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The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

by Simon Singh

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
A decent book of math concepts written by a Simpsons apologist - at times, it seems like Singh is saying you should like The Simpsons because...Uh...math!!

Interesting. Disclosure: despite that show being in its 28th season, and boasting 615 episodes as of this review, I think if I cobble together every second of every bit of The Simpsons that I have watched since it debuted as a stand-alone show after its run on The Tracy Ullman Show, it would total less than one episode. The visuals of Matt Groenig's animation invoke in me as much a visceral response as seeing the "word" ... "y'all"...in print (keying that in prompted both a mental and physical cringe). Yes. That bad.

One of the writers, David S. Cohen, says, “It’s very easy working in television to not feel good about what you do on the grounds that you’re causing the collapse of society. So, when we get the opportunity to raise the level of discussion—particularly to glorify mathematics—it cancels out those days when I’ve been writing those bodily function jokes”

In this he clearly does not understand the nature of the mathematics he by pedigree should grasp much better than he did...that is not an equation, rather an inequality, for no amount of math, blatantly obvious or surreptitious, inserted into the plethora of episodes can forgive even one of the bodily function jokes. Singh recounts the math resumes of so many of the writers of that and the spawn show Futurama. Work is work and I guess there aren't that many jobs in math that can pay like a sitcom writer.

So, is it a perversity that so many of the jokes are so subtle that someone has to be an über geek armed with a wikiSimpsons crowd-sourced microanalysis, or the über-über geeky patience of single stepping frame by frame in order to hopefully catch a freeze-frame grab?

Little in this book is new, but two offerings stand out, one for two reasons:
3,98712 4,36512 = 4,47212
seemingly disproves Fermat's Last Theorem, and as such is admittedly devilishly clever. But in describing it and the episode sneaking it in, Singh commits a conceptual error that screams at my senses: he says the equation of the character Homer is a “so-called near-miss solution”.

No. It is a near-hit solution. Jeez. Does that make me even more of a geek than the fans? The second new-to-me are the episode titles recounted, which vary between clever and as if the result of consultation with those responsible for the ...imaginative...names of Pokemon...

I wonder if Thomas Jefferson could cut out the Simpsons refs along the lines of his The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth? Would that make this more interesting to me? Not likely, because there is a morbid train-wreck fascination with Singh's episode cross-referencing. I suspect that math geeks might like this book on its own merits. I have no idea how non-math geek fans of the show would feel about learning of the math geekery encroaching on their baffling like of donuts and "doh!"...but it matters not. Three stars for the math. ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Amusing and very interesting for The simpsons´ fans (as myself). Further than that, it's not the best Simon Singh book. ( )
  amarcobio | Jun 22, 2014 |
Simon Singh has long been one of my favorite writers in the science and mathematics genre. His tome on Fermat's Last Theorem was the definitive account of Andrew Wile's pursuit of the elusive proof. His conciseness in word usage and ability to delve into the details of the proof without completely handcuffing the reader in the minutiae of the mathematics is a masterful display of his own thorough understanding of Fermat's Last Theorem as well as mathematics in general and the history of mathematics.

This book, while not as serious in nature is as well researched as well written as the others. The Simpsons have become hugely popular due to its irreverence. But the main attraction for me is the sense that there is a connection within the stories to things buried deep within us, a innate sense that we have an inside joke that can be shared only with those who get it. The fact that there is yet another layer of connectivity for those of us who are mathematically inclined is a delightful and welcomed surprise.
To be sure, the task is a daunting one, and I don't think Mr. Singh has completely transcended the difficulty: that is, the mathematical topics are so diverse and varied that it is impossible to keep the narrative connected without seeming too diffused. In the end, the scattered structure of the book did not matter in my enjoyment of the book. Each chapter was loosely centered around a theme, either mathematical or having to deal with the writers of the show. Mr. Singh told the terrific tales of how the creative process worked for the Simpson writers as well as illustrated the sense of whimsy and joy that comes from working on an animation series as well as working with mathematics. Some of the jokes were obscure and unless you were in the know, absolutely indecipherable, but then again, that is the attraction.

It was, a well written, well conceived, and somewhat well executed diversion the world of mathematics. ( )
  pw0327 | May 26, 2014 |
One of my favorite jokes of The Simpsons happens to be a Math joke. This is odd because I absolutely detest Mathematics. I believe it was but on this Earth just to mock me but I digress. The joke, which is discussed in this book, is when Lisa discovers that nerds actually release a pheromone via their sweat glands that negatively attract bullies.

This is a breakthrough and Lisa writes a paper about her findings. She is then invited to a big Science conference to present it. Everyone in the conference is speaking amongst themselves and Dr. Frink is trying to get everyone to quiet down. At the end of his stuttering, Frink yells out: Pi is exactly three! The audience is stunned and I, the self-proclaimed Math Hater, laughed hysterically.

It was a cute joke an universally appealing. Anybody who has been subjected to any type of Math class knows the Pi is an irrational number: 3.14159...To me, to say that Pi is exactly three was a bit blasphemous in the Math world.

This was one of the more overt jokes about Mathematics in The Simpsons but Simon Singh details all the hidden little jokes, the freeze frame gags, that have appeared over The Simpsons 24 year, and counting, span. The reason: many of the writers have bachelors, Masters, and PhDs in Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science, and other like degrees. They have written research papers for respected journals, they have low Erdos numbers, and they have even started a Math club where they discussed everything math related and present papers.

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets was an awesome read. I feel it was a spiritual successor to Stephen Hawking's And God Created the Intergers. Hawking spoke about the most famous Mathematicians and how their contributions helped the field of Mathematics grow and prosper.

Singh, conversely, speaks about the lesser known Mathematicians and formulas. Lesser known to those outside of the Math circle. Like the significance of the number 1729 that appears many times in Futurama, explainations of binary code and cryptography, and narcisstic numbers which I had no idea existed.

Singh does a sort of good job explaining the math definitions and various formulas for the laymen to understand. Personally, I felt he got to boggled down in all of the technical jargon but when he explained the history of a certain part of Mathematics in his little anecdotes, he did that beautifully. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
One of my favorite jokes of The Simpsons happens to be a Math joke. This is odd because I absolutely detest Mathematics. I believe it was but on this Earth just to mock me but I digress. The joke, which is discussed in this book, is when Lisa discovers that nerds actually release a pheromone via their sweat glands that negatively attract bullies.

This is a breakthrough and Lisa writes a paper about her findings. She is then invited to a big Science conference to present it. Everyone in the conference is speaking amongst themselves and Dr. Frink is trying to get everyone to quiet down. At the end of his stuttering, Frink yells out: Pi is exactly three! The audience is stunned and I, the self-proclaimed Math Hater, laughed hysterically.

It was a cute joke an universally appealing. Anybody who has been subjected to any type of Math class knows the Pi is an irrational number: 3.14159...To me, to say that Pi is exactly three was a bit blasphemous in the Math world.

This was one of the more overt jokes about Mathematics in The Simpsons but Simon Singh details all the hidden little jokes, the freeze frame gags, that have appeared over The Simpsons 24 year, and counting, span. The reason: many of the writers have bachelors, Masters, and PhDs in Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science, and other like degrees. They have written research papers for respected journals, they have low Erdos numbers, and they have even started a Math club where they discussed everything math related and present papers.

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets was an awesome read. I feel it was a spiritual successor to Stephen Hawking's And God Created the Intergers. Hawking spoke about the most famous Mathematicians and how their contributions helped the field of Mathematics grow and prosper.

Singh, conversely, speaks about the lesser known Mathematicians and formulas. Lesser known to those outside of the Math circle. Like the significance of the number 1729 that appears many times in Futurama, explainations of binary code and cryptography, and narcisstic numbers which I had no idea existed.

Singh does a sort of good job explaining the math definitions and various formulas for the laymen to understand. Personally, I felt he got to boggled down in all of the technical jargon but when he explained the history of a certain part of Mathematics in his little anecdotes, he did that beautifully. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
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"Simon Singh, author of the bestsellers Fermat's Enigma, The Code Book, and The Big Bang, offers fascinating new insights into the celebrated television series The Simpsons: That the show drip-feeds morsels of number theory into the minds of its viewers--indeed, that there are so many mathematical references in the show, and in its sister program, Futurama, that they could form the basis of an entire university course. Recounting memorable episodes from "Bart the Genius" to "Homer3," Singh brings alive intriguing and meaningful mathematical concepts--ranging from the mathematics of pi and the paradox of infinity to the origin of numbers and the most profound outstanding problems that haunt today's generation of mathematicians. In the process, he illuminates key moments in the history of mathematics, and introduces us to The Simpsons' brilliant writing team--the likes of David X. Cohen, Al Jean, Jeff Westbrook, and Stewart Burns, all of whom have various advanced degrees in mathematics, physics, and other sciences. Based on interviews with the writers of The Simpsons and replete with images from the shows, facsimiles of scripts, paintings and drawings, and other imagery, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets will give anyone who reads it an entirely new insight into the most successful show in television history"--… (more)

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