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‘The Simpsons’ predicted MIT professor would win a Nobel

In Milhouse’s “economics” column it reads, “Bengt R. Holmström.”
In Milhouse’s “economics” column it reads, “Bengt R. Holmström.”(Courtesy of FOX)

Bart Simpson’s personal punching-bag and nerdy best friend knew long before the rest of the world that a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor was worthy of winning the coveted Nobel Prize in economics.

On an episode of “The Simpsons” that aired six years ago, Milhouse Van Houten, the blue-haired, bespectacled character from the long-running cartoon sitcom, placed a bet with Lisa Simpson and his friends that Bengt R. Holmström would take home the prize in his field in 2010.

Milhouse’s prediction was spot on — but a few years too early.

On Monday, Holmström finally earned his due. He and Oliver Hart, of Harvard University, were awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for their pioneering work on how to design better contracts.

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The “Simpsons” episode, called “Elementary School Musical,” opens with a shot of Lisa and Maggie Simpson, Milhouse, Martin Prince, and a character named “Database” sitting on the Simpsons’ famous brown couch, when Homer Simpson walks in.

The children — known social outcasts — on the couch excitedly tell Homer that they’re awaiting the Nobel Prize announcements, live from Stockholm. Homer joins them on the couch, and the scene cuts to a man on the television screen reading from a lectern.

“For economics,” the mustachioed man says, “Jagdish Bhagwati.” (Note: Bhagwati has not won the prize.)

Martin exclaims, “Huzzah! I had him in the pool,” and then holds up a sheet of paper showing who placed bets on whom for various Nobel categories.

Under Milhouse’s name, in the economics square, the name reads, “Bengt R. Holmström.”

The episode originally aired on Sept. 26, 2010, at the start of the show’s 22nd season on television.

MIT made another appearance on the show Sunday, one day prior to the Nobel Prize announcement.

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In an episode called “The Town,” the family visits Boston, stopping by the school’s Cambridge campus.

Officials from MIT were quick to point out Milhouse’s 2010 prediction. The school shared a screenshot on Twitter and Facebook Monday afternoon of Martin Prince holding the sheet of paper, bearing Holmström’s name.

“Today, [Milhouse] was right!,” MIT officials said, following the announcement.

As they say: “Everything’s coming up Milhouse.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.