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.

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

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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:
So, who was actually wrong in this dispute? 🙂

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.

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 🙂

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.

Bruce Bowden (user link) says:

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’.

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