Marge: Now I know you haven’t liked some of my past suggestions, like switching to the metric system.
Grampa: The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that’s the way I likes it!
-From The Simpsons episode “A Star Is Burns”
The fictional show writers on 30 Rock weren’t exactly the smartest collection of scribes. But step into the real-life writers’ room of The Simpsons and you’re likely to find a comedy genius or two—literally. That show’s writing team of David X. Cohen, Al Jean, Jeff Westbrook, and Stewart Burns all have various advanced degrees in mathematics, physics, and other sciences.
The iconic series has injected morsels of number theory into episodes since its first season—in fact, there are so many mathematical references in the show and its sister program Futurama that they could form the basis of a university course. Simon Singh’s new book, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (Bloomsbury), takes a close look at all the math among the laughs in the show. Drawing on many memorable episodes from “Bart the Genius” to “Homer3,” Singh uncovers intriguing and meaningful mathematical concepts, ranging from the mathematics of pi and the paradox of infinity to the origin of numbers and even profound problems that haunt today’s mathematicians. In the process, he illuminates key moments in the history of mathematics—and “The Simpsons”—and introduces us to show’s brilliant writing team. It all adds up to some very brainy fun.
Singh is the author of Fermat’s Enigma, The Code Book, and The Big Bang. Copies of his book will be available for signing.
Author Simon Singh talks about the ways in which the denizens of Springfield and the world of mathematics intersect.