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The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

Simon Singh


A good book for relaxing on a plane. The book is structured by highlighting and explaining some of the hidden jokes in The Simpsons that derive from the writers' unexpectedly mathematical and scientific backgrounds. Actually the book is broader than its title suggests, as it also covers The Simpsons's sister show (and my own favourite) Futurama.

There are some excellent explanations of some excellent gags. Without giving too much away, perhaps the most surreal moment is where a plot device for an episode of Futurama requires the writers to develop a new theorem in order to get the storyline to work out: the only known case of a sitcom giving rise to new mathematics.

The most reflective chapter is the "Eπlogue", where the author explores with the writers whether they have any regrets leaving their mathematical careers behind for comedy. David X. Cohen, who became the main writer on Futurama, muses whether he's had more influence in spreading science as a writer than he would have had as a researcher. I think this is a noble observation, and one that can be made about other "entertainers in science" such as Jorge Cham of PhD Comics: no matter how successful they might have been as scientists, their work has inspired a generation.

3/5. Finished 20 February 2014.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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