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Professor Farnsworth's Most Important Futurama Invention Is One You Miss All The Time

If you've watched any episode of the sci-fi animated series, Futurama, you already know that Professor Farnsworth is an eccentric genius who, although he appears senile at times, has the ability to create almost any invention out of thin air.

Throughout the futuristic show, the 160-year-old owner of Planet Express, has created inventions ranging from the Smell-O-Scope (a telescope that lets users smell items from afar) to the first robot capable of qualifying for a boat loan. One invention of his that often goes unappreciated is his dark matter engine — a remarkable innovation that runs the Planet Express Ship and could literally change the universe.

In the season 2 episode "A Clone of My Own," Cubert, the 12-year-old clone of Farnsworth, reveals to the crew that, "The engines don't move the ship at all. The ship stays where it is, and engines move the universe around it."

The dark matter engine is what gives the delivery spacecraft, the Planet Express, its name. The ship's furnaces burn dark matter. As Farnwsworth tells his clone, what makes this engine truly "remarkable is the afterburner, which delivers 200% fuel efficiency." This allows the ship to propel through space fast enough to cover the entire visible universe in a matter of days.

Farnsworth discovered the locomotive potential of dark matter when he was a lowly employee of Mom's Friendly Robot Company, and the universe was never the same.

Futurama's concepts are rooted in actual science

Although Futurama often satirizes the typical tropes of science fiction, the team behind the making of the show includes writers with PhDs in math, computer science, and chemistry. The creative team has more degrees than a thermometer, which helps the show achieve a high level of verisimilitude in its various plots. Even the most outlandish concepts on Futurama are often rooted in actual science.

Though dark matter makes up about 27% of the universe, science has been unable to observe this elusive substance directly. Despite this fact, our best astrophysicists still know a few things about its properties, and Futurama was apparently spot on when theorizing that dark matter could be hugely beneficial as a fuel source. According to Forbes, "dark matter could be the perfect fuel that makes our interstellar dreams come true." 

Though the professor easily falls prey to internet scams and once put Hitler's brain into the body of a great white shark, his invention of a dark matter engine is proof that he's still one the most intelligent characters on the show — second only to the Harlem Globetrotters.