Fictional character Homer Simpson was super close to predicting the Higgs boson (Higgs particle), an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics, 14 years before scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider were able to in 2012.
In 1998, during the second episode of the tenth season “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” Homer has a midlife crisis. Concerned that he has not accomplished much, he starts admiring Thomas Edison and decides to become an inventor to make his life worthwhile.
He invents a shotgun that shoots makeup onto women’s faces, a reclining chair with a built-in toilet, and an alarm that beeps every three seconds while everything is OK.
Homer writes an equation in 1998 that comes incredibly close to a discovery 14 years later. (Copyright: Matt Groening/Fox)
During the episode, he stands in front of a blackboard with a complicated equation.
Simon Singh, author of “The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets”, says:
“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.”
Many episodes have complicated mathematics
Mr. Singh, who also wrote “Fermat’s Last Theorem,”, says many Simpsons and Futurama lovers would be surprised to know that several episodes have cleverly-embedded references to mathematics, ranging from well-known equations to cutting-edge theorems and conjectures.
The fact that they exist underlines the brilliance of the shows’ writers, Mr. Singh explains. Many of them have advanced degrees in mathematics, as well as an amazing sense of humour.
Image: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
In a description of the book, simonsingh.net writes online:
“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 met several members of The Simpsons writing team, among them Mike Reiss, Jeff Westbrook, Al Jean and David X. Cohen “whose love of arcane mathematics becomes clear as they reveal the stories behind the episodes.”
Bibliographic information: “The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets,” Simon Singh. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. ISBN 1408843730, 9781408843734.
Video – The mathethatics behind the comedy
World-renowned writers of The Simpsons and Futurama, David X. Cohen and Al Jean, are with Mr. Singh to discuss the serious mathematics hidden within the shows’ comic genius.