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What's Science Ever Done for Us?: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe Library Binding – May 22, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1435283534 ISBN-10: 1435283538 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Paw Prints 2008-05-22; Reprint edition (May 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1435283538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1435283534
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #990,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Just in time for the release of the big-screen Simpsons movie, and in the tradition of numerous others in the Science of . . . series, comes this entertaining, educational look at the world's most famous yellow-skinned cartoon characters and what they can teach us—believe it or not—about genetics, artificial intelligence, time travel, space travel, extraterrestrials, quantum physics, the Coriolis effect, and other mind-expanding matters. Like William Irwin's The Simpsons and Philosophy (2001), the book extracts wisdom and real-world lessons from the long-running animated show: Halpern uses an episode in which Homer sells a tobacco-tomato crossbreed called tomacco, for example, to explore the subject of genetic mutation; the famous episode "The Springfield Files," in which a green-glowing alien is revealed to be Mr. Burns, leads the author into a discussion of the dangers of overexposure to radium. Halpern, a physics and mathematics professor, is clearly a big Simpsons fan, and, in addition to being informative and accessible to the lay reader, his book is a lot of fun. It's not often you laugh while you read a science book; like The Simpsons itself, the book is funny and smart. Pitt, David --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


* ""A hugely entertaining celebration of the science behind the cartoon silliness.""
(The Guardian Review, Saturday 18th August 2007)

""...a book that can be enjoyed by all ages.""  (Physics World, December 2007)

""[The book] is a fun introduction to some aspects of science that will appeal to anyone curious about some common science...""  (concatenation.org, Wednesday 16th January 2008)

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Acclaimed science writer and physicist Dr. Paul Halpern is the author of more than a dozen popular science books, exploring the subjects of space, time, higher dimensions, dark energy, dark matter, exoplanets, particle physics, and cosmology. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. A regular contributor to NOVA's "The Nature of Reality" physics blog, he has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including "Future Quest" and "The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special".

Halpern's latest book, "Einstein's Dice and Schrodinger's Cat," investigates how physicists Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger battled together against the incompleteness and indeterminacy of quantum mechanics. Their dialogue inspired Schrodinger's famous thought-experiment about a cat in a box that is in a mixed state between life and death until it is observed. They struggled to find a unified field theory that would unite the forces of nature and supersede quantum weirdness. Sadly they would never find success and their efforts would lead to a fiasco.

More information about Paul Halpern's books and other writings can be found at:

Customer Reviews

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D.'s in math or science.
Zachary R. Destefano
I am also a fan of science and have read many books on scientific subjects so you can appreciate how much I look forward reading about the science of the show.
Steve Skye
I love science, and I like when I find books that cross science and pop culture.
S. Hill

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
If you're a fan of The Simpsons, then you know that they've had plenty of episodes that involve fairly scientific topics and a few well-known guest stars from the scientific community. Paul Halpern digs a little deeper into these mysteries of science in the book What's Science Ever Done For Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe. By the time you get done with the book, you'll be better edumacated about a lot of things, and you'll have an enjoyable time getting there...

Part 1 - It's Alive!: The Simpson Gene; You Say Tomato, I Say Tomacco; Blinky, the Three-Eyed Fish; Burns's Radiant Glow; We All Live in a Cell-Sized Submarine; Lisa's Recipe for Life; Look Homer-Ward, Angel
Part 2 - Mechanical Plots: D'ohs ex Machina; Perpetual Commotion; Dude, I'm an Android; Rules for Robots; Chaos in Cartoonland; Fly in the Ointment
Part 3 - No Time to D'ohs: Clockstopping; A Toast to the Past; Frinking about the Future
Part 4 - Springfield, the Universe, and Beyond: Lisa's Scoping Skills; Diverting Rays; The Plunge Down Under; If Astrolabes Could Talk; Cometary Cowabunga; Homer's Space Odyssey; Could This Really Be the End?; Foolish Earthlings; Is the Universe a Donut?; The Third Dimension of Homer
Inconclusion: The Journey Continues
Acknowledgments; The Simpsons Movie Handy Science Checklist; Scientifically Relevant Episodes Discussed in This Book; Notes; Further Information; Index

I'll admit I was expecting far less from this book when I first heard of it. I've seen too many "intellectuals" dissect a cartoon or story and add layers of complexity and academic baggage to the point that they've created their own fantasy world about what things "really" mean. Fortunately, that doesn't happen here.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael LaBossiere on July 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
As anyone who watches the Simpsons can attest (and anyone who is anyone watches the show), Springfield is town that is rife with science.

Within the confines of that fictional town many strange and scientific events take place. Three eyed fish swim the rivers. Homer proposes that the universe is shaped like a donut. He also travels back in time. Lisa builds a perpetual motion machine. The resident scientist, Dr. Frink, builds amazing machines that shrink people and teleport people.

Faced with such an abundance of science, it would be good and wonderful if some sort of book were available that clearly explained life, the universe and everything in that little town.

Fortunately, Paul Halpern has come to save the world...with science...and a book with a really, really long title.

In his 262 page book, What's Science Ever Done for Us: What The Simpsons Can Teach Us about Physics, Robots, Life and the Universe, Halpern explains the science of twenty six classic episodes of the show.

As any professor will attest, explaining complex things such as science means facing two serious challenges. The first is presenting an explanation that is clear and comprehensible. All too often attempts to explain merely lead to greater confusions and naps. In some extreme cases, people are actually blinded with science.

The second challenge is providing an explanation that is interesting. Being a professor myself, I can attest to the fact that a dull explanation can render a class unconscious. So much so, that I am still researching ways to get certain lectures transformed into a pill form (next stop-FDA testing).

Fortunately, Halpern meets these two challenges and brutalizes them in way that would make the bully Nelson proud.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Frederick E. Schuepfer on July 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
With his special gift of teaching complex science in an entertaining fashion, Paul Halpern has reached into our collective consciousness and pulled out - the Bard of Springfield (of the State of Vermont, according to The Simpsons movie premiere.) Homer Simpson provides the perfect foil for Halpern's easygoing, sensible rapport. After reading this book, I feel like I've known Halpern for years.

Every chapter has a few precious chestnuts that kept me going. In Chapter 8, called "D'ohs ex Machina," which is all about Thomas Alva Edison, he cracks: "Some think of Homer as just a dim bulb, and therefore would rule out any connection between him and Edison." Later he discusses robots and their potential for humanness, as measured by the venerated Turing Test. Maybe they could be bartenders: "If a robot is not quite ready for the Turing Test, at least it might master the pouring test."

First with "The Great Beyond" and now with "What's Science Ever Done for Us," Paul Halpern has cemented his reputation as the New Asimov, a scientist who can translate advanced research and theory into its worldly implications.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. J. Kwashnak VINE VOICE on January 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Over the course of nearly 20 years, it's easier to ask what the Simpsons have NOT touched upon. It's the witty, wide ranging and educated way the writers take on the world that has kept the show on the air, and allowed the show to become the basis for studies of religion, philosophy and now science. When working with an animated show you are luckily outside the realm of the real world, so everything is back to normal at the beginning of the next episode. At the same time you can take science and have some fun with it, shrinking people, entering the third dimension and have comets disintegrate in pollution laden air. However, thanks to brainy Lisa, there usually is a baseline of true science even when we enter the realm of science fiction. Paul Halpern takes this baseline truth as a launching point to discuss varied scientific topics. While never delving too deep into the science or causing the reader's eyes to glaze over, he does a competent job in explaining a wide variety of science topics using examples from the show to help illustrate his point. He will often attribute the storyline points on science the subject of artistic license or exaggeration (as exampled by the Cartoon Laws of Physics he references) but he never calls the writers dumb, nor does he call the reader dumb because he or she comes to the book believing that toilets swirl the opposite direction depending on whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. Rather he instead approaches the topics with a "well popular culture may have you think this is true because of A, B or C, but the fact is that is incorrect, and here's why." Nothing he writes about goes too deeply into the science topics - you probably would get deeper science in some Wikipedia articles, but for the layman that is good. He feeds you spoon sized lessons for the average reader to digest. You laugh with the Simpsons, and you also learn a little. Even Homer might enjoy this book.
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