on the Disc, the word Smurf is much the same sort of mortal insult to a NacMacFeegle as "lawn ornament" is to a Dwarf. Somehow a mortal insult to a little people on the Disc is, on the Roundworld, the generic term for an endearing tribe of blue-skinned little people in a children's entertainment.
  • Car Meets House: In the Everybody Loves Raymond cameo appearance. Sheldon Cooper, Penny and HEX crash the Travelling Engine through the front wall of a certain house in Lynbrook, Long Island, New York, in a manner suspiciously like the ELR episode where Frank and Marie garage their car on top of Ray and Debra's couch. It turns out that HEX and Sheldon have interfered with the timeline and done what Frank and Marie were poised to do and would have done a few minutes later... note 
  • Casanova Wannabe: Howard Wolowitz. He's lucky Johanna quite likes Bernadette and refrains from violence. She even warns him other women on the Discworld would not be charmed by his usual approach and would be quite direct in raising objections to his personality.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: HEX, via the Travelling Engine, makes it easy for the Roundworlders to experience the Discworld in small, well-escorted parties. Things still go wrong, especially when Sheldon twocks the Engine and randomly programs it in such a way that HEX has to spend time untangling things.Penny gets to be First Woman on the Moon. At first, she is not greatly impressed.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Many. But Terry Pratchett is not (yet) a novelist in this world: he still works for the British Nuclear Power Agency writing reassuring press releases after little operating difficulties happen in power plants. Howard Wolowitz comes across his press releases and recognises them as works of true genius in applied engineering. note 
  • Chick Magnet: Ponder Stibbons, after Penny and Bernadette demonstrate the striking similarity he has to an obscure fantasy film actor called Daniel Radcliffe. note 
  • Cosplay: Johanna and Ponder are prevailed upon to attend a Cosplay night at the Comic Book Store. Ponder goes as Harry Potter; Johanna as Pamela Isley.
  • Down L.A. Drain: There is a discussion of water management in California, specifically managing it so as to miniimse floods and landslips. Ponder remarks that with this degree of hazard, California isn't so unlike frequently-flooded Ankh-Morpork after all.
  • The Earth-Prime Theory: The Roundworld in this tale is one where the cast of The Big Bang Theory exist for real, as opposed to being actors and actresses in a TV show. It is hinted to be an alternative Earth and not the Roundworld Prime of The Science of Discworld novels. But then, the Wizards have created, potentially, a lot of alternative earths. And perhaps the true prime for all manifestations of Earth is the Discworld...
  • Emotion Eater: The peril that piggybacks to Pasadena with the visiting Discworlders is the Shadowing Lemma, a dread, if dysfunctional, multidimensional entity that lives on the brain energies of mathematical geniuses. It sets up a trap that excites and enthrals Sheldon Cooper - and draws him in.
  • First Contact: Subverted. The Caltech nerds (and Penny) are the first people on Earth to unambiguously make contact with "aliens" - who turn out to be from the Discworld. One of the visiting aliens is young, red-haired and attractive enough for Howard Wolowitz to forgo the usual "take me to your leader..." stuff. His first words to the alien visitor are Are all the women on your planet as hot as you?. An "alien" visits. Howard makes a pass at her. And when the Caltech crew visit the Discworld, a specialised aspect of quantum theory allows them to take the Internet with them. An Unseen University faculty member, given a resource allowing him (at least in theory) to tap into the accumulated knowledge of an entire planet, immediately asks if you can get lots of pictures of, er, young ladies, in artistic poses with urns and lengths of gauze. Yes. The Senior Wrangler immediately latches onto Internet porn.
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: Penny discovers this when, via HEX and the Travelling Engine, she becomes the First Woman On The Moon. Failing to take the lower gravity into account, she takes a step and is flung against the force-bubble generated by the Engine, thus sustaining a small bruise to her upper arm
  • Gravity Is Only a Theory: Johanna has to argue with, er, a student from Alaska note  who has fundamentalist religious leanings and believes in creationism rather than the mere theory of evolution.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: In canon, The Science of Discworld books believe this is inevitable and will occur sooner rather than later. The challenge for Discworld's wizards is to get humanity on Earth prepared for the moment it has to leave a dying planet and colonise the stars. (no later than the middle 2200's). In this version of Roundworld, insights made by eight intelligences operating around Caltech, Pasadena, in the early 2000's will be key to humanity's survival. Therefore Sheldon Cooper in particular has to be kept alive to make his key realisations, and all eight have to be steered in the right directions...note 
  • Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The Ankh-Morporkians are this to the Californians. Ankh-Morpork has the secret of virtually instantaneous interplanetary travel, yes. Its best wizards deal with constructs in physics every bit as sophisticated as those Leonard and Sheldon debate at Caltech. But they apply quantum theory to magic. And they have no electricity, no television, not even radio, no computers except HEX and the Glooper, no internal combustion engine, old-fashioned steam trains and, as Penny points out, no guns. The Roundworlders were somehow expecting better, but at least they're nice about it... Ponder and Johanna, meanwhile, discover technological California. And fall in love with it.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: How Johanna initially bonds to Penny and Bernadette. They lament how difficult it is to get Ponder Stibbons, Leonard Hofstadter and Howard Wolowitz to pay more attention to the way they dress and to look reasonably presentable in mixed company.
  • Killer Rabbit: Ponder's inspired use of the disdained Enchanted Bunny card to win Mystic Warlords of Ka'a games. Twice.
  • Ma'am Shock: Johanna is called ma'am by respectful Caltech students. She isn't sure if she likes it or not and it reminds her she's just turned thirty.
  • Machete Mayhem: Johanna's attempt to teach the Caltech gang some weapon skills. Unwisely she suggests that they focus any anger issues they have into their slashing and stabbing. The result is coleslaw.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Johanna's disastrous interview with Janine Davis at Caltech HR. She gets all the sensitivity courses. At once. Howard is impressed.
  • Mugging the Monster: Amy Farrah-Fowler encounters a bogeyman in the cellar of Empirical Crescent. The malevolent creature of night-terrors and traumatic shadowy encounters in a darkened room in the edge of sleep is utterly terrified of her. It has never met an amyfarrahfowler before.
  • The Multiverse: The setting of the story and the rationale for the two worlds meeting.
  • Naughty Birdwatching: Raj K and the boys are giving Ponder Stibbons from the Discworld practical education in how astronomy works on a spherical world. They set a telescope up on the roof of 2311 North Los Robles. Policemen visiting for a different reason warn them to make sure it only points at the sky, guys. A friendly cop advises them about the woman in the apartment block opposite who undresses in front of an open window, and even tells them which window. ("You get what I'm sayin', guys?") Howard Wolowitz assures him the telescope will go nowhere near that window. Then he goes back to the apartment to find a pair of binoculars.
  • Nice to the Waiter: When the boys order Indian, Raj isn't; he sees only a low-caste Indian delivery person on a par with his family's servants. Ponder Stibbons intervenes; Unseen University wizards are generally unfailingly polite to food service staff as they are aware of what a disgruntled server in Ankh-Morpork can do to food.
  • Not That Kind of Mage: Ponder realises the Caltech crew are steeped in what to them is fantasy fiction. He realises their perception of wizards only occasionally chimes with his reality. But using his knowledge of actual wizardry, he still manages to win every game of Mystic Warlords of Ka'a. And he finds a winning use for "Enchanted Bunny''.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Lucy is suspected by Johanna to have a small, easily frightened, deer-like creature somewhere in her evolutionary DNA. She realises this is literally true when Lucy visits the Discworld and is scared out of her wits and into a totally unsuspected were-deer form by an encounter with Angua the werewolf. Lucy's were-nature is latent on Roundworld but literally fulfilled on the Disc.
  • Le Parkour: Johanna demonstrates the essential Assassin skills of roof-running and edificeering. After a moment's hesitation, Penny joins her. She does, after all, have previous experience. Lucy adds this to her proven skill of breaking and exiting. Things get interesting when the LAPD respond to a concerned citizen's telephone call.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: HEX has no difficulties in using and manipulating modern American technology for his own ends, usually with a snarky comment about how primitive or non-existent the artificial intelligence is.
  • Portal Door: Between them, Leonard and Howard inadvertently open other ways of passing between Pasadena and Ankh-Morpork. This causes complications for Ponder Stibbons and Vetinari may be moved to go into Sarcasm Mode. Vetinari does realise he gave the Caltech boys the keys to one of these portals, but he still isn't best pleased. Among other things a temporal paradox is created due to Sheldon's incautious over-excitement which results in multiple versions of Johanna Smith-Rhodes.
  • Precision F-Strike: In Johanna's case, a Precision V-Strike. note  HEX is also provoked, by Sheldon Cooper, to a terse ++Oh, Shit!++
  • Reality Bleed: After meeting Ponder, HEX and Johanna, aspects of the Discworld start to intrude via the vivid dreams and nightmares of Sheldon Cooper.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The astronauts on the International Space Station, Dimitri and Massimono, know better than to report UFO sightings. Nome, Alaska and Novaya Zemlya, Siberia, figure as their next ground postings should they do.
  • Recursive Reality: The Caltech physicists, both theoretical and research, are keen to explore questions of how the Big Bang happened that created the Universe. Ponder Stibbons and Johanna Smith-Rhodes both know the secret. In fact, they've met the man who initiated the Big Bang - Dean Henry of Unseen University, who put his hand into raw firmament and "wiggled it about a bit just to see what happened". But as the Ultimate Truth is so embarrassing, both conspire not to let the Caltech gang, especially Sheldon, know the awful reality.
    • The story also expands a scene from TBBT, where Leonard fires up a hologram of the world to delight Penny, and speculates it might all just be a gigantic hologram being monitored by beings standing outside our Universe, maybe a long-term experiment. Which is nearer to the truth than Leonard could imagine. especially when people from the society that created the Roundworld Universe, and keep it as a long-running experiment they monitor, drop in to check it out on the ground.
    • Another recursive reality occurs when, for a brief period of objective time, two versions of Johanna Smith-Rhodes exist on the Discworld as the result of Sheldon Cooper's unwisely applied enthusiasm. Both go around the same time-loop together and this causes double-takes in Ankh-Morpork.
  • Sanity Strengthening: Thorazine, administered by Bernadette, works wonders on the Bursar, returning his mathematical genius and allowing him to converse normally with Sheldon.
  • Schizo Tech: The city of Ankh-Morpork as seen by the visiting Californians. It has a supercomputer (HEX) way in advance of anything on Earth but no electricity, TV, petrol engines, or gonnes. Meanwhile, visiting Discworlders in Pasadena/Los Angeles find technological sophistication - but no awareness of magic. The visiting Assassin realises how reliance on machinery to do the work has rendered the people largely less muscular and a lot less physically able than people on her own world.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: Lucy discovers this shortly after she discovers that on the Discworld, she is a specialised form of werecreature.
  • Shout-Out: As with Discworld and indeed The Big Bang Theory, you can expect lots and lots of them to the point where the work ends up Reference Overdosed and may require its own Shout-Out page. These is a randomly mined sampling:
    • Ancestral Weapon: Aragorn's sword Narsil is referenced when Johanna politely stops Howard from touching her weapons belt. It turns out her machete has been in the family for generations; her great-grandmother personally killed four Zulus with it during a battle. note 
    • Empirical Crescent, the Caltech gang's allocated home on the Disc.
    • Doctor Who: The Travelling Engine is likened to a Tardisnote . HEX makes a gnomic remark concerning Time Lords and that they may just exist.
    • Everybody Loves Raymond: The Barone family appear to do a cameo appearance. They evidently occupy the same phase of the Multiverse, albeit on the East Coast.
    • Red Dwarf: Bernadette's "pinball smile".
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Lots and lots. Penny ends up in space frantically trying to hitch a lift; the plot rationale involves - ultimately - getting humanity off a doomed planet; The Eagles' Journey of the Sourceror is referenced. As indeed is a computer that can hum like Pink Floyd. A Genre Savvy spaceman aboard the International Space Station searches for a towel to cover the window with, so that he can blot out the sight of an impossible thing happening before breakfast.
    • Marvel Comics: Various characters and stories are referenced. For instance, the Vera Gemini arc of The Defenders.
    • The Sandman: Neil Gaiman's interpretation of DEATH is referenced, but does not appear in this form.
    • Scooby-Doo: Leslie Winkle opts to attend a cosplay night as Velma Dinkley. Amy Farrah-Fowler, investigating a dark gloomy cellar, which she discovers is indeed haunted, likens herself to Velma, having been honest enough with herself to concede that she doesn't really fit the profile for Daphne. Amy also considers Johanna's dogs are big enough to count as a pair of Scooby-Doos, albeit with less cowardice and more Angry Guard Dog about them.
    • West Side Story: An LAPD cop with the unfortunate name of Krupke is introduced. He has colleagues called Dibble, Captain Trunk, and Mounted Officer McLeod
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat: Inadvertently invoked; a long-time fan quit this fic in vocal disgust because of the author's use of the controversial(but canonical) "Shamy" shipping for Sheldon and Amy. Word of God is that he hopes the missing reader will come back...
  • Shown Their Work: As with TBBT, the author took pains to get the maths and physics at least approximately right. The background equations on the whiteboard are spoken, usually by Sheldon Cooper, and were chosen to be correct in context. As with the actor, the author takes it on trust they're relevant but hardly pretends to understand!
  • Signature Scent: Just as native Ankh-Morporkians don't notice the smell of their city until nasally traumatized visitors point it out to them, people resident in Greater Los Angeles are oblivious to the all-pervading smell of internal combustion engines and exhaust fumes. That is, until visitors come along from a civilization yet to evolve petrol-driven engines. Two sets of people are given the relevant culture shock.
  • Skinship Grope: Amy's attempt to manually assess Johanna's bra size.
    (Penny)Er... sweetie... it isn't necessary to weigh them up by hand to work out cup size....
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: Johanna, who on Earth is using the cover story of being a South African academic looking to be hired by Caltech, has a torrid interview with Janine Davis of HR, who fears that the new hire has certain unreformed old-school Afrikaaner ways of thinking. It doesn't help when Doctor Smith-Rhodes protests that one of her best friends is black. This is true, but from somebody with a South African accent sounds suspicious.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Arguably Leslie Winkle, who is distrusted by both Bernadette and Pennynote  and who makes unsubtle attempts to get off with Ponder Stibbons.
  • Stupid Crooks: The Thieves' Guild trainees from Chirm who attempt to mug Penny, Johanna and Sharon Higgins. To elaborate a bit, Penny is a part-time Action Girl, Johanna is an Assassin and a Watchwoman (dressed and identified as such), and Sharon is one of Lord Vetinari's Dark Clerks. Their teacher, Steffi Gibbet, can only exasperatedly chide them for their idiocy.
  • Time Machine: The Travelling Engine is one such.
  • Turtle Power: Raj the devout Hindu believes absolutely in Great A'Tuin the world-turtle. It's the founding point of Hindu cosmology, after all. However, Dr Koothrapali the academic cosmologist has difficulties fitting the Discworld into the standard Hertzsprung-Russell curve.
  • Unfortunate Names: When sorting out a little problem with would-be street muggers, Johanna encounters members of the Los Angeles Police Department called Krupke, Dibble and Captain Trunk. Apparently there is also an Inspector Columbo in the murder squad, and a mounted policeman called Officer McLeod.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: the Assassins who are guiding visitors from Caltech to the Discworld do this when crossing the magical portal/Einstein-Bosen Bridgenote  that directly links Caltech and Unseen University. They don't have to do the flying forward rolls in mid-air. It just looks cool. And Assassins are hardwired to act cool.
  • Values Dissonance: invoked There is a clash of cultures between Earth and the Discworld. While watching Lord of the Rings. Ponder and Johanna cannot help but think in terms of real Dwarves, Elves and Werewolves as they are known on the Discworld. This confuses Sheldon and the gang. Johanna (and Ponder) also express the common sense notion that Aragorn should give up the big dreams and take a nice steady job with a pension plan, like Captain of the Watch in a city somewhere.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Johanna to Ponder; Penny to Leonard.
  • Virtual Soundtrack: Available on the author's account on YouTube, unless it has been deleted. Search for YT user Pragmatist23.
  • Walking Armoury: Johanna. It takes her quite a long time to divest herself of her weaponry, much to the discomfort of Penny and Bernadette. note 
  • White Gangbangers: The expat South Africans Johanna meets in Pasadena. To her horror she realises they are stuck in The Apartheid Era, but not before a certain Ms. Janine Davis has clocked her in their company. A terse interview with Caltech Human Resources follows the next day.
  • Working with the Ex: Leslie Winkle is this for Howard and Leonard.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: As the days and weeks pass in Roundworld, Johanna wonders about how to explain returning to Ankh-Morpork, in winter, several apparent minutes after she departed - with a sudden overnight Californian suntan. This is indeed remarked on when Johanna makes a flying visit home.
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