Cosmologist Stephen Hawking made a short guest appearance in the fifth-season episode; in the eighth season, Hawking video conferences with Sheldon and Leonard, and makes another appearance in the 200th episode. In the fifth and sixth seasons, NASA astronaut Michael J. Massimino played himself multiple times in the role of Howard's fellow astronaut. Bill Nye appeared in the seventh and twelfth seasons.
In November 2016, it was reported that CBS was in negotiations to create a spin-off of The Big Bang Theory centered on Sheldon as a young boy. The prequel series, described as "a Malcolm in the Middle-esque single-camera family comedy" would be executive-produced by Lorre and Molaro, with Prady expected to be involved in some capacity, and intended to air in the 2017–18 season alongside The Big Bang Theory. The initial idea for the series came from Parsons, who passed it along to The Big Bang Theory producers. In early March 2017, Iain Armitage was cast as the younger Sheldon, as well as Zoe Perry as his mother, Mary Cooper. Perry is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who portrays Mary Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.
However, no legal action was required to end production of the other show: as soon as it became known that the show was unlicensed, the actors quit and the producers canceled it. Dmitriy Tankovich (who plays Leonard's counterpart, "Seva") said in an interview, "I'm upset. At first, the actors were told all legal issues were resolved. We didn't know it wasn't the case, so when the creators of The Big Bang Theory started talking about the show, I was embarrassed. I can't understand why our people first do, and then think. I consider this to be the rock bottom of my career. And I don't want to take part in a stolen show".
^ Kondolojy, Amanda (November 8, 2013). "Thursday Final Ratings: 'Elementary', 'Scandal', 'The Vampire Diaries', & 'The Big Bang Theory' Adjusted Up; 'The Voice', 'The Millers', 'Sean Saves the World', 'Parenthood', & 'The Michael J Fox Show' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Archived from the original on November 8, 2013. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
The men are excited that Bill Gates is visiting Penny's pharmaceutical company, although she says that she cannot bring them along. Sheldon believes that it's an April Fools' Day prank. Leonard sees what hotel Gates is staying at on Penny's schedule, so he, Raj and Howard meet him in the lobby the day before. Once Sheldon sees proof, the men twice send him to the wrong hotel as real pranks. Penny says Leonard can meet Gates for real, so he fakes being sick to avoid him. When Penny puts Gates on a video call, he recognizes Leonard from the previous night. Meanwhile, Amy is tired of Bernadette only talking about her children, so Bernadette uses her expanded parental brain to learn random science facts.
Campbell and Pemberton start a publicity tour for their Nobel campaign, including appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Caltech reaches out to previous winners, including George Smoot, Kip Thorne and Frances H. Arnold, only to find that Sheldon has offended most of them in the past. Leonard and Penny convince them to show up to the reception, only for Pemberton and Campbell to crash the party. Leonard holds Sheldon back, only for Amy to verbally snap at them. Meanwhile, with Halley scared of the dark, Stuart and Bernadette turn Howard's story from his time in outer space into the children's book: The Frightened Little Astronaut. Howard is embarrassed until Bernadette talks him into helping children and Stuart's art career by letting it be published.
Sheldon is annoyed that Amy does not have time to work on the super-asymmetry project with him so he talks President Siebert into getting her removed from her own project at the university. Amy is angry at both of them as she wants to still have her own identity outside the marriage. When confronted by Amy, Siebert apologizes to her but states that it will be difficult for the university to give her her project back. After talking with Arthur Jeffries in a dream, Sheldon apologizes to Amy and both of them talk about their fears in their marriage. Meanwhile, Raj does not want to have Howard join him in his show at the planetarium, thinking he'd just use his astronaut status to make it about himself. Raj eventually lets him join in and Raj and Howard spend the whole time complimenting each other, surprising Bernadette, Leonard and Penny.
Sheldon is still despondent over the disproving of his and Amy's theory on asymmetry. Leonard brings out a VHS tape of a pep talk that Sheldon recorded as a boy, but it turns out that his father had recorded a long-ago football game over it. Sheldon, however, is buoyed by a halftime pep talk his father gave the team, realizing he and his father had more in common than he previously thought. This causes Amy to view asymmetry and symmetry in another manner and they decide their theory may not be dead after all. Bernadette finds an old tape of Howard preparing to audition for The Magic Castle. She insists he fulfill his dream and audition with her as a coach, drawing on her beauty pageant experience. Howard eventually decides to audition his own way, and promptly botches his chances by accidentally destroying a judge's Rolex.
After the birth of Michael, Howard and Bernadette are unsure who should stay home with the kids. Howard decides to look after the kids one day to show he has what it takes to care for them. While Bernadette falls back in love with her job on a trip to the office, Howard is quickly tired and realizes he might not have what it takes to be a stay-at-home dad. Howard and Bernadette realize neither them is ready to give up their job.
On October 9, 2007, a full-length (1 minute and 45 seconds) version of the song was released commercially. Although some unofficial pages identify the song title as "History of Everything," the cover art for the single identifies the title as "Big Bang Theory Theme." A music video also was released via special features on The Complete Fourth Season DVD and Blu-ray set. The theme was included on the band's greatest hits album, Hits from Yesterday & the Day Before, released on September 27, 2011. In September 2015, TMZ uncovered court documents showing that Steven Page sued former bandmate Robertson over the song, alleging that he was promised 20% of the proceeds, but that Robertson has kept that money entirely for himself.
Sheldon needs half a billion dollars to prove his latest concept of string theory, which the University cannot afford to fund. Crowdfunding and selling some of his most valuable comic books to Stuart give him a small start. When Raj mentions gambling in Las Vegas, Sheldon goes there but is caught calculating odds by security before he can make any bets. Meanwhile, Amy takes Penny and Bernadette shopping for her wedding dress. She loves an old-fashioned one that the other girls admit that they find ugly, though Penny assures Amy she can make her own decisions about her wedding. Sheldon, however, comes home and sees Amy in the dress and loves how she looks.