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The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets

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Kate Francis

on 25 August 2014

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Transcript of The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets

Covers many topics
Explains concepts in a way that is understandable, even for non-mathematicians
Shows that mathematics is relatable
Has humor and is easy to read
If kids are interested in The Simpsons, then you as a teacher can use this book to engage them
Has mathematical, historical, and pop-culture references
How it Relates to Education
The goal of the author, Simon Singh, is to prove to readers that the writers of

have incorporated many mathematical ideas and concepts into their episodes.
Simon Singh
The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets
, a
, and a
(it is said) were holidaying in
. Glancing from a train window, they observed a
black sheep
in the middle of a field. "
How interesting,
" observed the
, "
all Scottish sheep are black
!" To which the
responded, "
No, no!
Scottish sheep are black
!" The
gazed heavenward in supplication, and then intoned, "
In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep,
at least one side of which is black
Here's a joke...
Jokes are a fun way of engaging students and making what they are learning "fun."
If a student is interested in the Simpsons but struggles with math, this can be a way to engage him and capture their attention.
For students who know The Simpsons, putting the characters' names into story problems could help them visualize and answer the question better.
Young children might have trouble reading through the mathematics
Reading skill level may be to high for some younger students
Some parents may not approve of "The Simpsons" for their children to watch.
Singh explains that books have been written about how the underlying meaning of
The Simpsons
is philosophical, psychological, theological, and political. He argues that the fundamental core is actually mathematics. However, based on the information provided by the book, while we see how heavily math is incorporated into some episodes of
The Simpsons
, we do not agree that mathematics is the "primary subtext" of the entire show.
Here's another joke...
Joke 1 Q: What did the number 0 say to the number 8? 2 points
A: Nice belt!

Joke 2 Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Prism who
Prism is where convex go! 3 points

Joke 3 Q: What is the volume of a pizza of thickness a and radius z?
A: pi.z.z.a 3 points

Joke 4 If the Teletubbies are a product of time and money, then:
Teletubbies=Time x Money
But, Time=Money
Teletubbies=Money x Money
Money is the root of all evil
Teletubbies =Money
Money = square root(evil)

Money= Evil
Teletubbies=Evil 4 points

Joke 5 Q: How did the mathematician reply when he was asked how his pet parrot died
A: Polynomial. Polygon. 2 points

Joke 6 Q: Why do computer scientists get Halloween and Christmas mixed up?
A: Because Oct. 31=Dec.25
2 points

Fermat's Last Theorem
Pythagorean Theorem
Rubber sheet geometry
According to the rules of topology, a circle is identical to a square
A is identical to R, but A is not identical to H
You can stretch and bend shapes as much as you would like, but you cannot cut or glue.
In the same episode, Homer draws a donut being transformed into a sphere. By the rules of topology, this is impossible.
Homer says, "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side."
Although someone said in the clip that his equation is about right triangles instead of isosceles triangles, this character was incorrect (the book gives proofs).
As you can see, much of the mathematical humor that comes from this show consists of incorrect mathematical statements.
"...All these philosophers, psychologists, theologians, and politicians have missed the primary subtext of the world's favorite TV series. The truth is that many of the writers of The Simpsons are deeply in love with numbers, and their ultimate desire is to drip-feed morsels of mathematics into the subconscious minds of viewers. In other words, for more than two decades we have been tricked into watching an animated introduction to everything from calculus to geometry, from pi to game theory, and from infinitesimals to infinity" (Singh, pg. 6)
Episode: Bye Bye Nerdie
We know that pi is equal to 3.1415...
This book points out how saying that pi is equal to 3 can catch some peoples attention as shown in this episode.
Reference to Indiana Pi bill, introduced by Edwin G. Goodwin, which we learned about in class.
The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace (Episode 2 of Season 10) contains one of the most mathematical scenes in the Simpsons. The episode focuses on Homer, who has a midlife crisis, and becomes determined to become a famous inventor like Thomas Edison.

During one scene, we catch a glimpse of Homer's chalkboard.
Fermat's Last Theorem:
no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation a^n + b^n = c^n
"Cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet"
(I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain)
Another math reference. This time using the infinity symbol to represent how Lisa has many possibilities.

Hilbert's Hotel is also referenced.
A duck walks into a drugstore and says, "I would like some chapstick please," and the druggist asks, "Will you be paying cash for that?" and the duck says, "No, put the chapstick on my bill."
Full transcript