Part 1 - It's Alive!: The Simpson Gene; You Say Tomato, I Say Tomacco; Blinky, the Three-Eyed Fish; Burns's Radiant Glow; We All Live in a Cell-Sized Submarine; Lisa's Recipe for Life; Look Homer-Ward, Angel
Part 2 - Mechanical Plots: D'ohs ex Machina; Perpetual Commotion; Dude, I'm an Android; Rules for Robots; Chaos in Cartoonland; Fly in the Ointment
Part 3 - No Time to D'ohs: Clockstopping; A Toast to the Past; Frinking about the Future
Part 4 - Springfield, the Universe, and Beyond: Lisa's Scoping Skills; Diverting Rays; The Plunge Down Under; If Astrolabes Could Talk; Cometary Cowabunga; Homer's Space Odyssey; Could This Really Be the End?; Foolish Earthlings; Is the Universe a Donut?; The Third Dimension of Homer
Inconclusion: The Journey Continues
Acknowledgments; The Simpsons Movie Handy Science Checklist; Scientifically Relevant Episodes Discussed in This Book; Notes; Further Information; Index
I'll admit I was expecting far less from this book when I first heard of it. I've seen too many "intellectuals" dissect a cartoon or story and add layers of complexity and academic baggage to the point that they've created their own fantasy world about what things "really" mean. Fortunately, that doesn't happen here. Halpern treats the Simpsons series with respect in terms of enjoying the episodes and understanding that they are primarily entertainment. But he goes deeper into some of the episodes to examine the science behind the storyline. For instance, he discusses the "fact" that water drains counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere due to the Coriolis effect. This is tied back to an episode where Bart and Lisa were trying to prove that fact and ended up having to travel to Australia to avoid an international incident. By the time you're done with the chapter, you know exactly what the Coriolis effect is, and whether water really *does* behave that way. Or there's the discussion about perpetual motion machines and whether it would ever be possible to build one like Lisa did in one episode. Again, by the end of the chapter, you know why the laws of thermodynamics mean that it's impossible to do that. Add in a few guest appearance by people like Stephen Hawkings, and you end up with an entertaining read about solid science, along with a few "I remember that episode!" moments...
This is a definite "should read" for Simpson fans, and perhaps a really good resource for teachers who are trying to hook younger minds into the realities of science...
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