Tomacco Simpsons Science Reality


The Simpsons.  A long lasting television show with multiple layers of comedy.  Recently, I have been enjoying the multitude of mathematical equations and humor packed into the series revealed in The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets.  

In the “Scarecrow Theorem” chapter, the author leads off with an example of how Homer “occasionally sets the scientific agenda” for certain episodes (p. 114).  A classic example is when Homer creates tomacco, a tobacco and tomato hybrid.  In a scientific twist, it turns out that tomacco isn’t so far-fetched.  In fact, a scientist demonstrated that “science fact can be almost as strange as science fiction” (minus the use of plutonium):

Rob Bauer, a Simpsons fan from Oregon, saw the episode and was inspired to replicate Homer’s achievement.  Instead of using radioactive material, he grafted tobacco roots onto a tomato plant and waited to see what would happen. It was not a completely crazy idea, because tomatoes and tobacco both belong to the nightshade family of plants, so grafting such plant relatives might enable the properties of one plant to the other.  Indeed, the leaves of Bauer’s tomato plant did contain nicotine, proving that science fact can be almost as strange as science fiction (p. 115).


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