Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Simpsons

Between pop culture and geek culture lies a favorite sitcom of the last two decades: The Simpsons.  The mainstream appeal is obvious--hyperbolic characters in equally hyperbolic situations wrapped up in 22-minute packages--but between the doughnuts and fart jokes, the show is loaded with intellectual gems that slip past the average American like calculus by a redneck.

Gems like a "disproof" of Fermat's Last Theorem, where show writers wrote a computer program just to create near-disproofs that only work on handheld calculators, Homer's first day in a nuclear physics class, and even an entire episode devoted to girls and math, Girls Just Want to Have Sums, all make nerds feel right at home.

But mostly, engineers like The Simpsons because they see themselves and people they know in the characters.  Homer in their lazy coworker, Apu in the guy they're losing their jobs to, and themselves as a combination Lisa, Comic Book Guy, and (mostly) Professor Frink, all work to make engineers feel represented in a medium that has a long history of paying more attention to doctors, lawyers, politicians, forensic investigators, writers, entertainers, and, as of late, "real" people than to the camera-shy engineer.

Have a favorite nerdy reference you'd like to share?  Leave a comment!

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