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Professor Farnsworth’s top-10 Futurama inventions

Remember the What-If Machine? the Smell-o-Scope? The Relative Box?

The What If Machine

Professor Farnsworth’s What-If Machine first appeared in “Anthology of Interest I” as a cute way of forwarding the plot and allowing the characters to watch a series of stories imagining what would happen if their lives were different. It’s a gag device used to let the writers tell out-of-continuity stories, but it’d be a fantastic device to have in real life. Jobs and relationships would become zero-risk enterprises.

The Time Machine That Only Goes Forward

In “The Late Philip J. Fry,” the professor takes Fry and Bender on a journey in his time machine. The catch: it only goes forward in time. The mishap sends them skipping into the future in hopes of finding a machine that goes backward, only to discover that if they go far enough, the universe dies and then starts up again, putting them back where they started. This would be fantastic for checking out how things go in the future, then going around the horn into the past to fix your mistakes.

The Smell-o-Scope

The professor’s giant Smell-o-Scope can be used to smell odors from very far away, including on another planet. It first appeared in “A Big Piece of Garbage,” alerting the crew to a giant garbage ball on a collision course with Earth, and later showed up in “A Clone of My Own” when the gang used it to find the professor after he’s taken to the hidden retirement home. The real-world implications of the Smell-o-Scope are pretty dangerous, though it would be interesting to smell what’s happening in other countries.

The Death Clock

One of the professor’s more overlooked inventions, the Death Clock is just what it sounds like: a device designed to let a person know how much time they have left to live. A real-world Death Clock would present its share of philosophical problems, but it would still be amazing to know just how much time you have to live your life to its fullest. Then again, knowing the exact date might make people lazy until their appointed time. Decisions, decisions.

The Mind-Switcher

Professor Farnsworth’s mind-switcher lets him and Amy swap bodies for a while, but the catch is it can’t be used twice on the same pair, leading to a chain of switches to get everyone’s consciousness back in the right head. Catches aside, it’s a fun idea for an invention that’s popped up in movies for years. As long as you had extra bodies willing to volunteer to help get everyone straightened out in the end, it would be pretty freeing to try life as someone else for a day.

The Electronium Hat

The electronium hat uses energy gathered from sunspots to stimulate radiation and funnel it into the brain, thereby juicing up cognitive ability. Short version: it lets animals talk. The hat was in part a joke by the writers about the outlandish sci-fi contraptions of other TV series and movies, but it’s still a fascinating idea.

The Flabo Dynamic Suit

When Hermes competes in the Olympics, Professor Farnsworth builds him a special suit designed to slim him down and relocate his center of gravity, making him a better runner and stronger athlete. I would pay no small amount of money for a real version of this suit, which I would then give to my high school self using a round-the-bend trip in the professor’s time machine.

The Relative Box

This simple invention only requires finger contact to determine if two people are related. The professor used it in the pilot episode to learn that Fry was his distant uncle. The real-life benefits are easy to see: paternity suits would be resolved easier than traffic disputes, plus it would let people who were adopted verify their birth parents. How is this not real already?

The F-Ray

The professor’s F-Ray is more powerful than an X-ray because it can see through all objects, including metal, though the trade-off is a high risk of radiation fallout. (Hey, you gotta break a few eggs.) The criminal and law-enforcement opportunities are equally enticing. Who doesn’t want to be able to see through walls?

The Clone-O-Mat

Professor Farnsworth’s cloning machine is a dream invention, capable of creating genetic copies of people and animals. The real-world applications would be startling: people could grow spare parts or whole doubles, leading to some ethically murky areas. On the show, the machine’s use brings its own ups and downs. It’s responsible for the creation of Cubert, but also plays a role in “Jurassic Bark,” which packs the saddest ending of any TV episode ever. Maybe it’s best for this one to stay a fantasy.

“Futurama Season 5, and premium “Bender’s Head” 1-5 box set available on 2 Nov from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. The box set will include a $5 cash-back offer for Futurama Season 6 DVD available 21 December.”

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