With a writers room containing three PhDs, seven master's degrees, and over 50 cumulative years at Harvard, it's no surprise that there are some smart jokes on Futurama. In fact, some are smarter than we are! Thankfully, over the show's 14-year run, it never failed to remain accessible.
One of the great things about Futurama is that it works on so many levels. Whether you're a fan of complex mathematical theorems and references, or you just want to watch Bender drink and steal things, there's always something to enjoy.
But for the really esoteric stuff, it definitely helps if you have a doctorate in physics or mathematics. Not to mention a lightning fast pause button! This list will help explain those jokes, and save you some serious student loan debt, so keep reading to see some of Futurama's smartest jokes.
Bender Has Less Processing Power Than Your Phone
When Bender gets an X-ray during "Fry and the Slurm Factory," viewers are treated to a look inside the foul-mouthed robot's head. There, we can see that Bender uses a processor labeled "6502." As computer scientists are well aware, the 6502 microprocessor was the same model Steve Wozniak used for the Apple II in 1977.
Perhaps that lack of computational power explains some of Bender's more questionable decisions.
1729 Is A Magic Number
The number 1729 shows up in Futurama too many times to be a coincidence. As seen in "Xmas Story" from a holiday card, we know that Bender is Mom's 1729th son. In "The Farnsworth Parabox," Fry visits Universe 1729, and 1729 happens to be the registration number of The Nimbus, Zap Brannigan's ship.
So, then, why does this number keep cropping up? It's actually known in mathematics circles as the Hardy-Ramanujan number. Apparently, when British mathematician G. H. Hardy once rode to visit his friend (and fellow mathematician) Srinivasa Ramanujan. He remarked that the cab he took there had been a dull number (1729) to which Ramanujan replied that it was, in fact, an interesting number. 1729 is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways. Comedy!
A Sneaky Vonnegut Reference
This joke is so fast, you can be forgiven for missing it. Seen in the episode "War is the H-Word," a quick establishing shot of a 7-11 establishes that it's open for 28 hours a day, the poverty of the cashier, and most interestingly offers a promotion for a free bag of Ice-9 with the purchase of a six-pack.
Ice-nine is a literary reference to Kurt Vonnegut's fourth novel Cat's Cradle. In the book, ice-nine is a crystalline substance capable of changing all the water in the world to an non-potable ice-like material. The fact that such a devastating material would be available for free at a convenience store showcases Futurama's absurdity at its finest.
Futurama Invents A Mathematical Theorem
Ken Keeler invented a real mathematical theorem in order to explain the body switching featured in "The Prisoner of Benda." Keeler, in addition to writing for Futurama, holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics. Apparently, he included the joke to help popularize mathematics among young fans of the show.