Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mathematics in Service of Entertainment - The Science of Futurama

Futurama head writer and producer David X. Cohen is noted for inserting physics easter eggs in episodes of the animated space comedy. Cohen has a Bachelors degree in Physics from Harvard and a Masters degree in Computer Science from Berkeley. In what is most certainly the greatest scientific accomplishment of any animated TV series in the history of mankind, this week's episode of Futurama contained a mathematical theorem written and proven specifically for the show by a staff writer with a Ph.D. in Mathematics!

The 111 year old American Physical Society published an article on Cohen in which it reported:

In an APS News exclusive, Cohen reveals for the first time that in the 10th episode of the upcoming season, tentatively entitled “The Prisoner of Benda,” a theorem based on group theory was specifically written (and proven!) by staffer/PhD mathematician Ken Keeler to explain a plot twist. Cohen can’t help but chuckle at the irony: his television-writing rule is that entertainment trumps science, but in this special case, a mathematical theorem was penned for the sake of entertainment.

The episode aired August 19, 2010 on Comedy Central and can be seen on Project Free TV.

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