After learning Sheldon went behind their backs to work with the military again, Leonard and Howard say Sheldon is like Thomas Edison, taking credit for others' ideas, while they are more like Nikola Tesla. Leonard and Howard bring in Barry Kripke to help create a better idea than Sheldon's, but Kripke goes to the military himself, cutting all three of them out. Meanwhile, Bernadette fears Ruchi is trying to steal her projects at work while she is on maternity leave and enlists Raj to spy on her. Though he finds proof that Ruchi may be stealing from Bernadette, Raj tries to defend Ruchi like a boyfriend would, pointing out Bernadette's hypocrisy as she would most likely have stolen from other people's projects as well. Ruchi is not happy about this and promptly dumps Raj.
Sara Gilbert as Leslie Winkle (recurring season 1, starring season 2, guest seasons 3, 9): A physicist who works in the same lab as Leonard. In appearance, she is essentially Leonard's female counterpart and has conflicting scientific theories with Sheldon. Leslie has casual sex with Leonard and later Howard. Gilbert was promoted to a main cast member during the second season but resumed guest star status because producers could not come up with enough material for the character. Gilbert returned to The Big Bang Theory for its 200th episode.
In 2010, Leonard, Howard, and Raj mined a lot of Bitcoin, now worth thousands of dollars, but left Sheldon out due to his fear of tax implications. Flashbacks are shown of how the Bitcoin ended up on an old laptop of Leonard's, which Penny gave to her old boyfriend Zack after she and Leonard broke up. In 2017, Leonard and Penny retrieve the computer from Zack, who first shows them a video of a drunken Penny apologizing for breaking up with Leonard. The Bitcoin is not found on the laptop. Sheldon had moved it to a flash drive on Leonard's keychain to teach the guys a lesson, but Leonard lost the keychain years ago. A final flashback to 2013 shows Stuart discovering the flash drive, which he decides to erase and sell for $10.
Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter: An experimental physicist with an IQ of 173, who received his PhD when he was 24 years old. Leonard is a nerd who loves video games, comic books, and Dungeons & Dragons. Leonard is the straight man of the series, in which he shares an apartment in Pasadena, CA, with Sheldon. Leonard is smitten with his new neighbor Penny when they first meet, and they eventually marry.
As the theme of the show revolves around science, many distinguished and high-profile scientists have appeared as guest stars on the show. Famous astrophysicist and Nobel laureate George Smoot had a cameo appearance in the second season. Theoretical physicist Brian Greene appeared in the fourth season, as well as astrophysicist, science populizer, and physics outreach specialist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who also appeared in the twelfth season.
Penny runs into her ex-boyfriend Zack, who has gotten rich from selling his company and married a similarly dim-witted woman named Marissa. Meeting with Leonard and Penny, they say Zack is infertile and ask to pay Leonard as a sperm donor so they can have a baby. Leonard is flattered, but Penny finds it creepy. Leonard says that since Penny decided she did not want to have children, he should be allowed to help another couple with this issue. Sheldon advises him to think about the emotional toll this could have on him. Leonard says he will not do it if Penny objects; Penny says she will support whatever decision Leonard makes. Meanwhile, Raj tries to get Anu back but she points out he just wanted to be married like his friends. Raj points out that Anu is similarly looking for a quick marriage. He admits to Anu that he really likes her and they decide to start their relationship as just dating.
He's since become attached to a handful of Netflix projects, appearing in their recent Ted Bundy film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, executive producing mentee Ryan O'Connell's autobiographical comedy series Special, and signing on to reprise his role in their movie version of Ryan Murphy's Broadway production of The Boys in the Band, due on the streaming service in 2020.
After Sheldon reminds the guys about the time they mined Bitcoin without him, the guys go on a quest to find their suddenly valuable missing cryptocurrency. They realize the currency is on a laptop which Leonard gave to Penny when they dating, which she then gave to her ex-boyfriend Zack. After Leonard and Penny go to Zack's apartment, he shows them a seven-year-old video that Penny recorded on the laptop soon after she broke up with Leonard. Leonard is touched by the video which shows a drunk Penny lamenting the break-up of her relationship with him.
Sheldon and Amy recruit Leonard to research and write citations for their paper on super asymmetry. While working in the campus library, Leonard and Raj discover a Russian paper that asserts that super asymmetry has no merit. Reluctantly, Leonard shares the news with Sheldon and Amy, who fall into a depressive state and do not leave their apartment. Meanwhile, Bernadette asks Denise to teach her how to play Fortnite: Battle Royale so that she can beat Howard. Despite losing to Howard in a rematch after all of her training, Bernadette revels in beating a disinterested Penny.
Amy and Howard begin collaborating on a neuroprosthetics project, upsetting Sheldon and Raj, who feel they are not spending as much time with them. When they seek solace with an annoyed Bernadette, she exploits the situation to trick Sheldon into doing Howard's chores. Penny successfully employs the approaches recommended in one of Bernadette's parenting books to deal with Sheldon, but Leonard believes she is coddling Sheldon too much. Sheldon and Raj resolve the issue of missing their significant others by spending time together.