Correcting Homer Simpson's Math: Citizen Mathematics

from the make-that-Homer-Fermat-Simpson dept

Here’s a fun Friday post for those of you with Typepad users sitting around twiddling your thumbs with nothing to do (no wonder everything seems so peacefully quiet today). Apparently, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story a while back about some mathematicians who write for The Simpsons. They like to sneak in the odd mathematical equation every once in a while, and the article mentioned one where Homer was dreaming and wrote: “1,782 to the 12th power plus 1,841 to the 12th power equals 1,922 to the 12th power.” The article claimed that this was correct — but seeing as fact checkers aren’t mathematicians, no one properly checked it. There are some SF Chron readers, however, who are mathematicians, and they protested, citing Fermat. So, the Chronicle went to run a correction… but discovered they couldn’t because they didn’t actually know what the correct answer was — meaning any correction, wouldn’t actually have been a correction. Luckily, they went back to one of the people who alerted them to the incorrect nature of the original equation, and had him calculate the correct one. Forget citizen journalism, we’ve now got citizen mathematics.

Comments on “Correcting Homer Simpson's Math: Citizen Mathematics”

Nicholas D'Amico says:

Homer Simpson's Math

The original equation is correct. Do you happen to have a TI-83 or better calculator? We use them all the time in our algebra 2 and trig/pre-calc classes, and I thought that I’d go ahead and do some math (even though I’m on vacation).
The equation was as follows:
(1782^12)+(1841^12)=2.541210259E39
(1922^12)=2.541210259E39
So, who was actually wrong in this dispute? 🙂

Jerry R. says:

Re: Homer Simpson's Math

Actually:

(1782^12)+(1841^12)=2541210258614590000000000000000000000000.00
(1922^12)=2541210259314800000000000000000000000000.00

So, I guess you are.

Andy G says:

Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

Argh, why do I care, but the answer is simple, you can’t multiply (powers are just multiplying) two different numbers and have it work out to be the same, no more than you could say 3 X 7 + 4 X 7 = 6 X 7.

Jeesh, I can’t believe a roomful of journalists wouldn’t know that. Wait, what am I saying??? oh well, anyway, the answer is the difference, which is actually the number 700,211,950,340,978,000,000,000,000,000.

Dosquatch says:

Re: Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

*ahem* – Have you not heard of Pythagoras, he of the famous Pythagorean Theorm? You know, for a right triangle, the sum of the squares of the adjacent sides equals the square of the hypotenuse… that is, a^2 + b^2 = c^2. (3^2 + 4^2 = 5^2)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

Powers are multiplying…in the rite that they multiply by themselves. 3×7 and 4×7 are NOT powers…

Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

Yes. Jerry R. has it. There is a bit of a difference between the two numbers. Not sure how to say it but here it is:
700,211,950,340,978,000,000,000,000,000.00

jon says:

Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

yep, and you are too. The correct answer to the first equation is 2,541,210,258,614,589,176,288,669,958,142, 428,526,657. Any of you coming up with all those zeros are using a program that’s not smart enough to deal with numbers this large, and be precise.

scotblock says:

Re: Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

In the background along with the supposed counterexample to Fermat`s Last Theorem is the claim that P=NP. I found that funnier. 🙂

http://www.claymath.org/millennium/P_vs_NP/

M Siegel says:

Re: Homer Simpson's Math

Precision is everything. Pi = 3 … to one significant digit.

(1782^12)+(1841^12)=2.5412102586145892e+39
(1922^12)= 2.5412102593148014e+39

Andy R says:

Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

Homer was accurate.
He just wasn’t precise enough. There’s a difference.
Given that he has no reason to dream in 12 significant figures, the show is correct.

Mandy says:

Re: Re: Re: Homer Simpson's Math

Homer was NOT accurate, any first year math major (or hopefully any junior in high school) knows that there is NO power bigger than 2 that will make a^n + b^n = c^n a true statement for any a, b, and c. I am shocked that no one on the paper knew that.

Darnley Bynoe says:

Fermat vs Simpson

Hey guys give the Simpson’s a break. Since Fermat’s last theorem is supposedly proven, 1782^12 + 1841^12 = 1922^12 would of course be false, but come on guys, it according to my handy dandy windows calculator, it is within 6-7 decimal places of being true :), with the actual answer being: 1921.9999999558672254029113283703^12 🙂

Homer says:

No Subject Given

ummmmm…..beeeerrrr

hautedawg says:

Re: No Subject Given

Personally all those zeros look like doughnuts. Which brins up another question…what is the correct spelling of doughnut? Donut? Doughnut? KRISPY KREME?

AgG SP Ball3r says:

well just dont...

AgG SP Ball3r says:

Re: well just dont...

ok welllll i went against my own advice and went to google..

(1 782^12) + (1 841^12) = 2.54121026 ? 1039

AgG SP Ball3r says:

Re: well just dont...

ok welllll i went against my own advice and went to google..

(1 782^12) + (1 841^12) = 2.54121026 ? 10^39**

lisa says:

Easily proven wrong without a computer

You don’t need a computer, TI-83, pencil, or any of that fancy stuff.

Look at the last digits: 1,782^12 + 1,841^12 = 1922^12

1,782 to any power is going to be an even number, 1,841 to any power is going to be odd. Even plus odd equals odd, but 1,922 to any power is even.

So the statement is wrong.

Re: Easily proven wrong without a computer

Bravo! Lisa, your argument distinguishes you as a mathematician (as opposed to someone who simply enjoys math). I’m very impressed by how you got to the core of this one.

PS: I haven’t seen the Simpson’s episode in question, but I assume that the writers knew full well that Homer’s statement was false but close enough to being true to be a mathematical joke… for non-mathematical number crunchers. 😉

Richard Mohr says:

Re: Easily proven wrong without a computer

I also came to the conclusion that you did, Lisa. Funny that the math people who write for the Simpsons let it go. I’m a teacher at the men’s prison in Chino, CA. Most of the inmates have forgotten most of what they covered in school, so it is nice to have this mind candy to read.
Wasn’t this in the Halloween episode when Homer went through the wall to get away from Patty and Selma and became three-dimensional?

Anonymous Coward says:

Good ol' bc

foo> bc
bc 1.06
Copyright 1991-1994, 1997, 1998, 2000 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
For details type `warranty’.
1782^12
1025397835622633634807550462948226174976
1841^12
1515812422991955541481119495194202351681
1782^12+1841^12
2541210258614589176288669958142428526657
1922^12
2541210259314801410819278649643651567616
1922^12-(1782^12+1841^12)
700212234530608691501223040959

andrew says:

does anyone know how to program stuff into their calculators? i have a ti83 plus and i want to make a program that will show homer’s face on the screen. anyone have any clue how? maybe someone has the program on a link?

Anonymous Coward says:

you nerd

oolon says:

Easily proven wrong without a computer

It also rather demonstrates the falsity of the other “equation”, P = NP: it is difficult to actually calculate 1782^12 + 1841^12, and 1922^12, but quick and easy to show that whatever they are, they’re NOT equal!

says: