In the television show Futurama, Professor Farnsworth and Amy decide to try out their newly finished “Mind-Switcher” invention on themselves. When they try to switch back, they discover a key flaw in the machine’s design: it will not allow the same pair of bodies to be used in the machine more than once. Is there a way to restore their minds back to their original bodies?
The Futurama theorem is a real-life mathematical theorem invented by Futurama writer Ken Keeler (who holds a PhD in applied mathematics), purely for use in the Season 6 episode “The Prisoner of Benda”.
The Pancake Problem, first posed in 1975, is a sorting problem with connections to computer science and DNA rearrangements, which leads to discussions of algorithms, sequences, and the usefulness of approximations and bounds.
The original problem was first posed by mathematician Jacob Goodman under the pen name “Harry Dweighter” (read it quickly) in 1975, and it has delighted math enthusiasts (including undergraduate Bill Gates) ever since!