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The Futurama Theorem

In case you missed it, Futurama was recently resurrected from beyond the television grave, and this summer it began airing new half-hour episodes on Comedy Central. Although it’s never reached the height of popularity achieved by its older sibling, The Simpsons, Futurama nevertheless has its own share of dedicated fans. Many of those fans appreciate the differences between this show and The Simpsons, the most obvious of which is the former’s futuristic setting and sci-fi influences.

The setting of the show naturally lends itself to math and science jokes, and in this department Futurama does not disappoint. Last week, however, they seriously stepped their game up a notch, by featuring the proof of an original mathematical result as a central feature in the plot of the story.

The mathematics evolves quite organically. In the show, Amy and Professor Farnsworth have created a mind-switching device, which can swap . . . → Read More: The Futurama Theorem

Finding Love with a Modified Drake’s Equation

Some time ago, I wrote an article on the optimal way to select a mate, assuming you know how many eligible partners exist, and that once you’ve dated someone, you can’t go back and date them again (sorry, Drew Barrymore and that dude from the Apple commercials). This is less romantically known as the secretary problem. Let me briefly recall the problem and its solution: suppose you have n candidates, from which you want to pick the best one. This applies to a variety of situations, from hiring a secretary to finding a girlfriend to apartment hunting. In either case, the outcome is the same: you should look at roughly the first n/e of them (yes, that e), and then select the first one after those n/e which is better than all that you have seen so far. While this strategy won’t guarantee you get the best choice, it . . . → Read More: Finding Love with a Modified Drake’s Equation