Singh swings by Somerset

Mathematician Simon Singh returned to his old stomping ground to speak about maths, Katie Melua and The Simpsons

Wellington School staff, pupils and old boys welcomed acclaimed writer and presenter Simon Singh to deliver an annual lecture. The Tom Passmore Memorial Mathematics Lecture is a longstanding tradition at Wellington School and is now in its 25th year. The memorial lecture was set up by the parents of Old Wellingtonian and keen mathematician, Tom Passmore, who died in a flying accident.

For this year’s lecture, Singh spoke about his interest in Bible codes (prophecies encrypted in Hebrew manuscripts) and mathematician Andrew Wiles’s discovery of the proof for Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1994. He also told how he’d queried the scientific validity of some of the lyrics in Katie Melua’s song ‘Nine Million Bicycles’ and how the singer had re-recorded the song with his amended lyrics.

The majority of the lecture focused on Simon’s most recent book, ‘The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets’, which is based on the premise that “many of the writers of The Simpsons are deeply in love with numbers, and their ultimate desire is to drip-feed morsels of mathematics into the subconscious minds of viewers.” Simon revealed some of the mathematical references used throughout the show.

“We were delighted to welcome Simon back to Wellington School and hear such an entertaining lecture,” said head of maths Peter Buckingham. “Simon met up with some of his old maths teachers and donated copies of his books to be sold for Comic Relief. The lecture was fascinating and gave us a superb insight into some more obscure elements of mathematics that are all around us. Rather than just explaining the mathematical concepts in the context of how they relate to the relevant episodes of The Simpsons, Simon uses them as a starting point for lively discussions of mathematical topics, anecdotes and history.”


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