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The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets Hardcover – October 29, 2013

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The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets + Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem + The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1 edition (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620402777
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620402771
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Highly entertaining." –Amir Alexendar, New York Times

“Mathematical concepts both useful and obscure explained via the antics of America’s favorite yellow family!” –Mental Floss
"The clarity of his explanations is impressive, and there are some illuminating interviews with Simpsons writers…this is a valuable, entertaining book that, above all, celebrates a supremely funny, sophisticated show." –Financial Times
"What have Homer and Bart got to do with Euler’s equation, the googolplex or the topology of doughnuts? The writers of The Simpsons have slipped a multitude of mathematical references into the show. Simon Singh has fun weaving great mathematics stories around our favourite TV characters." –New Scientist

About the Author

Simon Singh received his Ph.D. in particle physics from the University of Cambridge. A former BBC producer, he directed the BAFTA Award–winning documentary Fermat's Last Theorem and wrote Fermat's Enigma, the bestselling book on the same subject. His bestseller The Code Book was the basis for the Channel 4 series The Science of Secrecy. His third book, Big Bang, was also a bestseller, and Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine, written with Edzard Ernst, gained widespread attention. Singh lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Very well written.
John Moore
The book also includes sections from "Futurama," which was just as good, if not better!
Dylan R
Great read, there are a lot of fun facts in the book.
Eileen Monge

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Jet Lagged on October 13, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is Simon Singh's latest book. Previous offerings include "Fermat's Enigma" and "The Code Book".

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.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By D. Johnson on January 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a bit of a dichotomy. It is written for those at least somewhat interested in mathematics, but it assumes the reader doesn't know that much about math. And those that know mathematics will be bored by much of the book, as it explains mathematical principles with which they would already be well acquainted.

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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on November 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As an avid Simpsons fan, I have always been impressed by the many mathematical and scientific cameos in many of the Simpsons episodes. Now, having breathlessly read this wonderful book, I know why: many of the writers are mathematicians and scientists who have taken every opportunity to enrich episodes with appropriate tidbits to tickle the minds of the mathematically inclined.

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.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 3, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book will please those who enjoy both math and good sitcoms. The book is well written with numerous references to several shows from the last 20 years. It is really remarkable the amount of math talent in the Simpsons' creative team. The book is not really a deep treatise on mathematics but has excellent pointers and references that can guide the reader to study some of them in further reading. Take it as a good and light scientific reading for a weekend and you'll have a good time.
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.
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More About the Author

Simon Singh is an author, science journalist and TV producer. Having completed his PhD at Cambridge he worked from 1991 to 1997 at the BBC producing Tomorrow's World and co-directing the BAFTA award-winning documentary Fermat's Last Theorem for the Horizon series. In 1997, he published Fermat's Last Theorem, which was a best-seller in Britain and translated into 22 languages.

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The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
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