Thursday, September 24, 2015

Review: What's Science Ever Done For Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe by Paul Halpern

A playful and entertaining look at science on The Simpsons
This amusing book explores science as presented on the longest-running and most popular animated TV series ever made: The Simpsons. Over the years, the show has examined such issues as genetic mutation, time travel, artificial intelligence, and even aliens. "What's Science Ever Done for Us?" examines these and many other topics through the lens of America's favorite cartoon.
This spirited science guide will inform Simpsons fans and entertain science buffs with a delightful combination of fun and fact. It will be the perfect companion to the upcoming Simpsons movie.
The Simpsons is a magnificent roadmap of modern issues in science. This completely unauthorized, informative, and fun exploration of the science and technology, connected with the world's most famous cartoon family, looks at classic episodes from the show to launch fascinating scientific discussions mixed with intriguing speculative ideas and a dose of humor. Could gravitational lensing create optical illusions, such as when Homer saw someone invisible to everyone else? Is the Coriolis effect strong enough to make all toilets in the Southern Hemisphere flush clockwise, as Bart was so keen to find out? If Earth were in peril, would it make sense to board a rocket, as Marge, Lisa, and Maggie did, and head to Mars? While Bart and Millhouse can't stop time and have fun forever, Paul Halpern explores the theoretical possibilities involving Einstein's theory of time dilation.
Paul Halpern, PhD (Philadelphia, PA) is Professor of Physics and Mathematics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and a 2002 recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. He is also the author of The Great Beyond (0-471-46595-X).

This book combines two things I enjoy: The Simpsons and science.

In What's Science Ever Done For Us: What the Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe, scientific theories and ideas mentioned in a few Simpsons episodes are discussed, debunked and explained.

Here, the Simpsons and other characters from Springfield are mainly used as intros and examples. It works out pretty great, of course, since it's easier to imagine the scientific explanations.

When it comes to the discussions, the book can get pretty technical which, to some like me who graduated from college years ago, seem a little foreign or boring. My favorite chapters and subjects were the ones that dealt with biology, physics and astronomy. My biggest challenges were the chemistry chapters since I wasn't a big fan of that in college, so while I recalled a lot of the things mentioned in the book, I did feel a little bored and like my eyes were starting to glaze over.

While technical, the book isn't really written in a dry manner. There's a few jokes here and there, and most mentions of Springfield characters are quite humorous.

Simpsons fans may find it interesting to read these to learn more about the science behind some moments in the show. However, if you don't have a strong grasp of science or an interest in it, you'll probably get bored pretty quickly.


  1. It's well-researched.
  2. It can be funny.
  3. It's very informative. 


  1. It can be very technical sometimes. 

As executive producer, Al Jean explained the decision to invite Hawking on the show: "We were looking for someone much smarter than all the Mensa members, and os we naturally thought of him. He seemed pretty interested in coming on right away." 

  1. You are a Simpsons fan and a science geek.
  2. You are a high school or college student who is having trouble with science courses like biology, chemistry and physics. and think that using the Simpsons characters can help you visualize better.
  3. You like learning new things.




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