The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (Anglais) Relié – 29 octobre 2013
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As ever, it is an engaging read, witty, scientific and well explained. However I have to say that there is something decidedly missing. I believe the author had a lot of fun writing this book, and this shows through.
However all the previous books wholly written by this author to date have all had a single theme and destination. I believe the jumping around of many topics and not having a definitive subject (other than watching hundreds and dissecting tens of episodes) is a real crimp.
That being said for the geeky types in general that have not read his previous works, and for the Simpsons fan with a mathematical bent, please buy, read, enjoy.
Its a great book by a normal author standard, just not up to Mr Singh's usual enthralling science adventure.
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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.
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.
The book devotes quite a lot of its pages to explaining mathematical concepts. And not nearly enough citing examples from the show. So what you end up with is a book that is only really interesting to those that have at least a basic understanding of mathematics, but aren't interested enough to have pursued math at a high level.
Overall the book doesn't really cite that many examples of math from the TV series. Much more time is spent explaining the concepts behind it. And it also spends a considerable amount of time talking about Futurama rather than the Simpsons, so its name is a little bit deceptive. Based on the name you'd almost assume that there are countless examples of math showing up in the show, but there really aren't that many. For every 5 pages of explanation, you get maybe a paragraph or two citing an example.
So if you get this book, go into it knowing that you probably won't see as many references to the show as you'd like, and be prepared to wade through long descriptions of the principles cited.
In this book, the author, a scientist and science populariser, has explored the various branches of mathematics that have made cameo appearances in Simpsons episodes. These include to varying degrees: calculus, number theory, probability and statistics, algebra, geometry, topology and more. Select Simpsons episodes are described, setting the scene for the mathematical inputs. These are carefully and clearly explained along with much elaboration and further examples, thus making the book accessible to a wide readership. Roughly the last third of the book is devoted to Futurama, a Simpsons sister series. Here, the various characters are identified, story plots are also described and mathematical snippets are similarly elaborated upon. As a bonus, the author has included material describing how the Simpsons script writers, especially those with strong mathematical/scientific backgrounds, have come upon this interesting career choice.
The author has a very friendly, lively and engaging writing style. This book should appeal to a broad population, especially if they are Simpsons fans. Mathematics enthusiasts who are also Simpsons fans should be in for a treat.
If you get the book's jokes you are entitled to some kind of Ph.D. on math humor so don't skip the tests ... I didn't get the PhD but at least a got good scores up to the MsC on math humor.
Simon Singh got on, and within seconds into the video he blew my mind that The Simpson's writers were sneaking in bits of math in nearly every episode, this whole time, underneath my radar! And to think, the most obvious of them all was when Bart Simpson cheated off of Martin (well swapped exams) was littered with math gags from the start to finish and I just blew it off because it was a theme of that episode, ahh just a gifted school with lots of math- I didn't think much of it. All I'm going to say is "RD=RR." You'll definitely get it once you put in a little research which all sources came from this book.
I loved it how Homer Simpson defies two of the greatest mathematicians in history. Where he scribbles a solutions to Fermat's last theorem where the exponent, n, has a solution where n>2. Take a moment, this is Homer Simpson who is defying these people.
I loved the reference of Apu and how he was able to recite pie to the 40,000th decimal place and the behind of the scenes of what it took to get a hold of that number.
This book is wonderful, it's amazing, but certainly it's a surprising yellow book. Math and comedy? Who would have guessed?
I had a wonderful discussion/time with my math professor about this, and she was laughing and was also in shocked, she too is a fan of The Simpsons and like many of us, she had no idea this was going on.
This is definitely a book I love, and there are a few things in my life that I have purchased and was satisfied.
*off topic* an example, I bought a coffee machine thinking that I'll stop spending money at retail coffee shops, did it happen? Nope, I ended up spending more and having in-taking more coffee! go figure.