Home > #MTBoS, Books, Maths > A Book Review: The Simpsons and their mathematical secrets

A Book Review: The Simpsons and their mathematical secrets

Well, that was quick. I can hear you say. And you would be right. When I wrote the review of “Fermat’s Last Theorem” I didn’t realise how close to the end of this one I was!

I was extremely excited about this book. The last book I read by the author was my favourite book ever, it contained lots of maths and it was about The Simpsons, a show which I have long been a fan of. It didn’t disappoint.

I’ve spent the last 4 years struggling to find time to read, but I managed to get this book read in under a week, which itself shows how much I enjoyed it. My partner even commented last week that it must be good as I never seem to put it down!

The book itself is superb. Simon again takes the reader on a journey through the history of maths, he covers a couple of things mentioned in Fermat’s last theorem, but generally the maths topics covered are very different.

For decades, the writers of The Simpsons have been sneaking maths into their show, and Simon uses these jokes and references to take us on a journey through maths. He also explores why there are so many mathematicians on the writing team, and how the series has evolved.

While reading the book, I felt that we were merely scratching the surface of geekiness that is The Simpsons (and its sister show Futurama) and that Simon could in fact write an entire library of books around the same topic. The book is written  so that the maths gets increasingly more complex, and there are even 5 “exams” for the reader to sit. The clever part is that even though the episodes mentioned aren’t in chronological order, there is a real feeling of chronology while reading it, and anecdotes about the writers etc are blended seamlessly in with the maths. I have mentioned that there could be a library of books on the topic, and I would love there to be, but I cannot see this happening because the closing chapter brings the book to such a perfectly satisfying conclusion.

The maths sections of the book are well written, and are set out in a way that should be accessible for those with a decent high school mathematical background. Simon uses the appendices to set out more complicated maths, which is great, and appendix 5 especially took me some time to get my head around!

I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in maths, or The Simpsons.

You can see Simon on numberphile discussing the maths involved in the book, and his earlier title “Fermat’s Last Theorem” here

You can buy his books here

You can follow Simon on twitter


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