Sheldon Struggles in The Einstein Approximation (The Big Bang Theory, Season 3 | Episode 14)

Warning: Episode Spoilers Inside! Read at your own risk!

This episode of The Big Bang Theory, The Einstein Approximation, finds Sheldon struggling with a heady problem that devolves into a row of sleepless nights and ongoing anguish for the Caltech genius.

Soon, no one can escape Sheldon's obsessive pursuit of the answer as to "why electrons behave as if they have no mass when traveling through a graphene sheet." We all know that a graphene sheet is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a flat, atomic-thick honeycomb lattice. Common knowledge, right?

For Sheldon's quest, however, the problem is transposed into peas and lima beans stolen from Leonard and Rajesh's cafeteria lunch, arranged as electrons and carbon atoms respectively. Howard can keep his useless corn.

When lunchroom side dishes fail him, Sheldon is forced into using marbles spread across his apartment living room floor. They prove to be a slip hazard to Leonard and Penny but not a resolution to the mass-less electron puzzle.

With Sheldon still absent an explanation for the quirky electrons, Leonard and Penny find themselves roused in the middle of the night by Leonard's spooky, Joker cackling cell phone ring tone. A security guard at a local children's fun stop telephoned after encountering a possessed Sheldon chest deep in the store's ball pit of fun.

Why, you might ask? The balls are bigger, and therefore better representations of carbon atoms. You didn't really think it was just a playful fit, did you?

Sheldon's hope of finding use in the plastic "carbon" balls is dashed when Leonard arrives intent on taking him back to the apartment. The task isn't quite so easy, however, and Sheldon manages several "Bazinga!" moments as he swims through the ball pit like a flighty mole under a summer garden, occasionally popping his head above the plastic earth to announce his most recent escape.

Leonard finally succeeds in returning Sheldon home, but not in avoiding more misery. He and Penny are once again stirred from sleep, this time by Sheldon's need to confer a revelation. No, not by laying bare the solution to his graphene nightmare but with a new idea that he believes will.

Menial labor is the answer. That is to say, some ongoing occupation meant to entangle his brain's basal ganglia with mundane trivialities found in routine. A bit like Einstein at the patent office, his model for the solution to finding the solution (and source for this episode's title, The Einstein Approximation).

The next morning, Sheldon races after his Einstein-born eureka by visiting a local job service, seeking work "building monuments" and generally stupefying the clerk assigned to help him. As you might suppose, the endeavor doesn't end well.  Failure at the job service isn't enough to halt the compulsive geis possessing Sheldon, however.

Sheldon next appears, wrapped in a kitchen apron and collecting dirty dishes, as the newest bus boy at Penny's Cheesecake Factory.

Penny, naturally surprised that Sheldon was able to get the job, discovers that he merely donned himself for the role and started to work--no need for the annoyance of actually being "hired". Occupational drudgery is what Sheldon is after, not a paycheck, after all.

Ultimately, Sheldon's plan succeeds through an accident involving shattered dishes. Insight from the broken dinnerware causes him to recognize his problem electrons to be moving through the sheet as a wave, not as particles, giving him final solace for his graphene perplexity.

Or maybe not. The show hilariously ends with Sheldon and Leonard once again engaged in a midnight game of "catch me if you can" amidst the colorful plastic ball pit. Bazinga!

Don't forget to visit SheldonFan.com for more Sheldon Cooper goodies.


  1. i wanna go to my science teacher and see if she can figure out how electrons travel through a graphene sheet :D

  2. You might like to check out David Saltzberg's blog--blog of the on-staff scientist for "The Big Bang Theory"--as he breaks down the science behind the show.

    He also provides some interesting information on this particular episode and the curious qualities of graphene. It's a good read!

  3. Thank you for very good blog about Word Origin. It's very nice.

  4. FYI, Sheldon's fear of illness is not hypochondria. The correct term for the phobia of illness, sickness, disease, etc. is Nosemaphobia. Really enjoy your blog! Thank you :)

  5. did you know that the actor of sheldon cooper's sexuality is homo sexual!

  6. shut up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?!

  8. This episode is one of my favorites.