Inspired by the work of Peter Higgs, whose work is being considered for a Nobel Prize decades after he original published it, Sheldon begins scouring through the scientific journals of his youth, beginning with his potty training journals and moving through his nursery school years.
Toward this end, Sheldon hires a research assistant ... who also happens to be an attractive female, named Alex. When Amy discovers this, she gets highly jealous, but she quickly realizes that there isn't a danger of Sheldon having an affair with Alex. However, when Amy and Penny see Alex flirting with Leonard, Penny becomes jealous over the situation.
Meanwhile, Howard finds himself falling prey to anxiety about being in space, in part because the lack of gravity is aggravating his acid reflux. When the Russian Soyuz capsule that's supposed to bring him back to Earth is delayed, he begins to really lose it, asking Bernadette to build a rocket to mount a rescue mission. Ultimately, he requires heavy medication ... which has unfortunate side effects on his behavior.
This Episode's Science
The Higgs Boson - The episode's plot is moved forward because Sheldon is inspired by the discovery of the Higgs boson over the summer. Scientists from the Large Hadron Collider announced on July 4, 2012, that they had evidence suggesting that they had discovered the long-sought-after particle, which is a manifestation of the Higgs Field that generates mass according to the Standard Model of Particle Physics.
Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) - Alex tells Leonard that she's been around scientists her whole life, because her father is an astronomer at SETI, which Leonard identifies (unnecessarily voicing exposition that he wouldn't need to say in a real situation) as the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. This is a major concerted effort by astronomers to search space for a possible signal of alien origin.
Limbic System - While Penny is trying to understand why she's having such an emotional reaction to seeing Leonard talking (and flirting) with Sheldon's research assistant, Amy explains the neurological functions at the root of this emotional response.
Penny: [About Sheldon's pile of pre-school science notebooks, including his potty-training journal] Why do you need all this stuff?
Leonard: No, no, no!
Sheldon: I'm glad you asked! Have you ever heard of the Higgs Boson?
Penny: Of course. It's been in the news and it's a very famous boson.
Sheldon: Nice try. No, in 1964 Dr. Peter Higgs, accomplished self-promoter and physicist, he wrote a paper postulating the existence of a sub-atomic particle called a Higgs boson. Now, initially the paper was rejected, but recently he was proven right and now he's on the fast track to win a Nobel Prize.
Penny: Well, that's basically what I said.
Sheldon: The point is Higgs is being celebrated for work he did 50 years ago. So that got me thinking, maybe I've already hit upon the idea that will win me my Nobel Prize.
Leonard: I didn't know they gave a Nobel for making boom-boom in da potty.
Penny: You really think there's some kind of scientific discovery in here?
Sheldon: Well, this box only covers my work through nursery school. There's a good deal more to come. I didn't really hit my academic stride until I cut out that time suck known as playing outdoors.
Leonard: You're going to spend hours and hours combing through this stuff?
Sheldon: That's a good point. My time is much too valuable. Perhaps I should find someone to do it for me. Someone with a rudimentary understanding of science, but whose real talents lie in menial labor. [Eyes Leonard meaningfully.]
Leonard: Not gonna happen.
Sheldon: If I didn't think you could handle it, I wouldn't be asking!
Leonard: If you want help, just hire a grad student.
Penny: Maybe I can do it.
Sheldon: Really? You can assess the quality of my work? Okay, um, here, I wrote this when I was five years old. [Hands Penny a notebook.]
Penny: [Reading the cover.] A Proof That Algebraic Topology Can Never Have a Non-Self-Contradictory Set of Abelian Groups. [Hands the notebook back to Sheldon.] I'm just a blonde monkey to you, aren't I?
Sheldon: You said it, not me.
Sheldon: [Interviewing a research assistant applicant.] All right, Miss Jensen. Before we begin, may I offer you a refreshment? Water? Coffee? Tea? A marijuana cigarette?
Alex Jensen: No thanks, I'm fine.
Sheldon: Are you sure? Everyone's smoking them. I think they're the best.
Alex: I don't do drugs.
Sheldon: Excellent. That was a ruse. They aren't the best. [Taps a notebook on his desk.] Physics is the best.
Amy: I don't know how much you know about primate behavior, but Sheldon's assistant was clearly courting Leonard. Were she a mandrill, she would have bent over and displayed her brightly-colored hindquarters like a welcome mat. By the way, you try that at the junior prom, you get kicked out.
Penny: Okay, maybe she was flirting with him, but who cares? Look, I don't even know where my relationship with Leonard is right now.
Amy: So says your pre-frontal cortex, but meanwhile the limbic system of your brain is calculating that if another woman is attracted to Leonard, it must be because he's desirable.
Amy: There you have it. Pre-frontal cortex reasoning vs. limbic lust. If this were a boxing match, they might call it the "Thrilla Adjacent to the Amygdala." [Laughing] If you were a brain scientist, you'd be busting a gut right now.