'The Big Bang Theory' Brings Bitcoin To Prime Time Comedy

The folks that created The Big Bang Theory included a clever plot device: making the main characters scientists. In the world of television comedy, it doesn't matter whether they are physicists or engineers or neurobiologists. They can offer a gateway into anything even remotely scientific, including the still little-known world of cryptocurrency and its rockstar, Bitcoin.

In the promo for next week's new episode, "The Bitcoin Entanglement," it's revealed that, some years ago, the guys took a break from eating takeout and playing video games long enough to mine Bitcoin. For the uninitiated, Bitcoin is a form of digital currency built on a specific kind of open-ledger computer program called blockchain. As a peer-to-peer network, it's the blockchain itself that confirms transactions and not an external authority like a bank.

As explained by Investopedia, Bitcoin mining is the process of confirming transactions on the ledger and solving a challenging puzzle. Miners who complete a block receive the transaction fees and are rewarded with Bitcoins, adding new coins to the system. Eventually, once 21 million Bitcoin are created, miners will only receive transaction fees as an incentive.

While at one time, such as in the mythical past of The Big Bang Theory, it was possible to mine Bitcoin using a home PC, it's now incredibly competitive and largely the domain of mining pools using specialized software. CNBC reported in August that the shift from novice miners to larger operations happened in 2013 when a Chinese company made the first application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC) chip cards that multiplied mining speed by 50 times.

In that August 2017 article, CNBC said Bitcoin had reached an all-time high of USD $3,025 in June, up from a price of about 6 cents in 2010. The rapidly rising price of Bitcoin means that not only that article, but The Big Bang Theory episode, is wildly out of date. In the promo, Howard marvels that one Bitcoin is worth USD $5,000. According to CoinDesk, Bitcoin was inching closer to USD $9,000 on November 26, 2017, less than a week before the show is scheduled to air.

But it hasn't been a steady climb for the cryptocurrency. CNBC noted earlier this month that Bitcoin suffered a decline of about 40 percent, dropping from USD $5,000 to about USD $3,000 over the course of two weeks in September. Bitcoin is terribly risky, almost entirely unregulated, and subject to immense speculation. So it makes sense that the guys from The Big Bang Theory may decide to cash in on their old Bitcoin -- if they can find it, which may be the episode's central conflict according to the promo -- instead of sitting tight, waiting for the price to go higher.

Sitting tight, however, seems to be the more common approach for real-world holders of Bitcoin. According to a survey this fall by LendEDU of Bitcoin holders, only 32.62 percent had sold some of their Bitcoin since starting to invest in the currency. On average, current Bitcoin investors will only sell when the price reaches $196,165.79.

But on The Big Bang Theory, it seems Raj wants to buy a tiger, so he wants his fiat currency right now, as seen in the promo below.

The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays on CBS.

[Featured image by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images]