When Howard gets an opportunity to perform maintenance on Stephen Hawking's wheelchair while he's visiting to present some lectures, he initially plans to take Sheldon along to meet Hawking. However, when Sheldon once again belittles him because of his lack of a doctorate (recall that Howard has "only" a master's degree in Engineering) he changes his mind and instead begins tormenting Sheldon with a series of impossible and annoying tasks, such as shining all of his belt buckles, wearing a French maid's outfit, and taking his mother out for a dress fitting.
All of the trials must be worth it, however, because Howard does eventually give Hawking a paper Sheldon's written on the Higgs Boson and Hawking is impressed enough to want to meet him. Sheldon does finally meet the real Stephen Hawking in the final scene. Hawking commends him on his scientific work, but identifies an arithmetic error in the paper. At which point, Sheldon faints.
This Episode's Science
Stephen Hawking: The plot of this episode centers around Stephen Hawking visiting to perform some lectures at the university. Stephen Hawking is probably the world's most renowned modern physicist. He became popular to the masses in the 1980's with the publication of his book A Brief History of Time that explained the findings of modern cosmology, including his own theoretical insights related to black holes and an insightful method to determine their entropy, which predicted that black holes would actually radiate heat, known as Hawking radiation. In the episode he is referred to as "the wheelchair dude who invented time" by Penny.
Higgs Boson: Despite his general adulation of the man, the main reason that Sheldon wants to meet Stephen Hawking is to present a new paper on that will "revolutionize humanity’s understanding of the Higgs boson particle." His theory is that the Higgs Boson is a miniature black hole accelerating backward through time. Unfortunately, the paper contained an arithmetic error early on which Hawking points out to him. "It was quite the boner," Hawking said.
Penny: Ugh. Why are you washing Howard’s man panties?
Sheldon: Because if I don’t, he won’t give my paper to Stephen Hawking. He’s a famous physicist.
Penny: Yeah, yeah, I know, he’s the wheelchair dude who invented time.
Sheldon: That’s close enough.
Penny: I don’t understand, why doesn’t Howard just introduce you to the guy?
Sheldon: Because he’s punishing me for being a, quote, condescending jerk. You don’t think I’m condescending, do you?
Sheldon: Oh, I’m sorry, condescending means…
Penny: I know what it means. And yes, you love correcting people and putting them down.
Sheldon: Au contraire. When I correct people I am raising them up. You should know, I do it for you more than anyone.
Penny: Come on, you do it to feel superior. I see that twinkle in your eye when someone says who instead of whom or thinks the moon is a planet.
Sheldon: Or Don Quixote is a book about a donkey named Hotay.
Penny: See, there it is, there’s that twinkle.
Sheldon: Well, I can’t help it. That’s an involuntary twinkle.
Penny: What do you want me to tell you, Sheldon?
Sheldon: I want you to tell me that Howard is being mean to me for no reason.
Penny: Fine, Howard is being mean to you for no reason.
Sheldon: I knew it.
Bernadette: [to Howard, on why he's mistreating Sheldon] Why are you doing that? You’re being mean to him.
Howard: He’s mean to me all the time. You’ve heard him tease me about not having a doctorate.
Bernadette: If you don’t want to get teased about that, get a doctorate. [Pause.] I have one. They’re great!
Howard: Oh, come on, the man torments me. I’m just letting him have a little taste of his own medicine.
Bernadette: It’s not the same thing. Sheldon doesn’t know when he’s being mean because the part of his brain that should know is getting a wedgie from the rest of his brain.
Sheldon: Professor Hawking, it’s an honour and a privilege to meet you, sir.
Hawking: I know.
Sheldon: I want to thank you for taking time to see me.
Hawking: My pleasure. I enjoyed reading your paper very much. You clearly have a brilliant mind.
Sheldon: I know.
Hawking: Your thesis that the Higgs boson is a black hole accelerating backwards through time is fascinating.
Sheldon: Thank you. It just, it came to me one morning in the shower.
Hawking: That’s nice. Too bad it’s wrong.
Sheldon: What do you mean wrong?
Hawking: You made an arithmetic mistake on page two. It was quite the boner.
Sheldon: No, no, th-th-th-that can’t be right. I-I don’t make arithmetic mistakes.
Hawking: Are you saying I do?
Sheldon: Oh, no, no, no, of course not. It’s just, I was thinking… Oh, gosh, golly, I made a boo-boo, and I gave it to Stephen Hawking. [Sheldon collapses into a dead faint.]
Hawking: Great, another fainter.