on 18 May 2014
I like Simon Singh. I love Maths. I love The Simpsons.
For a while, this is an interesting and engaging idea, but sadly he just didn't have enough material for a whole book. I don't mind that Singh branches off into Futurama - it's from the same stable, that's fair enough, but I do mind the repetition. You know those TV programs (usually reality or makeover shows) where they start off by showing you clips of what they're about to so, then about every 10 minutes they show you what they've just done. or what's coming up? It's a bit like that.
There's good stuff here, but stretched too thin, and it starts to grate.
on 7 December 2013
Although I have not been a Simpsons fan, watched not more than half a dozen, I found this book a really good read. It is not so much about the programme, but about the mathematics and mathematicians involved. If you don't feel the beauty of mathematics, then it won't be for you. If you do, then it will be very enjoyable.
on 30 May 2015
Entertaining in parts, a laborious exercise in his own mathematical self indulgence in other parts. And there's a lot of repetition and reiteration and repeating (see what I did there) throughout the book which grates. I was surprised how many of the Simpsons creative team had arrived there from such deep mathematical (and other academic) disciplines and if you're a huge maths and Simpsons fan you'll enjoy reading this book and then thinking 'oh yeah, I remember that scene but hadn't noticed the equation'. On balance, great parts to the book but it could have been half the length.
This is Simon Singh's latest book. Previous offerings include "Fermat's Last Theorem" and "The Code Book".
Many may be quite surprised to discover that there lies embedded in The Simpsons cartoon series a chunk-full of mathematics. What is not generally known is that several of the writers on The Simpsons are in fact respectable mathematicians. These writers have been, covertly or otherwise, smuggling maths into the episodes since the very beginning of the series. It's all been part of the fun. It doesn't interfere with the plot but it is mathematically amusing.
Now somebody, author Simon Singh, has spilt the beans. Singh took the trouble of going to L.A. to meet with the show's writers for this, his latest book. He found a writing team dedicated to inserting funny mathematical gags in the Simpsons' episodes. He then joined all the dots of this phenomenon and put it all together here for the reader.
Typically, he takes an episode of the Simpsons and locates any maths in it. Then he fleshes it out by giving the background to the maths mentioned therein. And he talks about the specific writers who came up with the idea. And what their mathematical interests are.
He also writes about the Futurama series. The same writers who have worked on The Simpsons have also worked on its sister series too.
Two mathematical examples will suffice:-
1. As early as the second episode of the first season, "Bart the Genius", a mathematical joke is featured involving the derivative of (y^3 )/3, where the "^" symbol stands for "to the power of" (You will have to get in touch with your inner geek to fully appreciate the joke.) Also in this episode Maggie amusingly makes E=Mc^2 with her pile of play bricks.
2. In another episode the screen at the baseball game gives 3 different numbers for the attendance figure. These numbers just happen to be 8191, 8128, 8208. These numbers are certainly not random.
8191 is a Mersenne prime.
And 8128 is a Perfect number. (It is in fact the fourth perfect number. The preceding three are 6, 28 and 496). A Perfect number is a number whose divisors' sum equals the number itself.
For example, 6 has three divisors 1, 2 and 3. (We don't count 6, the actual number itself, as a divisor).
And 1+ 2+ 3 = 6. The next Perfect number, 28, has the divisors 1,2,4,7, and 14. Similarly 1+ 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28
Perfect numbers are quite rare - so 8128's appearance tells you something is afoot. (The next, fifth, Perfect number is eight digits long).
And the third number on the big board is 8208 - what is called a narcissistic number.
There are four digits in it - 8, 2, 0 and 8.
And 8^4 + 2^4 + 0^4 + 8^4 = 4096 + 16 + 0 + 4096 = 8208.
(Again, I'm using "^" for "to the power of". Example 8^4 = 8x8x8x8 ).
The number seems to be self absorbed or in love with itself. Hence the term "narcissistic number" is applied to it.
I would guess that the odds of these three numbers appearing together like this, at random, would be approximately nil.
So the next time you see Homer doing something at a blackboard, other than drinking Duff beer, pay attention!
Amazon Update 6th November 2013:-
One thing bothered Singh however. He could not figure out the significance of the number of the Simpson's house:- 742, Evergreen Terrace. What was the big deal with the number 742? When he finally asked the creators of its significance, they told him "Simon, it's just a number!"
But I respectfully disagree. Perhaps it is a mathematical Freudian slip, but 742 reversed is 247. And we all know that "24/7" (spoken as "twenty four seven") is an abbreviation which stands for "24 hours a day, 7 days a week". With the popularity of the Simpsons series could the significance of 24/7 be more obvious? There is always an episode of the Simpsons on somewhere, morning, noon or night.
on 2 September 2015
With his fascinating insight into the making of The Simpsons, Simon Singh presents the deft and subtle approach the writers take to initiate its audience into the world of mathematics and integrate it into their daily lives. This book excellently combined two of my passions: Simpsons and maths into an entertaining and fascinating tale of the writers origins and backgrounds; the vast majority beginning in STEM subjects and bringing their passion into the show's comedic writing. He also dedicates the later sections to Futurama which shares cores writers (David X. Cohen and Matt Groening.)
Unfortunately, the book lacked the full explanations of deeper and higher maths that I was expecting. For example, it touched on Fermat's last theorem, but lacked a satisfying explanation of the current proof. It is still an enjoyable and engaging read that provides an in depth look into the history of mathematics and The Simpson's behind-the-scenes.
on 16 July 2015
Such a wealth of amazing details showing what lies behind the preparation of the show's episodes. Often extremely complex, but written clearly. At the time I felt I understood at least the outline points, even if I couldn't explain it to any one else, or remember it for long. Much of the show's mathematical secrets written it seems for the simple joy of being able to do so. Well done to have laid it out so entertainingly!