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November 22, 2013 6:20 pm
The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, by Simon Singh, Bloomsbury, RRP£18.99, 272 pages
It’s no secret that The Simpsons has one of the smartest writing teams around. The show brims with allusions to philosophy, politics and literature. But, Simon Singh argues, audiences have overlooked “the primary subtext of the world’s favourite TV series”: maths. Many of its writers have master’s degrees and even PhDs in the subject – “and their ultimate desire”, he claims, is to smuggle it “into the subconscious minds of viewers”.
Singh uses the show’s mathematical references as a way into discussing Fermat’s Last Theorem, Pi and the possibility of a doughnut-shaped universe. The clarity of his explanations is impressive, and there are some illuminating interviews with Simpsons writers, highlighting the parallels between solving problems and concocting jokes.
While Singh can overstate his case, this is a valuable, entertaining book that, above all, celebrates a supremely funny, sophisticated show.
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