The Simpsons’ secret formula: it’s written by maths geeks

Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play

Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the horror of yesterday’s headlines about the Westgate Mall I thought today needed something more light-hearted.  I suppose in the true sense this isn’t really a ‘news’ headline but on the other hand the “Simpsons” is definitely a social phenomenon in TV broadcasting history and this article reveals a new twist to hidden references in the series.


Bart And The Art of Maths

When you’re watching the Simpsons
look with fresh eyes,
take a new view
and you may be surprised,
finding the clues
revealing the facts
that the Simpsons is a vehicle
for the wonder of Maths.

When “Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play”,
helping Buck Mitchell and Tabitha Vixx,
the Simpsons turned up at a baseball game
and the fans had to guess
how many attended that day.
Three numbers appeared up there on the screen,
innocent to all but the greeks and the geeks
but these numbers were really
much more than they seemed.
So what did these numbers mean?

Eight thousand one hundred and twenty-eight.
What’s so great about that?
It’s a ‘Perfect Number’, that’s a fact.
Having few rivals
it’s the sum of its own divisors.
Descartes was aware
that perfect numbers
like perfect men
were very rare.

Eight thousand two hundred and eight.
Too late now to tell me to stop.
I’m on a roll and this number’s on top.
A ‘Narcissistic Number’.
Four digits, it’s secret.
For each digit raised to the power four,
summated create
eight thousand two hundred and eight.
So it’s narcissistic,
creating itself from the sum of its parts,
an egocentric calculation
of self-infatuation.

Eight thousand one hundred and ninety-one.
Much simpler this time.
A ‘Mersenne Prime’.
Two to the power ‘p’, where ‘p’ is prime
………. Minus one.
And in this case, as can be seen,
‘p’ is thirteen.

And there’s more, so much more ……..

In “MoneyBart”, Euler’s Identity,
the most beautiful equation in history.
A book with the title:
“‘e’ to the power ‘i pi’, plus one equals zero”.
Oh Lisa, oh Lisa, my hero.

In “Colonel Homer”, the cinema,
the eponymous Springfield Googolplex.
Whatever next?
Ten to the power of a googol,
a screwball of a number,
holding centre stage.
So large that its zeroes would fill a page
as large as the known universe.

In the “Wizard of Evergreen Terrace”
is Homer’s famous appearance
showing on his phone
an incredibly credible equation
countering “Fermat’s Last Theorem”.

Keep at it, Homer, Lisa and Bart,
showing the wonder of mathematical art.


22nd September 2013 – headline from the Guardian

Notes:  “The Simpsons’ secret formula: it’s written by maths geeks.”  the most mathematically sophisticated television show in the history of primetime broadcasting.  The show’s writing team includes several mathematical heavyweights. Al Jean, who is now executive producer, went to Harvard University to study mathematics at the age of just 16. Others have similarly impressive degrees in maths, a few can even boast PhDs, and Jeff Westbrook resigned from a senior research post at Yale University to write scripts for Homer, Marge and the other residents of Springfield.


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