Suggested Reading: The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets

June 8, 2014

Simon Singh — The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets — Bloomsbury, 2013, 255 pp. ISBN 978-1-62040-277-1

(Buy at Amazon.com)

(Buy at Amazon.com)

Using, as an excuse, the fact that The Simpsons (and their sister series Futurama) use mathematics as part of the plot or as a “frame freeze gag” (a gag that is so short that unless you look at the show frame by frame, you might miss it), Singh (which you may remember from books such as The Code Book and Fermat’s Last Theorem) brings us along a mathematical walk, presenting us the mathematically-inclined writers of the shows. But, as I said, The Simpsons are merely a convenient excuse to introduce mathematics and theorems: if you expect to learn a lot about The Simpsons themselves, you’d be disappointed. The book is about the mathematics and the writers.

However, it’s an interesting read: prime numbers, \pi, combinatorics, computation and algorithmics. I especially liked the Futurama Theorem that describes how, using a mind-swapping machine that can swap minds between two same individuals once only, we can un-scramble minds and bodies and put every one in their rightful body (not a new plot device, Stargate did it first, in s02e18).