World's Fair

The Simpsons, naturally

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Obviously, when a movie comes out by the best show television ever created (at least if we count the first 6, maybe 7 seasons, as that show, and maybe we don’t even keep Season 1 in the mix, and we say humor show, not any show, and we admit The Wire and Arrested Development and Blossom are also up there and we stop caveating because this could go on for a while…), so when The Simpsons Movie is out, there’s a lot of buzz about the show and the movie. A media blitz, let’s admit. Matt Groening on The Daily Show; Groening on NPR; long-time show big guy Al Jean on Fresh Air; season 4 DVDs playing as background fodder at my house.

But how about this one: Al Jean interviewed in Nature?

In the recent issue of Nature, Michael Hopkin interviews The Simpsons Executive Producer Al Jean about geeky science humor in the show. (Here’s a podcast.) Jean graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics, so it’s no wonder that so many of his jokes are for nerdy math guys. Had to laugh at this seriously hidden (and wow, dictionary definition geeky) math reference:

One that always makes me laugh is in a recent episode in which Homer and Marge are at a baseball game where the public has to guess the attendance, and each of the options is a different mathematical irregularity — one’s a perfect number, one’s a sum of four squares. They’re all in the thousands and they’re numbers that nobody except a mathematician would, at face value, recognize as anything unusual, but if you’re really sharp you’ll pick it up. I love the fact that we can throw that sort of thing in.

And we love it too, Al.

Add this to the Stephen Jay Gould episode, the Steven Hawking one, any number of Professor Frink appearances, Homer creating tomacco, Lisa doing experiments on nerd sweat, or super-tomatoes to end world hunger (as with the Science Fair episode), Bart’s Comet, or even that vaunted ‘what kind of scientist is Batman?’ query from the unparalleled Monorail episode? Not to mention the multitude’s we neglected but others can note? Plus, sidelines like physicist Paul Halpern’s book, What’s Science Ever Done for Us? What The Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe, and another physicist’s commentary on the same, here? Add them all up and we have an obvious bonanza of future posts in which to wax poetic.

This post written with Jacqui Monaghan


  1. #1 Timon
    July 27, 2007

    More salient lines regarding science from the Simpsons:

    BART: I was so bored, I cut the ponytail off of the guy in front of us. [Holds it to the back his head] Look at me, I’m a grad student. I’m 30 years old and made six hundred dollars last year.

    MARGE: Bart! Don’t make fun of grad students. They just made a terrible life choice.

  2. #2 Romeo Vitelli
    July 27, 2007

    Not to mention that The Simpsons is the only show on network television that even acknowledged the creationism/evolution debate, let alone weighing on the side of evolution. If this be geeky science humour, make the most of it!

  3. #3 wg
    July 27, 2007

    check out’s take on the simpsons’ environmental ambivalence.

  4. #4 Brian
    July 28, 2007

    The family guy is another cartoon that has dealt with evolution/creationism. Why is it that only cartoons seem to do this?

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