Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Simpsons' winning formula revealed

The Simpsons are unlikely advocates for the study of mathematics, it has been claimed

It is loved worldwide for its humour but The Simpsons also contains more hardcore maths than most people realise, an academic has suggested.

The hit TV show contains more maths-related gags than any other prime time TV programme, according to Simon Singh, an author who specialises in writing about scientific and mathematical topics.

He said that the jokes, which usually appear in background shots or in a single frame, are mainly the work of two of the show's writers, Mike Reiss and Al Jean.

The duo, who have worked on the series since it began, first met at Harvard University.

"They put maths in the show as a way of expressing their love of maths," Mr Singh said.

Speaking at the Sunday Times Festival of Education at Wellington College in Berkshire, he said that over the years, numerous mathematical concepts have appeared in the show.

One episode, about Lisa running a baseball team, contained a shot of a book bearing Euler's equation Mr Singh said, which is seen by many mathematicians as one of the most beautiful equations because it contains a number of key maths elements including zero and one.

The first ever episode of the show included a joke about calculus, he added.

And while he is not known for his intelligence, Homer Simpson has also played his part in subtly imparting some mathematical knowledge.

In an episode where he attempting to be an inventor, Homer is seen scribbling a number of equations on a blackboard, one of which relates to the mass of the Higgs boson.

Mr Singh also told the festival that the name of Springfield's cinema, the Googolplex, is a nod to the mathematical term "googol" - the definition of 10 raised to the power of 100.

He said: "It's never been a secret. The writers are very proud of what they've done. They've hidden the maths away because they don't want to scare people but they're really happy for people to find out about it."

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