Monday, April 28, 2014

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh - Ashley's Review

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Title: The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
Author: Simon Singh
Year Published: 2013

My Pre-Reading

Synopsis: You may have watched hundreds of episodes of The Simpsons (and its sister show Futurama) without ever realizing that cleverly embedded in many plots are subtle references to mathematics, ranging from well-known equations to cutting-edge theorems and conjectures. That they exist, Simon Singh reveals, underscores the brilliance of the shows’ writers, many of whom have advanced degrees in mathematics in addition to their unparalleled sense of humor.

While recounting memorable episodes such as “Bart the Genius” and “Homer3,” Singh weaves in mathematical stories that explore everything from p to Mersenne primes, Euler’s equation to the unsolved riddle of P v. NP; from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers, infinity to even bigger infinities, and much more. Along the way, Singh meets members of The Simpsons’ brilliant writing team—among them David X. Cohen, Al Jean, Jeff Westbrook, and Mike Reiss—whose love of arcane mathematics becomes clear as they reveal the stories behind the episodes.

With wit and clarity, displaying a true fan’s zeal, and replete with images from the shows, photographs of the writers, and diagrams and proofs, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets offers an entirely new insight into the most successful show in television history.


Review: It's been a while since I've read a non-fiction math book, and the last one was probably a textbook. But The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets was definitely one of my favorites thus far. It's interesting and insightful and manages to present math topics without reading like it's a textbook. I think that if we want more people to be interested in mathematical topics, this is the way to present it.

Singh takes complicated math theorems and problems that the writers have ingeniously hidden in both The Simpsons and Futurama and managed to whittle them down into something that can be easily understood by someone with even the most basic knowledge of math. Jokes are explained in such a way that, most times, you don't even need to have any knowledge of math. There are some "exams" included that list math jokes and test the reader's "math nerdiness" by assigning points and totaling up the jokes that you understand, but that's pretty much the only time advanced knowledge of mathematics is at all required. 

I've only watched a few episodes of The Simpsons, but I'm more interested to go back to the beginning and watch them all now that I know there are hundreds if not thousands of hidden math jokes to look for. I just think it's incredible that such a ridiculous cartoon sitcom actually has so many jokes for people of all ages and educations, and I think that's a huge part of why it's still running today. And I love Futurama and have always appreciated their math jokes, but there are still so many that I missed. 

I would definitely recommend this book to any fans of The Simpsons and/or Futurama. It gives a whole new depth to both series, and ca be enjoyed regardless of if you have a mathematical background (I do) or if you're one of those people who just really hated every single math class you had to take. Even if you do have a math background, you're likely to learn something new from this book. I'll be looking into some of the theorems and such to learn more, and looking for a way to watch The Simpsons from the beginning to look for even more hidden math! A 5/5.


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