Media Centre

Press releases

Latest news from Loughborough University

13 Nov 2013

Bestselling author to lift the lid on what The Simpsons and complex mathematics have in common at University lecture

Dr Simon Singh Dr Simon Singh

One of the country’s top science writers and award-winning broadcasters will be visiting Loughborough University in December to reveal what The Simpsons and complex mathematics have in common.

In this unique Christmas lecture, hosted by the University’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, Simon Singh will provide a fascinating insight into how this popular cartoon – the most successful sitcom in TV history – is littered with mathematical jokes and references.

The bestselling author, and Loughborough Honorary Graduate, has penned several books that discuss science and mathematics in an accessible manner.  In his latest book – The Simpsons and their mathematical secrets – Simon examines how writers of the show, many of whom are accomplished mathematicians, have used the cartoon as a way to explore complex numbers and theorems.

His lecture at Loughborough will discuss the many mathematical secrets he has discovered hidden in The Simpsons and its sister series Futurama.

Simon explains: “Hundreds of millions of people have watched The Simpsons, but very few viewers will have realised that they have been drip fed mathematics along the way.  For example, two episodes contain references to Fermat’s Last Theorem, the most notorious problem in the history of mathematics and a topic very close to my heart.  Euler’s equations, arguably the most elegant equation every discovered, appears in two other episodes.  Narcissistic numbers, Mersenne primes, calculus and much more appears in the various Springfield plots.

Futurama, the sister series to The Simpsons, has just as much mathematics packed into each episode, because its writers are equally in love with numbers.  One of the writers, Dr Ken Keeler, even invented a brand new mathematical theorem in order to complete the plot of an episode titled ‘The Prisoner of Benda’.”

Don’t miss this opportunity to see one of the country’s greatest scientific minds in action.  The lecture takes place at 1pm on December 3 at the University’s Cope Auditorium.  Places must be booked in advance by emailing V.Novikov@lboro.ac.uk or by filling in the online booking form at www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/maths/news/booking/  Alternatively call 01509 222861.

−ENDS−

Notes for editors

Article reference number: PR 13/215

(1) Simon Singh comes from a family of Punjabi farmers who emigrated from India to Britain in 1950. He was born and grew up in Wellington, Somerset, and went on to study physics at Imperial College London University. He completed his PhD in particle physics at the University of Cambridge, his main research being the search for one of the fundamental constituents of matter, the top quark.

He spent two years at the European Centre for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva and published several scientific papers. After leaving CERN and the world of particle physics, Simon taught mathematics and science at schools in India and KwaZulu, South Africa, and eventually returned to London in 1990 to join the BBC’s science unit.

For five years, he worked on the popular science programme, Tomorrow’s World. His films covered subjects as diverse as the invention of the everlasting light bulb and the fixing of the Hubble Space Telescope, to cybercrime in New York and the scientific explanation of Italian miracles.

In 1996, he worked with John Lynch, the Editor of the BBC series Horizon, to produce and direct the award-winning documentary, Fermat’s Last Theorem. During the preparation and filming of the programme he spent several days interviewing the key figures involved in tackling the world’s hardest mathematics problem. Simon wrote his first book, called Fermat’s Last Theorem, in 1997. The book became a number one hardback best seller. In 1999 Simon wrote The Code Book, which focussed on the history of codes, code breaking and cryptography, and was later made into a six-part Channel 4 series called The Science of Secrecy. His latest book, The Big Bang, tells the story of the brilliant minds that deciphered the mysteries of the Big Bang theory. As well as explaining what the theory actually is, the book addresses why cosmologists believe that it is an accurate description of the origin of the universe.

In 2003 Simon Singh was awarded an honorary degree by Loughborough University in recognition of his contribution to UK science.

(2) Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. It has been voted England's Best Student Experience for six years running in the Times Higher Education league, and in recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Contact for all media enquiries

Judy Wing
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: J.L.Wing@lboro.ac.uk