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How Homer Simpson Discovered Higgs Boson Before Scientists Did

Mar 05, 2015 11:34 AM EST
The Simpsons

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Homer Simpson may appear to be a simple-minded cartoon character who only knows how to eat donuts and drink beer, but these must actually be good brain fuel. It turns out he discovered the famous Higgs boson particle more than a decade before scientists did.

Yes, the same Homer Simpson we all know and love from "The Simpsons" is actually a brilliant mathematician - at least, according to Simon Singh, author of "The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets."

"The Simpsons is the most mathematical TV show on prime-time television in history. A lot of the writers on The Simpsons are mathematicians," Singh told The Independent.

Back in 1998, during the episode "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace," Homer becomes an inventor and is shown in front of a blackboard drawing a complicated equation. This equation, it now seems, was well before its time.

"That equation predicts the mass of the Higgs boson," Singh said. "If you work it out, you get the mass of a Higgs boson that's only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is."

It would be another 14 years before scientists at CERN in Geneva would discover the Higgs boson using the Large Hadron Collider - a breakthrough just officially confirmed last year.

One of the writers behind that episode, David X. Cohen, had a friend involved in the Higgs research, so the equation was snuck onto the blackboard, according to the Daily Mail. Cohen contacted David Schiminovich, an astronomer at Columbia University who was involved in the Higgs' research, and the pair came up with the equation for Homer's blackboard.

Believe it or not, "The Simpsons" may seem inane and crass on the surface, but the show actually is more intelligent than you think. It often refers to complex mathematical concepts, including Fermat's last theorem, perfect numbers, mersenne primes, and narcissistic numbers.

According to Singh, "The Simpsons" may even "encourage and nourish" those who are into math, and hopes viewers recognize the fact that the show's creators share their interests.

The Higgs boson - or the "God particle" believed to be responsible for all the mass in the Universe - was first predicted in 1964 by Professor Peter Higgs, a theoretical physicist at the University of Edinburgh. And though CERN scientists were credited with the discovery in 2012, we now know who was the real brains behind the operation.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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