“What is matter? Never mind. What is mind? Never matter.” So says Homer, in one episode of The Simpsons. And although I’m not an adherent of Homerian dualism, the show is still my favourite thing on television. I think it’s sheer genius.
The Simpsons often contains science-based jokes and references to evolution, cosmology and particle physics. In one episode, for example, Homer enters a parallel universe through a wormhole; another features Stephen Hawking, who Homer refers to as “the wheelchair guy”.
One of my favourite episodes is Lisa the Sceptic (Season 9, Episode 8) in which Lisa discovers what appears to be a fossilized angel during a school field trip involving an archaeological excavation. This leads to a great deal of speculation, and divides the Springfiled town’s population into two camps: one, led by Lisa, thinks rationally about the fossil, but the other thinks magically, and concludes that it warns of the Apocalypse. In the end, rationality wins out, and the whole thing turns out to be a publicity stunt organized by the developers of the new Heavenly Hills shopping mall.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to seeing The Simpsons Movie, which opens this weekend (watch the trailer below). To coincide with the film’s release, a number of items about scientific content in the show have been published in Nature. The journal’s weekly podcast includes an interview with executive producer Al Jean, which also features Homer, Lisa and the wheelchair guy. There’s also a question and answer session with Jean, and the journal’s editors pick their top ten Simpsons science moments.