It’s often said that Futurama was one of the most scientifically accurate science fiction television shows ever produced, what with the Adolf Hitler shark and Nibbler’s dark matter poop. So now that the show has been revived, the producers naturally hired David X. Cohen, a graduate student in physics, to be a writer. Cohen recently gave an interview about his work on Futurama…
His veiled mathematical homages are usually in the background, and are done mostly “to amuse ourselves,” he says. One of his favorite clandestine operations was an allusion to Fermat’s Last Theorem in an episode of The Simpsons entitled “Homer3.” In the name of entertainment, he wrote a computer program to search for very near misses of the theorem, and found some so close that they could not be invalidated by a standard 8-digit calculator.[…]
Despite his passion for burying physics treasure in a trove of episodes, Cohen, along with Matt Groening (creator of The Simpsons, and Executive Producer along with Cohen of Futurama), made the conscious decision early on that “we would make sure that the story and the humor would take the first position and science would take the second position. As much respect as we have for science, we have to make the show entertaining.” This requires Cohen to bend natural laws, but “we try to come up with an explanation that will amuse scientists, even if it is bogus,” he says.
For example, since the show’s universe requires travel faster than the speed of light, “we stuck something in one episode where we stated that the characters weren’t actually traveling faster than light, but that scientists had in fact managed to increase the speed of light,” Cohen explains. “We like to at least acknowledge it when we know we’re wrong.”