Howard (Simon Helberg) will always be better than Sheldon (Jim Parsons) as confirmed by Young Sheldon season 5. As part of the same friend group in The Big Bang Theory, the pair spent a lot of time together. For the most part, they liked the same things such as nerdy shows and comic books — but for some reason, Sheldon mocked Howard the hardest out of their small group.
Sheldon is known for being the textbook definition of a genius; he knows this and likes to rub it in every single time he gets the chance. Despite his friends being successful in their own rights, he tends to invalidate their achievements — and that’s even before he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for Super Asymmetry. Taking cheap shots against Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) lack of academic success was easy for him because she’s not as scholastically gifted. But aside from her, Sheldon also typically rags on Howard for not having a Ph.D. and being an engineer rather than studying Physics like the rest of his male pals. Over the years, Howard learned how to just scoff at the tirades, but in reality, he is much better and useful than the socially inept genius, Sheldon.
In Young Sheldon season 5, episode 3 titled “Potential Energy and Hooch on a Park Bench,” Sheldon attempts to convince Dr. Sturgis (Wallace Shawn) to return to teaching at East Texas Tech. For context, the former physics professor was hired and then fired from his dream job at the Superconducting Super Collider in Waxahachie, Texas. Demoralized, he opted to work at the local supermarket instead when he returned to Medford, which continues to baffle his mentee. Dr. Sturgis is adamant that he finds fulfillment in his new work. He explains that after decades of chasing theoreticals, he finds some sense of satisfaction doing tangible work. Dr. Sturgis is even a little turned off by the idea that working on the advancement of science doesn’t have any guarantees. One’s life work could be nothing more than a massive dead end. This argument proves that, ultimately, Howard, as an engineer, is much more useful in the real world than Sheldon is as a theoretical physicist.
Sheldon did win the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on Super Asymmetry with Amy (Mayim Bialik), which is undeniably a major accomplishment. But, their paper has no immediate practical use. They can continue to work on it and it could eventually change physics and science, in general, but as it is, its real-world impact is still limited. Howard, on the other hand, has already been able to create something of use when he built the Wolowitz Zer0-Gravity Waste Disposal System deployed on the International Space Station. In fact, he was even sent to space to fix it since he’s the only one who could do the repairs. Aside from that, he also created the telescope used in the same space station, as well as, the components for satellites and space probes. Despite Sheldon’s intellectual superiority, none of his work in CalTech thus far has amounted to something as practical and important as Howard’s inventions.
Perhaps, the reason why Sheldon always made Howard feel small in The Big Bang Theory is that he’s secretly aware of this. Dr. Sturgis’ argument against the continued exploration of scientific theories in Young Sheldon may have somehow burdened him early on. So, he hated the fact that Howard gets immediate recognition for his work as an engineer while he’s unsure if there’s really ever a point to what he does.