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May 16, 2010 10:49 AM   Subscribe

The Physics of Futurama David X Cohen, producer of Futurama, explains how there's actual, legitimate physics in the show, why not.
posted by shmegegge (56 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
You mean, "The Futurama of Physics."
posted by grobstein at 10:57 AM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's simple, a wizard did it.
posted by The Whelk at 10:59 AM on May 16, 2010


Nothing's a complete load! Not if you can imagine it. That's what being a scientist is all about!
posted by griphus at 11:09 AM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


David X Cohen, producer of Futurama, explains how there's actual, legitimate physics in the show, why not.

I, really don't understand this sentence, why not.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:14 AM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's in the style of Zoidberg or something!
posted by The Whelk at 11:19 AM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a Dr. Zoidberg quote, why not.
posted by ecurtz at 11:19 AM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You posted this just so you could do the "why not" thing, didn't you.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:23 AM on May 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


"Comedy writing is not closely related to physics.”
posted by empath at 11:24 AM on May 16, 2010


"And the winner is ... Number 3, in a quantum finish!"

"No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!"
posted by brundlefly at 11:24 AM on May 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


The nice Decapodian doctor, he speaks with Yiddish inflection, he does! (...and I don't see a ring on his finger...)
posted by griphus at 11:31 AM on May 16, 2010 [7 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's like a balloon, and... something bad happens!
posted by teraflop at 11:34 AM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


When Zoidberg jumps up and down, he comes back down to the ground!

Gravity!

Physics!

>.>
posted by Askiba at 11:34 AM on May 16, 2010


MetaFilter: I'm having one of those things! A headache with pictures!
posted by The Whelk at 11:35 AM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Did everything just taste purple blue for a second?
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


But Comedy Writing IS related to Physics... when you try to explain both, people just stare blankly at you!
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:40 AM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Leela: "Five thousand feet!"
Farnsworth: "Dear Lord! That's over one hundred and fifty athmospheres of pressure."
Fry: "How many athmospheres can the ship withstand?"
Farnsworth: "Well, it's a space ship. So I'd say anywhere between zero and one."

Makes me giggle every time.
posted by MrCynical at 11:44 AM on May 16, 2010 [34 favorites]


So, what about the one where Fry becomes his own grandpa? Figure that one out, scientitians!
posted by evilcolonel at 11:47 AM on May 16, 2010


Cohen has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard and a master’s degree in computer science from UC Berkeley, and is not afraid to use them.

That's not all.
posted by DU at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2010


You posted this just so you could do the "why not" thing, didn't you.

I already did!
posted by shmegegge at 12:09 PM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


But fans don’t seem to mind. Because Futurama is a comedy and not a drama like Star Trek, “we are given much more leeway” to alter the rules of space and time, says Cohen.


How odd, I've read there is some adherence to current scientific knowledge in the various star trek shows, but the whole show really relies on Warp Drive which today's scientists aren't keen on...

That said, I think it's obvious that the most plausible thing in Futurama is that Nibbler poops dark matter.
posted by jardinier at 12:46 PM on May 16, 2010


Some funny tags here, including the woefully underused "bluh".
posted by DU at 1:01 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]




Sure, that's just Christianity by way of Dostoyevsky.
posted by grobstein at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I already did!

Get back to work, RObit.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 1:28 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cohen says they proved a novel group theory result for episode 10 of the upcoming season. I've also long been charmed by the anecdote about the universe-box episode (The Farnsworth Parabox), relayed here:
[W]e had to end the show with a setup where everybody was back in the universe they should be in and all the boxes were in a place where they could not be destroyed, and I know we spent an entire night on it. There was one zero base universe where there was only passing through it. The deal was also that you could actually take one box into another box, outside its own universe. That was a useful trick. We came up with an algorithm, essentially a breadth-first way of putting boxes into boxes and cycling way back, at the end of which you toss the final superbox into the standard universe and then everything was done. We proved the correctness. It was a linear time algorithm.

We went back and pitched it to the number one room - the non-scientists in particular stared at us as though we were completely insane and had come from another planet through the parabox ourselves to tell them this story. So in the end, we used a much simpler and cheaper solution, where you can magically pull a box through a box. That was very disappointing because we were all extremely proud of our result. It was close to publishable, I would say, in something like information processing. We would do that kind of stuff occasionally.
posted by grobstein at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2010 [16 favorites]


Futurama was wonderful for leveraging science for jokes whenever possible, but also for being willing to sacrifice pure science for the sake of a good gag.

When you think about Futurama's antecedents, they don't share this combination of skill and daring. Consider the numbers songs from Schoolhouse Rocks, for example. They never try to go to the edge, even when presented the opportunity. "Three is a Magic Number" is a key example of not going all the way: Counting on from two does not invoke the Trigrammeton, the family are not Cthulhoid, there are no time-space paradoxes.... I could go on and on. Don't get me wrong, I think "Schoolhouse Rocks" is wonderful and charming, but it never makes me literally laugh out loud, or make me re-consider, days later, just what hell had happened.

Still and all, the team that brings us Futurama should be commended. They managed to be more reality-based than the Bush Administration was.
posted by ardgedee at 2:43 PM on May 16, 2010


It's a Dr. Zoidberg quote, why not.

Dammit. I feel like such a fool.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:24 PM on May 16, 2010


David X Cohen = {(David,David), (David,Cohen), (Cohen,David), (Cohen,Cohen)}
posted by SPrintF at 3:49 PM on May 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


I think it's neat that Futurama has plenty of good sciencey stuff in it but it would be nice if it went back to being funny as well.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:54 PM on May 16, 2010


Comparing Futurama to Schoolhouse Rock is just...weird.
posted by DU at 3:59 PM on May 16, 2010


turgid dahlia: I think it's neat that Futurama has plenty of good sciencey stuff in it but it would be nice if it went back to being funny as well.

Yeah that show that got cancelled seven years ago sure has jumped the shark this season.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:01 PM on May 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


What's the X for? Breakfast?
posted by hexatron at 4:03 PM on May 16, 2010


Writer's guide laws, they already had a David Cohen as a head writer and like show dogs, they need unique names
posted by The Whelk at 4:07 PM on May 16, 2010


the x is for lobster like tenacity


man I don't know I just wanted to say my favorite quote
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 4:13 PM on May 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


You still have Zoidberg! YOU ALL STILL HAVE ZOIDBERG!!
posted by The Whelk at 4:16 PM on May 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love that they spent that much time on the Universe-in-a-box problem in "The Farnsworth Parabox" but didn't even mention that the coin-flip difference between the universes would probably be compound in reality. That always bugged me.

But they make up for it by knowing how things work. Windmills, for instance.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:34 PM on May 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah that show that got cancelled seven years ago sure has jumped the shark this season.

Like anal beads, the first 72 felt great on their way out, but then the dom forgot herself and it took her ages to eventually remember that there were another sixteen, and by then it was quite painful, and after dripping hot wax on your balls for a while she's suddenly all "Oh, guess what else?" And your phone's been ringing in your jacket pocket hung up in the gimp cupboard for about three hours and you remember it was your turn to cook dinner and walk the dogs.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:39 PM on May 16, 2010 [8 favorites]


griphus: "Metafilter: Did everything just taste purple blue for a second?"

a better one for blue (that is an actual quote): "Hey, what smells like blue?"
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:31 PM on May 16, 2010


But they make up for it by knowing how things work. Windmills, for instance.

Strictly speaking, they know how windmills do not work: that way.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:11 PM on May 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


"So what makes Gunther talk?"
"Is he genetically engineered?"
"Oh, please. That's preposterous science fiction mumbo-jumbo. Gunther's intelligence actually lies in his electronium hat, which harnesses the power of sunspots to produce cognitive radiation."
posted by Paragon at 8:10 PM on May 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


What's the X for? Breakfast?

Xmas.
posted by shmegegge at 9:00 PM on May 16, 2010


Watcha got there, numbers?
posted by HumuloneRanger at 9:19 PM on May 16, 2010


I was reading some stuff from this thread aloud to my husband, and my parrot kept interjecting, "Wow. Wow. Wow."

That is all.
posted by Nattie at 9:48 PM on May 16, 2010


MetaFilter: It's like a balloon, and... something bad happens!
posted by teraflop at 3:34 AM on May 17

You know, if this is what this thread devolved into, I'd be totally happy.

May I suggest:

Metafilter: I'm literally angry with rage!
posted by gc at 3:50 AM on May 17, 2010


Metafilter: I'm literally angry with rage!

Your lyrics lack subtlety! You can't just have your characters announce how they feel. That makes me feel angry!

please please please can the new series be like the old series, and not like the movies, which were distilled awful
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:19 AM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


please please please can the new series be like the old series, and not like the movies, which were distilled awful

posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:19 PM on May 17

I thought Bender's Game was pretty funny.
posted by gc at 5:44 AM on May 17, 2010


For as much as I enjoy Futurama, I remain pissed that the interviewer didn't think to ask: literal or metaphorical viking, Cohen? Bah!

But as long as we're sharing favorite Futurama quotes:my absolute favorite for humor-to-consicion ratio is the simple post-coital "Oh yes" that professor utters in "Mother's Day". The tone of voice has some of the greatest delivery I've ever heard. Just a tiny bit lecherous, full of a quietly-confident swagger, saturated with delighted accomplishment.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:22 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen Bender's Big Score yet, which I understand was pretty disappointing, but Bender's Game was fun, and Beast with a Billion Backs and Into the Wild Green Yonder were both legitimately great, I thought.

Metafilter: Tell them I hate them!
posted by Navelgazer at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Really? Bender's Big Score was the first of the new movieisodes and I think it was easily the best one. The others had funny moments, but I thought Big Score was genuinely up there with the best of Futurama.

Metafilter: My God, this is an outrage! I was going to eat that mummy!
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2010


What's the X for? Breakfast?

Raves, why not.
posted by haveanicesummer at 9:47 AM on May 17, 2010


Ha! You fools! You said I was crazy! You said that I was insane for taking the show literally! That a Smelloscope couldn't possibly work! But here we see! Physics! Science! It's all REAL!

Now, that the construction is completed in the pine clearing in my back yard, I am finally able to tell you what the planets smell like!

They smell exactly like a Christmas tree lot.

I'm not sure what that means exactly, but damn it, it's data.
posted by quin at 9:54 AM on May 17, 2010


Bender: Say, buddy. Why is this grand cigar so pricey?
Clerk: Well, as you can see, the wrapper is a piece of the original U.S. Constitution. It was hand rolled by Queen Elizabeth during her wild years, and was buried with George Burns until graverobbing space mushrooms... well, you know the rest.
Bender: I'll give you 300 bucks for it.
Clerk: No can do.
Bender: Oh, all right. I'll just take these $300 burglar's tools then.
Clerk: Very well, sir.
Bender: So, uh, what time d'you close tonight?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:55 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter : You were doing very well, until everyone died.
posted by Mr Bismarck at 10:42 AM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Your FPP is bad, and you should feel bad!
posted by speicus at 12:55 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Interesting! No, wait—the other thing. Tedious.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Oh, how I wish I could believe or understand that!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:27 PM on May 24, 2010


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