Friday, November 7, 2014

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh




Why I Read It: Interesting intersection of my passions.

Summary: The true meaning of The Simpsons is finally revealed.

My Thoughts: I think I'm geekier than even I have ever thought.

Now, I'm no mathemagician (probably the only math joke that the author overlooked researching math references in the history of The Simpsons TV series), but I do enjoy me a good formula  or two. I love big spreadsheets, I dig charts, I seek trends. There's nothing about math in its many, many forms that I don't like.

I think, perhaps, that's why I have always loved The Simpsons.

It turns out that though there have been books written about The Simpsons and philosophy, theology and more, the true meaning lies in its mathematical constructs. And this is no joke. Many of the writers over the years have held PhDs in math-related fields. They've worked hard to drop math jokes into the episodes, sometimes knowing they were way over the heads of the general viewing public.

Simon Singh's book is one that provides us with that next layer of understanding, almost the behind-the-scenes peek, of how math is inserted into the show. It gives us a few of those freeze frame moments, when we say, "Wait a minute - that equation that just flew by Homer as he was walking in the dreaded 3rd dimension - was it random and meaningless, or was there something to it?" Usually, there was purpose behind it.

The book slides through The Simpsons and right into Matt Groening's other master television creation, Futurama, which, being based in the distant future, is depicted as a world in which math and science are king, but will that be the case, with today's learning trends? I guess that's a debate for another blog. But there's a reason why Madison Cube Garden is such a cool and funny reference. Only geeks like the writers of the show would take the "square" in Madison Square Garden as the literal shape, and figure out what the next geometric configuration should be.

So whether it's Lisa practicing sabremetrics, Home spouting theorems while wearing Henry Kissinger's glasses, or Futurama dropping BASIC language into background scenery, the math you see is not only real, it's going deeper than you think. Grab a seat, cut yourself a slice of pi, and enjoy this fantastical mathematical journey!

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