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Putting the “e” in “The Simpsons”

I think we can safely agree that The Simpsons isn’t the show that it used to be, but there are moments when its former charm shines through.  As it pertains to the material of this blog, I was particularly pleased with a joke that ran on their Christmas episode.  I have been meaning to tip my hat to this joke for some time, but it has been hard to find a spare moment to do so.

The joke ran at the end of a muppet-themed segment of the show.  In an homage to Sesame Street, after the segment finished (but before the somewhat racy joke involving a very physical muppet Moe) an announcer stopped to give thanks to the sponsors of the show.  Unlike Sesame Street, however, which is sponsored every day by two letters and a number, this episode of The Simpsons was sponsored by one symbol and one number that looks like a letter:

In case you’re late to the party (since I don’t think that clip will be online forever), let me quote: “Tonight’s Simpsons episode was brought to you by the symbol umlaut, and the number e. Not the letter e, but the number, whose exponential function is the derivative of itself.”

Kudos to the writers for incorporating some choice math humor into the tail end of this episode (I’m willing to overlook some qualms with their wording).  Perhaps Simpsons aficianados would can begin preparations for next year’s e day.

  • dave cadwell

    OK Matt, a little help here, what is a number whose exponential function is the derivative of itself?

  • Matt

    exactly! the wording isn’t great. this may not be the clearest answer, but a good starting point is here:

  • David Caldarelli

    Just discovered your blog – I think it’s great. I found it by searching for what you call the “futurama theorem” after I noticed the real math in the episode. I have since browsed some other pages.

    However, please use youtube and not hulu for embedded clips. For some (surely impractical and ridiculous legal) reason, Canadians (which on average should be at least 10% of your followers) and all non-Americans are automatically banned from viewing hulu content.


  • Matt

    Hey David,

    Thanks for your kind words and helpful comments. Please know that youtube is always the first place I look when I embed video, but sometimes the clips I need aren’t there. If it’s any consolation, the clip I embedded in the post above has since expired, so now nobody can view it!