You are either fully asleep, completely hungry or thinking about the weirdest things at 2 a.m. Two a.m. thoughts are quite interesting if you ask me. Your body is trying to sleep but your mind decides to bring back the embarrassing, cringe memories from the past. It makes you contemplate all your life’s decisions or even lets you think about the most useless mysteries or conspiracies that have no definite use for human civilization. Well, I am not trying to generalize these 2 a.m. experiences, but that’s what happens to me at least. Do I like it? I really don’t know.
Let me ask you a question. How are the creators of the Fox animated series, “The Simpsons” accurately predicting the future over and over again? Unless you have been living under a boulder all these years, I am assuming you are aware of the animated series “The Simpsons”. Yes, it is the one with the yellow people who appear in quite a lot of internet memes! Nevertheless, a small google search will tell you what it is.
For around 32 seasons, “The Simpsons”, a critically acclaimed cartoon, is often known as one of the best shows of all time and has been a mirror to the American way of life. It has managed to predict some significant global events over the years which lead to one of the Internet’s most beloved conspiracies. “‘How is ‘The Simpsons’ predicting the future?”. Are the creators time travellers, aliens or some kind of spies for the U.S government?” Maybe “The Simpsons” doesn’t really predict the future, they write it in and we follow them to make it a reality. These are the kind of thoughts that bother me at 2 a.m.
Humans in general love a bit of mystery and suspense in their lives. Thus, they’ve come up with some weird theories! Some have found it eerie that “The Simpsons” team have been able to predict the future on dozens of occasions with the smallest of screen details to major plotlines. One might say that it is the so called “conspiracy theorists” or the jobless people on the internet who take these things seriously, but with time it hit mainstream media as well. Media outlets like BBC, New York Times and Business Insider are among the many mainstream media outlets that covered this topic. “The Simpsons predicting the future” resurfaces once in a while randomly. For instance, last year there was a big commotion about “The Simpsons” predicting the murder hornets in America and even the pandemic.
It is said and believed that the show accurately predicted around 30 incidents that actually came to be. Statistically speaking, that is quite an impressive amount. A popular example is the prediction of Donald Trump as a future American president made all the way back in 2000. In the same episode, Lisa Simpson seen as the President of the United States of America wearing a similar outfit to that of Kamala Harris’s inauguration outfit (Kamala Harris probably got inspired by the Simpsons!). This episode is known to be strange as it mirrors quite a lot of real life incidents that happened years later with the actual Trump administration. A 1997 episode shows a book named, “Curious George and the Ebola Virus”. It because an internet sensation in 2014, saying it is a prediction of the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 in U.S.A. Moving on, a 1998 episode shows the “Fox Studios” with a sign saying now a “Division of Walt Disney Co.” showing early signs of the Disney acquisition of 20th Century Fox that actually took place in 2017 almost 20 years later.
One of the wildest predictions according to these so called theorists is in the 1998 episode called the “Wizard of Evergreen Terrace”. In this episode Homer Simpson becomes an inventor and is seen in front of a blackboard with a computed equation. According to Dr Simon Singh, the author of “The Simpsons and their mathematical secrets”, the equation predicts the mass of the Higgs Boson or God particle. The god particle helps to explains how everything in the universe has mass. Though it was initially predicted in 1964, it wasn’t confirmed by physicists until 2012.
From predictions about Greece’s 2015 debt default to Nobel prize wins or even Olympic wins, “The Simpsons” has done it all. However, are all these predictions actual predictions or mere coincidences? What if everything narrows down to a simple scientific equation?
Something we have to keep in mind however, is that “The Simpsons” is not the only show that predicted certain events of the future despite it getting more momentum than others due to its strong pop cultural presence. The internet would say that the 1995 “The Simpsons” episode “Lisa’s Wedding” predicted the smart watch, which is a very debatable topic. For decades many sci-fi shows such as Star trek predicted smart phones, Bluetooth earpieces, smart watches and the list just goes on. Furthermore, the American sitcom “Scrubs” predicted that Osama Bin Laden would be found in Pakistan instead of Afghanistan. The Comedy Central show “The legends of Chamberlain Heights” depicts NBA star Kobe Bryant crawling out of a crashed helicopter before it explodes. Unfortunately, in reality Kobe Bryant died from a helicopter crash.
However, if we look carefully, it is possible to see that most of these so called predictions are not really the sort of predictions we think they are. For instance, if we take the “The Simpsons” Trump election episode of 2000, a writer explained that “we were looking for a funny celebrity who would be president”. Trump had already announced that he was running for office and fortunately for the writers their prediction became true!
When it comes to the predictions about the coronavirus and the murder hornets in America, an episode in 1993 shows a sick worker in Japan sneezing into a package resulting in the outbreak of Osaka flu. In a state of panic, people attack a truck accidentally releasing a swarm of killer bees. The internet took off with this incident last year. It was the perfect plot amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In the episode however, the virus originated in Japan and not in China, but of course the internet made a false narrative out of it. The killer bee incident was a separate occurring altogether, but the narrative was edited to make seem like the show predicted it all. The show was accurate up to a certain extent, but the credibility of the prediction is certainly an issue and is up for debate.
So, what about these predictions? What is the science behind it? Matt Zaremsky, an assistant Maths professor at the University of Albany came up with a simple yet interesting mathematical explanation to all this in 2018. According to him, within 29 seasons, the show made about 120,000 jokes roughly averaging to around 8.54 jokes per minute. Even if they got 20 predictions right, it just comes down to a very low success rate. So with that many predictions, they should get at least some of them right. Nobody talks about the predictions that have gone wrong, which are way higher than the ones that have gone right. Most of “The Simpsons” writers are mathematics graduates so they probably know how to play the game well. After all what the creators of the show says is that, most of the story lines are based on normal human behaviour and human behaviour is just so predictable.
So are the writers time travellers? No. Are we living in a “Simpsons”’ stimulation? Definitely not. It all comes down to the predictability of human nature, the repetition of history and the simple truth behind the probability of occurrence in mathematics.
– Rtr Kavindi Gunawardana
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