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Why is 1729 So Important to FUTURAMA? [Television]

If you've watched Futurama you know they love math. But no number was more important to them than the number 1729.

I'm guest-posting on The Non-Review! Head over to find out 10 Graphic Novels That Would Make Great Movies.

Math jokes are a big part of Futurama. There's a reason the show has been called the "Geekiest Show on Television." This is no surprise since several of the writers are mathematicians. This includes J. Stewart Burns (who holds a master's degree in maths from UC Berkeley), Bill Odenkirk (who holds a chemistry PhD from University of Chicago), Jeff Westbrook  (who holds a computer science PhD from Princeton), Ken Keeler (who earned an applied mathematics PhD at Harvard) and, of course, head writer David X. Cohen (who majored in applied maths at Harvard and earned a masters in computer science at UC Berkeley).

While my brother has listed the 11 Nerdiest Jokes on FUTURAMA (And What They Mean), but the one joke that's popped up more than any other is the number 1729.

The number 1729 is known as the "Hardy–Ramanujan number" based on a story told by British mathematician G. H. Hardy when he visited his good friend, the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, in the hospital.

“I remember once going to see [Ramanujan] when he was ill at Putney." Hardy recalled, "I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavorable omen. 'No,' he replied, 'it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.'" The number can be "unpacked" as 1,729 = 1³ + 12³ = 9³ + 10³.

Here are all the episodes that have the number 1729 in them.

"Xmas Story" (1999)
The robot chef Bender receives a card from the robot arm that built him calling him "Son #1729". Ken Keeler said, "Bender's serial number is 1729, a historically significant integer to mathematicians everywhere; that 'joke' alone is worth six years of grad school, I'd say."

"Love's Labours Lost in Space" (1999)
Zapp Brannigan's starship Nimbus has the hull registry number BP-1729.

"The Lesser of Two Evils" (2000)
Bender's serial number is the sum of two cubes: his number is 2716057 = 952³ - 951³, while his robot brother Flexo is 3370318 = 1193 + 1193.

Bender: Hey, brobot, what's you serial number?
Flexo: 3370318.
Bender: No way! Mine's 2716057!
Fry: I don't get it.
Bender: We're both expressible as the sum of two cubes.

"The Farnsworth Parabox" (2003)
One of several parallel universes is labeled "Universe 1729" and filled with giant Bobbleheads.

"Bender's Big Score" (2007)
When Fry goes to the past and takes a taxicab home the number is 87539319. This is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in three different ways: 1673 + 4363 or as 2283 + 4233, or 2553 + 4143. Of course, it's the third taxicab. The Hardy–Ramanujan number is also known as the "taxicab number."

Don't forget to head over to find out 10 Graphic Novels That Would Make Great Movies.

Is Futurama the geekiest show on television? Are there any other math jokes you noticed in Futurama?

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  1. That's a lot of episodes.
    Already caught your guest post at Tim's place. An interesting selection of graphic novels, guys.

  2. Thats very interesting. Math was my weakest subject. I love Futurama and all its geekiness.

  3. I guess that's what happens when you let math nerds work on a TV show.

  4. OK, I would never get math jokes. But it's fun to know they're in there.

  5. I love Futurama but man, I rarely get these nerdier jokes.

  6. Naive question: Are either of the Futurama starting shots above with 1729 in them real [http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-u2P2myFamiY/UmVaMe77YPI/AAAAAAAAgxA/8MranIsSKL0/s1600/FUTURAMA-1729.jpg] or are they both photoshopped?

  7. It's actually a good question Ellen.  I made them, but I'm glad they look that realistic!


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