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The Big Bang Theory Episode That Should Have Killed Leonard

The Big Bang Theory is one of the few shows that implicates the mysterious world of quantum physics that most laypeople can watch without having their brains explode. Thanks to a healthy dose of comedy and clever scripting by the writing team, The Big Bang Theory makes complicated topics accessible, which probably goes a long way to explaining its imperial run at or near the top of the ratings. This propensity also makes sense from a plot perspective, since the sitcom revolves around a group of scientists as they attempt to navigate the mundane worlds of friendship and dating. 

At first glance, the show relies heavily on a few tried-and-true tropes: the differences between stereotypical men and women, the social ineptitude of nerds and geeks, and the unattainable hot girl next door (who ultimately proves attainable). Part of the series' enduring appeal, however, is the fact that these tropes are presented against a backdrop of popular science that is more-or-less accurate. That said, while the science is good, the safety protocols in place often leave a lot to be desired. As actual neuroscientist Dr. Mayim Bialik, who plays Amy Farrah Fowler, would probably tell you: Safety has to come first in the laboratory. If only Johnny Galecki had the same pedigree, maybe Leonard wouldn't have been so reckless with his laser.

Leonard shows a complete disregard for safety protocols

Laboratories have safety protocols for a reason. They're fairly standardized and meant to keep lab operators from getting injured or killed by volatile chemicals, strong magnetic fields, radiation, and powerful equipment — like, say, high-intensity laser beams. The Big Bang Theory seems to disregard these protocols whenever the story requires them to put their characters in harm's way for the sake of a joke.

Leonard's negligence is highlighted in the episode "The Meteorite Manifestation." At the beginning of the episode, Leonard is trying to show his scientist buddies his new high-powered laser. They all leave for various reasons, but Leonard turns it on anyway. All over the room are signs pointing to danger and requiring a proper procedures such as shutting the door and using the laser from outside the room, but Leonard ignores them and uses the laser while standing right next to it. According to Movie Mistakes, this shouldn't even be possible. The laser would have a kill switch that turned it off if the door was open to prevent, well, Leonard's death. There have been other times the show would've killed people if it took place in the real world, like when Sheldon throws a highly exothermic foam on Kripke in season 3 episode 9, but this is the main one that would've spelled disaster for Leonard.

You would think with the show hiring David Saltzberg, a particle physics professor from UCLA, to make sure all the science squares, they'd be able to get the safety precautions right. It's always possible this could have been an intentional oversight, however. Comedy first, science second, after all.