Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Geometry of Homer Simpson

This Sunday on the Cal Berkeley campus, the writers of the Simpsons will come clean as closet math geeks. "We couldn't handle the pressures of academia", they might say, "but at least we kept our day jobs in animation."

MSRI’s Archimedes Society invites you to this FREE public event
Mathematical Writers from The Simpsons and Futurama
Sunday, October 16, 2005 • 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Valley Life Sciences Building's Chan Shun Auditorium
(Rm. 2050) at UC Berkeley

Writers David X. Cohen, Ken Keeler, and Jeff Westbrook have kept their math habit alive by sneaking in hundreds of mathematical and scientific references into The Simpsons and Futurama. Join in as the writers discuss their mathematical backgrounds, favorite theorems from Homer and Bart, along with thoughts on the representation of mathematics in Hollywood.

In honor of this event , and in anticipation of the upcoming Simpson's Halloween special, we join The Simpson's episode "Treehouse Of Horror VI", which originally aired on 10/30/95, in progress:

Homer Simpson has disappeared into a wall in the living room. He is trapped in an alternate dimension as a 3-D rendering in a digital world and all the attempts to save him by Professor Frink, Police Chief Wiggum and Ned Flanders are useless -

Lisa Simpson: Well, where's my dad?

Professor Frink: Well, it should be obvious to even the most dimwitted individual who holds an advanced degree in hyperbolic topology, n'gee, that Homer Simpson has stumbled into...[the lights go off] the third dimension.

Lisa Simpson: [flips the light switch back] Sorry.

Professor Frink: [drawing on a blackboard] Here is an ordinary square....

Police Chief Wiggum: Whoa, whoa - slow down, egghead!

Professor Frink: ... but suppose we extend the square beyond the two dimensions of our universe, along the hypothetical z-axis, there.

Everyone: [gasps]

Professor Frink: This forms a three-dimensional object known as a "cube," or a "Frinkahedron" in honor of its discoverer, n'hey, n'hey.

Homer's voice: Help me! Are you helping me, or are you going on and on?

Professor Frink: Oh, right. And, of course, within, we find the doomed individual.

Once again, it falls to Bart to save the day, but he fails when the digital universe implodes, sending Homer into an even scarier world: ours.

I must admit that in a fierce playa dust storm a few years ago during Burning Man, I got brutalized in a game of Simpson's trivia by an old dorm buddy from UCLA. It was uncanny. He seemed to have some sort of inner Simpson's knowledge. Who was this David Silverman and how did he get so smart?

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