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What's Science Ever Done For Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe Paperback – July 1, 2007
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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 usbelieve it or notabout 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
(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)
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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.
His explanations of complex scientific matters, such as genetics and androids, are eminently clear and comprehensible. So much so that even people with the intellectual horsepower of Homer should be able to grasp his lucid and concise accounts.
His explanations are also quite illustrating. In addition to making use of the appeal of the Simpsons (a brilliant marketing angle, by the way) he also enhances his accounts with clever wit and humor.
I strongly recommend the book to anyone who is a Simpsons' fan. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to learn about science in a way that is interesting and not likely to cause blindness.
As Mr. Burns would say, this book is...excellent.