The Big Bang Theory

The Einstein Approximation

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The Einstein Approximation
Einstein Approximation
Sheldon working at his whiteboard.
The Big Bang Theory episode
Season 3, Episode 14
February 1, 2010
Guest star(s)
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski,
Yeardley Smith as Sandy
& Kevin Brief as Glenn
Erin Pickett as
Restaurant Patron
Episode guide

"The Bozeman Reaction"

"The Large Hadron Collision"
Season guide

Season 2

Season 4

"The Einstein Approximation" is the fourteenth episode of the third season of the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. This episode first aired on Monday, February 1, 2010.


Sheldon's search for the answer to a physics problem (Why electrons behave as if they have no mass when traveling through a graphene sheet?) keeps him awake for several days and he becomes obsessed with trying to solve it acting crazier than normal.

Extended PlotEdit


Leonard and Penny in the morning.

The episode begins with Sheldon trying to engage his superior colliculus by quickly whipping his head back and forth at a whiteboard full of equations to create a fleeting peripheral image. Penny and Leonard walk out, and Sheldon reveals that he's been up all night working on his problem. Sheldon tries other methods of trying to understand, but eventually takes Leonard's advice of starting fresh by throwing the whiteboard out the window and consequently causing a car crash.

That day, at the cafeteria during lunch, Sheldon tries to build a physical diagram of his problem by using Raj's Lima beans and Leonard's peas, but to no avail as Raj soon takes a large handful of his Lima beans back. Raj tells Leonard and Howard about Disco Night at the Moonlight Roller Rink in Glendale and asks if they want to come. To Raj's disappointment, Leonard and Howard immediately decide to bring Bernadette and Penny to make it a double date. Raj decides not to come.

When Leonard, Howard, Penny and Bernadette return to the apartment after roller skating, they find Sheldon sitting on a stool with hundreds of marbles all over the floor, still stuck in the problem. Both Leonard and Penny slip on the marbles falling on their rears. Bernadette realizes that Sheldon is overtired, and makes him go to bed by verbally intimidating him, and reminding him that a lack of REM sleep leads to impaired cognitive function.



In the middle of the night, Leonard and Penny are awakened to a phone call from a security guard at a local mall. When Leonard arrives at the mall, he finds Sheldon in a ball pit building carbon atoms out of plastic balls. When Leonard tells Sheldon that they have to go home, Sheldon immediately hides under the balls, leading to Leonard chasing him through the ball pit with difficulty. Sheldon keeps popping up and shouting "Bazinga!"

A few hours afterwards, Leonard and Penny are asleep again, but Sheldon wakes them up and tells them that his solution to his math problem is working in a menial job, much like how Albert Einstein did when he was working at the Patent Office in Switzerland and discovered special relativity.


Sheldon has his epiphany.

The next day, Sheldon goes to a job center and tries to apply for several menial jobs, but quickly angers the clerk he talks to. Sheldon is eventually removed from the center by security, and decides to work as a busboy without pay with Penny and Bernadette at the Cheesecake Factory. Sheldon quickly realizes that being a waiter is more menial than being a busboy, and quickly trades positions, excelling at waiting. Although he is never hired, the restaurant appears happy to let him continue with his work (presumably as he is not asking for pay). Later on, after taking Leonard, Howard and Raj's orders, Sheldon accidentally drops a pile of plates, but realizes that he's been looking at his problem all wrong and that the electrons move through the graphene in waves, and rushes off to solve his problem, leaving Penny to take care of his mess.

Eventually, Raj pressures Howard to go disco roller-skating with him, much to Raj's joy and Howard's annoyance.


  • "Like Sheldon, the writers focus pretty simple-mindedly on one plot and for someone like me who appreciates logic the results are good. Instead of saying he has tried everything to find the answer, Sheldon really does try everything. He uses food, he uses marbles, he uses a ball pit, he uses a white board. The writers should get a lot of credit for the effort they put into their plots...Yet another fun episode exploring a clever comic creation and his interaction with the world." - The TV Critic's Review
  • As a physicist with a doctorate, Sheldon should not be trying to figure out that electrons move as not only matter but also waves for an entire episode as this simple concept is learned in high school level physics or chemistry. This shows an incongruous understanding of the main subject matter by both Sheldon's peers, including Bernadette, and the writers of the show. For those not even remotely versed in science, this episode makes perfect sense.
  • IMDb user reviews


  • Title Reference: Sheldon's attempt at solving his problem by working in a menial job, comparing it to Albert Einstein's discoveries while working at the Swiss patent office.
  • Chuck Lorre's vanity card [1]
  • This episode was watched by 15.51 million people with a rating of 5.4 (adults 18-49).
  • This episode aired in Canada on February 1, 2010 with 1.832 million viewers and a weekly ranking of #14.
  • Episode transcript [2]

Costume NotesEdit

BGD Gray Dots BDG Red/Navy stripe

The BDG line from Urban Outfitters is discontinued.


Collaborative physics: String theory finds a bench mate: The exotic theory of everything could shed light on the behavior of real materials, thanks to an unexpected mathematical connection with condensed matter physics. The scientists trying to bridge these disciplines are motivated by the discovery of a startling coincidence: suitably interpreted, the equations of string theory can be a powerful tool for analyzing some exotic states of matter, ranging from super-hot balls of quarks and gluons to ultracold atoms. For the time being, the advantage to both partners is clear. String theory, long criticized for having lost touch with reality, gets experimental credibility. And condensed matter physics, never the media darling that string theory has been, gets a new mathematical tool — and a chance to bask in new-found glamor.

  • At his official 2010 Nobel Prize acceptance lecture in Stockholm, Dr. Konstantin Novoselov showed a scene from this episode. Novoselov's lecture is titled GRAPHENE: MATERIALS IN THE FLATLAND. A few episodes ago, Sheldon took us in his mind to the fictional country of Flatland, where only two dimensions of motion are allowed. Not at all fictional, graphene is a carbon Flatland with electrons fixed to move only in its two-dimensional world. Lacking that one extra dimension turns most of the rules of materials on its head.
  • Sheldon's interviewer at the County of Los Angeles is played by Yeardley Smith, famous for the role of Lisa, who like Sheldon is an intellectual in The Simpsons. The Simpsons was referred to in "The Grasshopper Experiment". Likewise, TBBT was lampooned in one episode of "The Simpsons".
  • Sheldon says, "I asked myself, what is the most mind-numbing, pedestrian job conceivable? Three answers came to mind: a toll booth attendant, an Apple Store genius, and what Penny does." In "The Porkchop Indeterminacy", he similarly ridiculed professions including toll booth attendants, complaining, "My God! Why don’t you just tell them I’m a toll taker at the Golden Gate Bridge? Rocket scientist, how humiliating."
  • One of the episodes in which Sheldon says "Bazinga!".
  • Sheldon says he doesn't want to be a toll booth attendant because he doesn't want to touch other people's coins (presumably due to his germophobia). However, in The Cheesecake Factory, he doesn't seem to bother touching glasses and plates which other people touch, eat and drink from. Also, due to the unsanitary conditions commonly associated with ball pits in children's play areas, it seem unlikely that Sheldon would ever enter, let alone swim around in one.
  • Sheldon states that Penny's snoring is worse when she is on her back. In "The Big Bran Hypothesis", he suggested she might have sleep apnea.
  • The roller skating scene at the end of the episode is followed by an outtake of the ball pit scene, showing Jim Parsons unsuccessfully trying to hold back laughter while saying "Bazinga!" The roller skating rink doesn't completely follow the remainder of the story so it was probably the original scene planned for after the commercial break and the extra ball pit footage was added for time or humorous content.
  • The song played at the roller rink was "One Night in Bangkok" by Murray Head.
  • More bazingas were used than any other episode. The word is used 10 times in total, and that's no "Bazinga".
  • Kevin Brief twice played a security guard on The Big Bang Theory.




Penny: Have you been up all night?

Sheldon: Is it morning?

Penny: Yes...

Sheldon: Then I've been up all night.

Sheldon: I can't see it! It just won't coalesce!

Leonard: Maybe you need a fresh start.

Sheldon: You're right. [picks up whiteboard, drops it out apartment window causing a car crash, and takes a blank one from his desk] It was a great idea, Leonard. Thank you.

Sandy: So, Mr. Cooper, you're looking for a job.

Sheldon: A menial job. Like yours.

Sandy: Why, thank you for noticing. I'm menial employee of the month. Do you have a particular field in mind?

Sheldon: I do. For thousands of years the lowest classes of the human race have spent their lives laboring to erect monuments under the lash of their betters, until finally they dropped down and became one with the dust through which they trudged. Do you have anything like that?

Sandy: No.

Sheldon: Shouldn't you check your database?

Sandy [pretends to type on her keyboard]: No.

Sheldon: You didn't really type.

Sandy: I didn't really have to. So, how about construction?

Sheldon: Oh, that would be good! Sawing, hammering, eating out of a lunch pail as my working-class fellows and I sit perched precariously on a girder high above the metropolis.

Sandy: No, no. This is putting up sheet rock at a housing project in Rosemead.

Sheldon: I could do that.

Sandy: Good.

Sheldon: One question?

Sandy: Yes?

Sheldon: What's sheet rock?

Sandy: ...Moving on. How about doing deliveries for a florist?

Sheldon: That seems acceptable.

Sandy: Do you have your own car?

Sheldon: I don't drive.

Sandy: Of course you don't. Mr. Cooper, let me just ask you a question. What was your last job?

Sheldon: Senior theoretical particle physicist at Caltech, focusing on M-theory, or, in layman's words, string theory.

Sandy: I see. Just give me a second. [Walks off-screen] SECURITY!

Leonard: Hey, Shelly. What you doing?
Sheldon: Size ratio was all wrong. Couldn’t visualize it. Needed bigger carbon atoms.
Leonard: Sure, sure. How did you get into this place?
Sheldon: Back door has a five-pin tumbler system, single-circuit alarm. Child’s play. You can start sorting protons and neutrons while I build carbon atoms.
Leonard: No, I don’t think so. We need to go home now.
Sheldon: But I’m still working.
Leonard: If you don't come out of there, I'm going to have to drag you out.
Sheldon: You can try, but you'll never catch me. [He disappears under the balls]
Leonard: For god's sakes. Sheldon, come here!
Sheldon: [popping his head out] Bazinga. [Disappears, pops up in another place] Bazinga. [And again] Bazinga. [And again] Bazinga. [And again] Bazinga.


  • Sheldon in the ball pit.
  • Surprised at the crockery pattern.
  • Sheldon in the ball pit.
  • Isolating the coefficients.
  • Watching Sheldon in the morning.
  • Go to bed, buddy.
  • Sheldon.
  • Raj at disco skating.
  • Bernadette.
  • You don't work here Sheldon.
  • Sheldon serving at the Cheesecake Factory.
  • Sheldon in the ball pit.
  • Chuck Lorre Productions, #275.

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