Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Homer 3D


Springfield Theory
Mathematical references abound on The Simpsons

Erica Klarreich

In the 1995 Halloween episode of the award-winning animated sitcom The Simpsons, two-dimensional Homer Simpson accidentally jumps into the third dimension. During his journey in this strange world, geometric solids and mathematical formulas float through the air, including an innocent-looking equation: 178212 + 184112 = 192212. Most viewers surely ignored this bit of mathematical gobbledygook.

On the fan discussion site alt.tv.simpsons, however, the equation caused a bit of a stir. "What's going on, he seems to have disproved Fermat's last theorem!" one fan marveled, referring to the famous claim by Pierre de Fermat—proved just months earlier—that for any exponent n bigger than 2, there are no nonzero whole numbers a, b, and c for which an + bn = cn. The Simpsons equation, if correct, would be a counterexample to the theorem, meaning that the proof had been wrong.



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