Genius of the Day: Homer Simpson Predicted Higgs Boson Before Scientists
In a 1998 episode of “The Simpsons” called “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” Homer knew about the Higgs boson (aka “God Particle”) many years before it was even discovered.
He is shown writing an equation on a chalkboard, which actually turns out to be a lot more than just a bunch of gibberish.
“That equation predicts the mass of the Higgs boson,” Simon Singh, author of The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets, told “The Independent”. “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’s kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered.”
Peter Higgs theorized about the particle in the ’60s, and it was finally discovered in 2012.
The writers on the show are all a bunch of math geeks, who have hidden easter eggs throughout the series since it premiered. Another of the equations Homer is working on in the same scene references Fermat’s Last Theorem, which Singh also has written about.
You can read more about the chalkboard scene and the math involved in this chapter from Singh’s book published at Boing Boing.
Here’s a more detailed explanation about the Higgs portion:
The first equation on the board is largely Schiminovich’s work, and it predicts the mass of the Higgs boson, M(H0), an elementary particle that that was first proposed in 1964. The equation is a playful combination of various fundamental parameters, namely the Planck constant, the gravitational constant, and the speed of light. If you look up these numbers and plug them into the equation,1 it predicts a mass of 775 giga-electron-volts (GeV), which is substantially higher than the 125 GeV estimate that emerged when the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012. Nevertheless, 775 GeV was not a bad guess, particularly bearing in mind that Homer is an amateur inventor and he performed this calculation fourteen years before the physicists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, tracked down the elusive particle.