During a mid-life crisis in 1998, Homer Simpson nearly solved the Higgs boson equation, fourteen years before scientists managed to do so with CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland in 2012.
In the second episode of the tenth season’s “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” Homer has a mid-life crisis when he realizes he is more than half-way through his expected lifespan and becomes depressed about not having accomplished anything so far.
Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor, inspires Homer to quit his job at the power plant and become an inventor himself. He invents a reclining chair with a built-in toilet, a shotgun that blasts makeup onto women’s faces, as well as a device that sounds an alarm every three seconds while everything is alright.
All Homer needed was a mid-life crisis, while the world’s geniuses required billion-dollar equipment and another 14 years. (Copyright: Matt Groening/Fox)
During the episode he writes a complicated equation on a blackboard, which predicts the mass of the Higgs boson, also known as Higgs particle, an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics.
Simon Singh, who wrote the book “The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets”, said:
“That equation predicts the mass of the Higgs boson. If you work it out, you get the mass of a Higgs boson that’s only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is. It’s kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered.”
Simpsons episodes full of hidden mathematics
Simpsons and Futurama fans should know that several episodes have references to complicated mathematics embedded in them, ranging from cutting-edge theorems and conjectures to well-known equations, Mr. Singh points out.
Many of the shows’ writers have advanced degrees in mathematics, as well as an incredible sense of humor, he adds.
“The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets,” Simon Singh. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. ISBN 1408843730, 9781408843734.
In the website simonsingh.net, there is a description of Mr. Singh’s book, which says:
“While recounting memorable episodes such as ‘Bart the Genius’ and ‘Homer’, Singh weaves in mathematical stories that explore everything from pi to Mersenne primes, from Euler’s equation to the unsolved riddle of P v. NP, from perfect numbers to narcissistic numbers, from infinity to even bigger infinities… and much more.”
Mr. Singh interviewed several members of the writing team involved in the creation of The Simpsons and Futurama, among them David X. Cohen, Mike Reiss, Al Jean and Jeff Westbrook. As they reveal the stories behind the episodes, their “love of arcane mathematics becomes clear,” he comments.
Video – Simpsons and complicated mathematics
The Simpsons and Futurama writers David X. Cohen and Al Jean talked to Mr. Singh about the serious mathematics embedded in the shows.