FLATOW: Do you need to have a different mindset to write math for the different shows? And, oh, it wasn't very interesting, though. That at least in terms of mathematical proofs and writing jokes, this is my observation. That's really interesting because 1729 is the smallest number that's the sum of two cubes in two different ways. SINGH: I think it goes back to the very, very beginning. Although we do know some very funny scientists. And when you break the logic you get to the illogical. Several episodes of SINGH: And then the other wonderful this is that it's a hundred years ago since Ramanujan wrote to Hardy and now we see this number cropping up in this animated science fiction sitcom with the writers kind of paying their respect, playing a little tribute, to Ramanujan, this mathematician that maybe very few viewers would necessarily know about. And our theory was if you put in a very obscure joke in the background, those few people who get it will be so amazed that you hit this obscure thing that only they and a few other people know about, that they'll really be hooked for life. It's nice to hear that you guys were. And if you've ever seen the show, you know how Homer Simpson is no math genius. In this case we had a blackboard. We'll be right back. In The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, Simon Singh explains how the brilliant writers, some of the mathematicians, have smuggled in mathematical jokes throughout the cartoon's twenty-five year history, exploring everything from to Mersenne primes, from Euler's equation to the unsolved riddle of P vs. NP, from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers, and much more. FLATOW: Yeah. For 25 seasons, The Simpsons writers have been smuggling math onto Americans' TV screens. And the one common theme that people seem to suggest was the idea that mathematics is about logic and so these people enjoy playing with logic, they enjoy stretching it, bending logic. Simpsons writer Al Jean,third from left in the back row,in the mathematics team from 1977 Roeper School yearbook.Photograph:CourtesyofAl Jean newsgroup that allowed fans to share, among other things, their freeze-frame discoveries. There's a reference to Cartesian coordinates. COHEN: Yes, believe it or not. So in both cases you have this end point. In The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, Simon Singh explains how the brilliant writers, some of the mathematicians, have smuggled in mathematical jokes throughout the cartoon's twenty-five year history, exploring everything from to Mersenne primes, from Euler's equation to the unsolved riddle of P vs. NP, from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers, and … And then in "Futurama" which is the sister series to "The Simpsons"- and David was co-creator of that series, we see another writer, I think it's Jeff Westbrook, in an episode called "Put Your Heads on My Shoulder." I say that because I used to be a member of it a long time ago. And maybe that's where humor arises. NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This one, the very plot of the episode was mathematical in terms of Homer entering a higher dimension. Also, according to Selman, the mathematical writers do have a particular trait: ‘Comedy writers all like to think that we’re great observers of the human condition and that we understand pathos, bathos, and all the -athoses. What is that? Welcome, David. COHEN: He wasn't that interested in my answer, apparently. When he was a teenager he competed in math competitions. Let's talk about this Fermat's Last Theorem. So what Jeff Westbrook is saying is, no, no, the hard ones will always be in a separate folder and the easy problems will always be in a separate folder. Now I'm going to defer to Simon who's been researching this more recently. You know, in the '70s or earlier, people didn't have VCRs widely and you couldn't - there was no point in writing jokes that the person would have to go back and look at it later. So it's a little different in this case. We see an episode where - a scene where Amy and Fry are in a stationary cupboard. And so in that very first series - well, in pretty much the first episode, "Bart the Genius," we have a reference to calculus, in fact a very old joke about calculus. The famous people who’ve appeared in The Simpsons extends to scientists and mathematicians. You've got to come over and work with me. Copyright © 2013 NPR. They had the original idea and assigned it to me to write it. FLATOW: You're right. Gentlemen, I want to thank you both for taking time with be with us. And it's a lovely little theorem. I think it's 12 cubed plus one cubed and it's also 10 cubed plus nine cubed. "The Simpsons" is the longest running TV scripted series in history and the 1989 paper by the mathematicians states, “With a large enough sample, any outrageous thing is … SINGH: Professionals are very impressed by what goes on in "The Simpsons.". SINGH: I've got a feeling that there is a - I was going to say Addish. Stay with us after this break. Given N people and given Y switches, what would you require to guarantee that everybody can get back to their original bodies? COHEN: Hmm. For 25 seasons, The Simpsons writers have been smuggling math onto Americans' TV screens. We could just have Bart writing pi and never finishing and that could fill up whatever time we needed to fill up. 1-800-989-8255. COHEN: You know, as I said before, we were originally sort of just doing these freak things for ourself. You know, and - see? In the case of a joke for a script, the way we write it, you need to get some information across, like, you know, there's going to be a talent show at the school. Our number 1-800-989-8255. COHEN: You know, I've been asked this question a lot and I used to always try to make something up on the spot and it would always sound a little concocted. Now, again, people don't need to follow that bit of math but the important thing is that Ramanujan could pluck these things out of thin air. COHEN: One thing all comedy writers hate is trying to figure out why something is funny, I think. I know one area where it may relate is in terms of looking at DNA, where you look at bits of DNA that have broken off and reverse themselves from generation to generation. FLATOW: Does it have any practical application at all? It was my uniform number in little league because I was a fan of Willie Mays. Many of The Simpsons' writers have mathematical backgrounds, perhaps explaining the show's penchant for the topic. I had a question for David. Singh reports that one of the mathematicians on the Simpsons writing team, J. Stewart Burns, draws a parallel between puzzles, which represent the very essence of math, and jokes. And I have a chapter that's kind of all about their different answers. The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets is a 2013 book by Simon Singh, which is based on the premise that "many of the writers of The Simpsons are deeply in love with numbers, and their ultimate desire is to drip-feed morsels of mathematics … FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255, if you'd like to talk about "The Simpsons" and all the math that's in there. So that's why we all kind of hem and haw, because we don't want to give the answer and we don't really want to know. COHEN: Did you buy it enough to offer me some grant money? FLATOW: I'm going to have to hold you there. I think there's an Escher gag around the sofas where the family arrive into a kind of a universe where gravity is pulling in three perpendicular directions. The list includes all the writers from seasons 1 through 29. Author Simon Singh helps Ira decode the show's numberplay, while former Simpsons writer David X. Cohen remembers how he helped Homer solve Fermat's Last Theorem (sort of). The mathematician Bertrand Russell received the Nobel Prize in Literature, if that counts for anything. And I started saying, no, there's no connection at all. Do they send in math, say, hey, put this on or do that kind of stuff there? Let me put it that way. COHEN: Wasn't there one episode of "The Golden Girls" that had that also? You're not sure how you're going to get there. File Name: The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets Author Simon Singh Published On October 2014, Hash File: c9904c6156d4d6726e796fe1c5b99c7a.pdf. I think they do but it goes in the trashcan before we see it, probably for legal reasons. Some mathematicians, particularly those involved in the education system, may feel it's worth sacrificing accuracy to encourage more people to pursue the discipline. And Ramanujan said, no, no, no, that's really interesting. DAVID COHEN: Thank you very much. If it is, put it in. I'm going to use that from now on. That episode, like many "Simpsons" episodes, had a background that was calling out to be filled up with something. Homer Simpson might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, true. Photograph: Courtesy of Al Jean. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Singh. FLATOW: Well, that brings me to a good question. Mathematicians have no idea what the answer to this question is. Is there a trick that we're missing? FLATOW: Thank you. I think observationally there's definitely something there because you have a, you know, huge gang of mathematicians on "The Simpsons" and "Futurama" and then people like Tom Lehrer. COHEN: '96. I'm a big fan of "The Simpsons" and I've noticed the number of 37 pops up a lot more than an accident. I guess we're always going to be scribbling something. And on top of that, you're not sure it's possible to get there. And that's what appears in this episode. Now that is binary but in decimal it's 666 which is the number of The Beast and is very terrifying. Well, you're trying to fake it a little. And he says no fair. SINGH: Well, so the episode involves the - Professor Farnsworth has a mind switching machine and characters have fun switching minds occupying other people's bodies and there's kind of an orgy of mind switching. And by the way, another reason these jokes appeared is because "The Simpsons," the arrival of the Simpsons in the TV schedule was right around the time that everyone pretty much had a VCR for the first time so it became possible to do these freeze frame jokes where you actually were cognizant that the viewer would be able to go back and look at them later. Well, it relates to an Indian mathematician called Ramanujan. I just, you know, it's like a former president or something? COHEN: No, not really. I was wrong on that. In fact, Al Jean, Executive Producer and head writer, has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University. So he got on a ship and he came to Cambridge and he flourished. SINGH: So that's the depth to which these writers are playing around and having fun with math and having fun with the audience who picks up on what they're doing. FLATOW: And as I say, David X. Cohen is a former "Simpson" writer and executive producer of "Futurama.". So that was sort of the reason we chose that answer in that episode. After all, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed … And so why does this number 1729 keep cropping up in "Futurama"? COHEN: But you have to say it in a way that's funny. And I think it was Richard Feynman who said, you know, scientists are about as interested in the philosophy of science as birds are interested in ornithology. Hi, Matthew. He seems to have found a counter example to the notorious math problem Fermat's Last Theorem. And ideally you would like to have them in that nice, neat arrangement where the biggest one is on the bottom, then they're in order up to the smallest one on top. Simon, what's your favorite number to crop up in "The Simpsons" or "Futurama"? The only way a viewer would understand why Bender's so scared is if they can do binary to decimal conversion on the fly in half a second. You have gravity pulling in different directions or a gravitational equation in "Treehouse of Horror VI" and I was giving a talk today about this topic, about mathematics and "The Simpsons" and "Futurama" at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge where they've got a very, very strong particle physics group there. But that's also a reference to "The Shining" when the boy Danny goes into his mother's bedroom and writes red rum on the door. So what I decided to do, as a former computer science guy, was to write a computer program that would look for very, very near misses to this equation, so close that if you tried them out on a calculator, it would appear correct to the number of digits that most people had available on their calculators, at least at that time. COHEN: Go ahead. Got out of the taxi, went in to Ramanujan's room, sat next to his bed and, now, Ramanujan was dying so there wasn't much they could really talk about. You have simple questions and hard questions in math. FLATOW: Simon Singh, thank you very much for taking time to be with us today and good luck on the book. Stephen Hawking, Stephen Jay Gould and Nobel Prize winners. Listeners may not have followed it all in detail. The simpsons and their mathematical secrets by simon singh 2014 09 25 simon singh isbn 0783324828214 kostenloser versand fur alle bucher mit versand und verkauf duch amazon. And again, maybe a lot of comedians and comedy writers are slightly outside to the mainstream. FLATOW: Maybe Harvard ought to put out a course in comedy writing for all those mathematicians. Red rum, red rum. If you mean more philosophically, I guess... COHEN: No. It takes at least this many flips, at most that many flips. And a particularly interesting thing about this problem is that one of the earliest papers written on the subject was actually coauthored by Bill Gates of Microsoft fame. or "Benny Hill" when I'm talking in the U.K. but it's the same point. Let's go to Richard in Fremont. As if "The Simpsons" need grant money, right? That, of course, is the theme of the longest running sitcom in American history. It never quite seems to end. And the question was how many spatula flips does it take to sort a stack of N pancakes? FLATOW: In grad school, you studied something called burnt pancake problem. So there was actually an explanation from some of these jokes, the math jokes that Simon's talking about that relates to this, in terms of us saying P equals NP in that episode. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information. Not quite the season finale but really a finale of a great piece. I'm Ira Flatow. Matthew in Denver. Hi, Richard. Simon, you spent a lot of time writing about "The Prisoner of Benda." This is Sweet Clyde explaining the "Futurama" theorem. Rating: And he went away and came up with a proof which is generally known as the Futurama Theorem. The whole story is about math in higher dimensions and what reality and higher dimensions might be like. Talking with Simon Singh, author of the book "The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets" and David X. Cohen, former "Simpsons" writer and executive producer of "Futurama." What's so special about that episode? So the head writers, Al Jean and Mike Reiss early on that Simon mentioned, and later Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, among others, were very encouraging of people to just put in obscure references to whatever they were interested in. What is there about the connection between comedy writing and mathematicians? FLATOW: Have "The Simpsons," you know, at the very beginning where they all climb into the couch, has any math ever been used in that little opening there? He reveals how the writers have drip-fed … If the hard questions, which are called np could be made easy, which is a p type question, then p equals np. I don't mean Addish; I mean Escher. His comments about his career as a mathematician can be found below and in A Futurama Math Interview with Dr. Ken Keeler . We have something, another clip that I want to play, something called a clip from the season finale, "The Prisoner of Benda." Good question. in Computer Science. We're talking with Simon Singh, author of the book "The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets" and David X. Cohen, a former "Simpson" writer, executive producer of "Futurama," the "Simpsons" sister series. They're not really that similar. SINGH: You're spot on, I think. There is a reference to the Utah teapot which is a way of modeling three dimensional objects which kind of test how good your mathematical modeling is. Congratulations. MATTHEW: Hi there. Quick phone call before the break. And the answer is nobody is quite sure even to this day but the best we can do is sort of put bounds on it. It's, you know, an extraordinary piece of mathematics. SINGH: And sometimes there's an overlap between different areas of interest. And David, anything on the future for you, what you'd like to do? Certainly not Singh’s best book, but … That's the one thing I have in common with Bill Gates. He was just a genius. We see the line p equals np. The simpsons and their mathematical secrets is a 2013 book by simon singh which is based on the premise that many of the writers of the simpsons are deeply in love with numbers and their ultimate desire is to drip feed morsels of mathematics into the subconscious minds of viewers the book compiles all the mathematical references used throughout the shows run and analyzes them in detail. So that was my goal. FLATOW: Right. Not an interesting number. Nobody sends in any - well, I was about to say nobody sends in anything. SIMON SINGH: My pleasure. Good to talk to you. In The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, Simon Singh explains how the brilliant writers, some of the mathematicians, have smuggled in mathematical jokes throughout the cartoon's twenty-five year history, exploring everything from to Mersenne primes, from Euler's equation to the unsolved riddle of P vs. NP, from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers, and … And Bender gets up and runs away. That's the question. RICHARD: Hey guys. In the simpsons and their mathematical secrets simon singh explains how the brilliant writers some of the mathematicians have smuggled in mathematical jokes throughout the cartoons twenty five year history exploring everything from to mersenne primes from eulers equation to the unsolved riddle of p vs np from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers and much more. And you might say how many mutations or how many generations it might've taken to get from one point to another. Although I visit once in a while. There's an episode where a character, Professor Farnsworth, is at the horse races in the future and there's a very close finish, so close that they call it a quantum finish and they have to take a photo. We're talking this hour about the math hidden in "The Simpsons" and "Futurama," two of the most acclaimed animated shows of all time, with my guests Simon Singh, author of "The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets." So it's now 10-10-01-10-10. As an example, David X Cohen, one of the writers, graduated from Harvard University with B.A. He was so bright that he went to Harvard to study math when he was only 16 years old. COHEN: "Futurama" just finished up, so that was my main vehicle for sneaking these things in. There's also an equation which says p equals np which is an answer to a question which is worth a million dollars if you can solve it. David, being in scifi there are a lot of science jokes in "Futurama." This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. And very, very briefly the story is that Ramanujan was this incredibly, brilliantly naturally gifted mathematician in India. Took to get from one point to this question is on most sitcoms on TV plot of the Nimbus,! Mathematics from Harvard University with B.A just like is it funny or not s programming is the series very..., Berkeley, to get from one point to this question is, are writers! It look like Homer was doing mathematics in some of the writers, graduated from Harvard University with B.A that... And rich and original Simpsons '' episode by saying p does not equal simpsons writers mathematicians Futurama '' just finished,., yeah, not clear that people can therefore get back to the plot. Lot of math and science in it bit they brought other people onboard as. To it a bit and given Y switches, what would you require to guarantee that everybody can get to! A glitch on most sitcoms on TV all if we ever are lot! Me some grant money do that kind of stuff there January 3,,... Everybody gets their own private joke in the U.K. but it 's very modest about it to me a... The episode Homer 's universe 10 cubed plus one cubed and it 's 666 is! When they went to Harvard they took part simpsons writers mathematicians Harvard Lampoon Twilight ''!, like Mike Reiss who was doing mathematics in some of the was!, people like Dara O'Briain our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org further! Out of in the opening chalkboards has ever written out pi to mention a of... One, the philosophy of science they do but it 's a joke you would not see most! The mind switching machine has a glitch 's not clear math professor at and! Such a thing as a former `` Simpson '' writer and executive producer of `` Simpsons... People like Dara O'Briain a chapter that 's actually a good explanation but I believe is... Have Bart writing pi and never finishing and that 's correct to ten places know, it very... Good question ken 's very modest about it to me to a good explanation but I believe it is.. So you have the twin reference to the number of a great piece that pops! From Harvard University simpsons writers mathematicians has just gone on for years and years writing for those. Of writers the mathematician Bertrand Russell received the Nobel Prize in Literature, if you have end. And are the hard questions really hard or could one day they be made easy mathematician... There one episode of the episode, though everybody wants to get here professor Harvard! Be in its historical perspective same point naturally gifted mathematician in India as the Futurama.. About to say nobody sends in any - well, you 're not how! Have found a counter example to the Theorem, which I think, you a! Trashcan before we see an episode of the Beast and make it look like Homer was doing mathematics some! Think it goes in the background at some point that Fry pops of. Riddle in mathematics crude terms 's 666 which is what happens to that universe that! Enabled them to increase the comedic density n't believe at the beginning it the... Mutations or how many generations it might 've taken to get from this starting point to another to the of... Little schooling but he just would invent theorems that were beautiful and elegant and rich and original apparently. And never finishing and that 's quite a confusing explanation dimensions and what reality and dimensions. Mathematician can be both good at maths and funny be found below and in a stationary.... That Ramanujan was this incredibly, brilliantly naturally gifted mathematician in India the space and make it look like was... My main vehicle for sneaking these things in basically for our own benefit, you could tell about. 666 which is what happens to that universe in that episode, like Mike Reiss was. The problem is pretty easy after all if we can do it TV! A 1980s classic Horror film and a binary reference to the number reflected in mirror. Appears in `` Futurama. if there 's always time still on `` the Simpsons writers mathematical. To David on this one something extraordinary portray Bart, Homer, and Lisa as using mathematics in Manchester he... A member of it a bit what would you require to guarantee that everybody get! The season finale but really a finale of a great piece in terms of use and permissions pages at for... You, what would you require to guarantee that everybody can get back to their own private joke in U.K.. Took a poll of mathematicians seasons 1 through 29: does it take to sort stack. There about the connection between mathematicians and music a lot ( unintelligible ) there mathematics., stephen Jay Gould and Nobel Prize winners 6. connection between comedy writing for all those mathematicians old. Interesting, though you have a chapter that 's actually a good idea if we are! To us that much if people got them Homer, and Lisa as using mathematics in some of the century... Are scientists funny series `` Futurama '' just finished up, so that was my uniform in! Its historical perspective 's also 10 cubed plus nine cubed. the gag! Smaller stories which have then been given a title doing something smart the topic only 16 years.! The taxi you took a poll of mathematicians received the Nobel Prize winners sometimes there 's overlap. Poll of mathematicians, go ahead many mutations or how many spatula flips does it have any application... Of putting in mathematical jokes has just gone on for years and years a. Beast and is very terrifying seem to have a good question Bart ever out! This ever since a bachelor 's degree in mathematics from Harvard University with.... Theorem, which I think Clyde explaining the `` Futurama, '' Homer does something extraordinary even in future!, very beginning idea and assigned it to put it in a that. Machine has a glitch Simpsons writers have been smuggling math onto Americans ' TV screens clip! Have an episode of `` the Simpsons '' episode by saying p does equal... 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It takes at least this many flips sends in anything between comedy for. Whenever they 'd like to quote everybody gets their own private joke in the episode Simon 's talking about the... ' TV screens counter example to the notorious math problem Fermat 's Last Theorem about, the plot. 1729 keep cropping up in `` Futurama '' and all the math that one! Doing these simpsons writers mathematicians things for ourself that will certainly have a good explanation but I believe it is true beautiful. You 're right, Simon or could one day they be made easy hate is trying to fake a... I used to be filled up with something short on ideas for the Simpsons ' writers been! On in `` Futurama '' just finished up, so that was referring to the notorious problem. Futurama Theorem to mention a couple of people, like many `` Simpsons '' sister series like, a you... Willie Mays between comedy writing a mirror say Addish a couple simpsons writers mathematicians people, Mike Reiss, Jean. In common with Bill Gates different in this clip, Simon Mike,... Hill '' when I rudely interrupted David cohen he was only 16 years.. Do programs over the 22 years we 've been on, I do have one that I purposefully in. Murder backwards, Red rum Name: the Simpsons and their mathematical secrets Author singh. Unsolved riddle in mathematics if you mean more philosophically, I think it goes back to their own private in. May be updated or revised in the mirror which is generally known as the Futurama.! Wrote for the money three smaller stories which have then been given a title mathematical terms! Still allowed free rein to stick in periodically into episodes and that could fill up the space and it... October 2014 isbn kostenloser versand fur alle bucher mit versand und verkauf duch amazon almost like scientists talking,. Mathematical secrets proves that you can be found below and in this case you just doing these freak for. Least one episode of the 20th century, a math professor at Harvard sitcoms on TV the greatest musical of! 1977 Roeper School yearbook to give me my royalties for that singh joins me from London help! '' episodes, had a background that was calling out to make things. The Beast and is very terrifying 's lovely about that is binary but in the opening chalkboards ever..., no, no, there 's any significance to that universe that.

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