Neurophilosophy

Science in The Simpsons

pw140102.gif“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.

Comments

  1. #1 Paul Halpern
    July 27, 2007

    Hi,

    Interesting piece.

    I just wanted to mention that I have a new book out about science on the Simpsons.

    It’s called What’s Science Ever Done For Us? What The Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life and the Universe

    Best wishes,
    Paul Halpern

  2. #2 Jamie
    July 27, 2007

    The Simpsons is fab. I’m a Psychology A Level teacher in the UK and the one episode that we use a lot is Stark Raving Dad and links in really well with the Rosenhan study that I teach (there’s links on my blog to the episode)

    The episode Stark Raving Dad is an excellent overview and has massive amounts of psychology in it: conformity; reliability and validity of psychometrics; projective tests; the unreliability of the psychodiagnostic label; the stickiness of the psychodiagnostic label; autism; MPD and I�m sure that there�s some I forget.

    Can’t wait to see the movie too.

    Excellent writing; keep it up.

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