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One Futurama Plot Was So Complicated It Created A New Kind Of Math

One Futurama Plot Was So Complicated It Created A New Kind Of Math

Cohen has pointed out several times in the past — at convention appearances, in interviews, and on DVD commentary tracks — that the “Futurama” writer’s room contains three PhDs, seven Masters, and a total of 50 years of life at Harvard University. It may be a silly sci-fi show about drunken robots and dumpster-dwelling lobster monsters, but it has some of the sharpest scientific minds working on it behind the scenes. If there is a reference to math, astronomy, or theoretical physics on “Futurama,” you can be sure it’s genuine. 

Cohen noted that Keeler was one of the show’s many geniuses. Keeler has a Ph.D. in Applied Math and a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford. “So,” Cohen said, “highly qualified.” For “The Prisoner of Benda,” Cohen said, Keeler invented what he called the Futurama Theorem, which he considered to be the highlight of the show’s many, many math references. Cohen noted that body-swapping is a common enough sitcom/cartoon plot, but that the “cannot switch back” conceit gave it a hard sci-fi edge. 

But, he said, that presented a problem: 

“So we thought: okay if a lot of the characters get their brains mixed up with this machine, can they all keep trading brains around in a circle or something until they get their brains back? And we were just trying to make the plot more complicated, but we realized we had accidentally created this math problem, to think of it as a group theory or a graph theory problem. And we started talking about it thinking it would be obvious and, no, it’s not that clear if they can all get their brains back or not.”

It seems the writers were unable to graph out the swaps.

Keeler rode to the rescue. 

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