Computable Minds -

The Futurama code: First part

Posted on: Jul, 20th 2010
The vitruvian Bender
Not a lot of time ago has been resumed one of my favourite series, Futurama, realized by Matt Groenning, the creator of the Simpson.
Between the scriptwriters of Futurama are involved several scientist that provides continuously references to the science. In this post I'm going to explain the cryptography used in the series for code some alien inscriptions.

At the classic cryptography were used encrypt methods that a computer can cryptanalyze, get the key in seconds and decrypt the code. With the arrive of modern cryptography, the methods are more resistant to the cryptanalysis by computer, because instead of delay seconds, can delay thousand of years or, as it's common to say in that field, the time necessary for the universe end, making reliable sending information encrypted.

One of the most used methods of the classic cryptography was the simple substitution of the alphabet letters by unknown symbols or the substitution by letters of the same alphabet, establishing a correspondence. The first substitution method known was used by Julio Cesar in the s. I b. C., that send the commands to the generals, replacing every letter of the message by the letter that occupied three positions more to the right in the alphabet. In other words, the A is replaced by a D, the B by an E, etc.

For instance the phrase:


It's encrypted as:


In Futurama appear several alien languages. The creators of the series have called theses languages, "alien alphabet one" and "alien alphabet two", that are simply texts in english encrypted with substitution methods.

In this post I'm going to explain how break the security of the alien alphabet one. It's not very difficult decrypt it, overcoat knowing that in some scenes appears some clues:

In the first episode appears this billboard of the addictive drink Slurm:

A billboard that says drink Slurm

After we see the same billboard, but this time write it with the alien alphabet. It's easy deduce that every alien letter it's replaced by its corresponding in english:

A billboard that says drink Slurm

In this cartel we can see another clue. The word open wrote in english and in alien:

Door with a cartel that says open

Thus we have part of the key that we can use to deduce the letter that we have to replace every symbol in others messages. These are only some of the messages that appears:


Here says "Tasty human burgers".

A billboard aside of the ship of Planet Express

Here "Disposable office temps".


This time we have to decrypt the message seeing it in a mirror. It says "Meat truck".

Letters before the episode

In the DVDs of the third season appears the prior text, that says:

"This program has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your pathetic, 21st century, human-made, non-interactive television that only broadcasts to two senses and doesn't even look back at you (except in Utah.)"

Finally, in the DVD's of the series if you make click on the egg salad sandwich of the menu, appears the next text:

A hide text in the DVDs of Futurama


"This dvd includes a specially encoded easter egg which you are now meticulously translating from an alien language because you have no life and are a compulsive nerdlinger, how sad, it's especially sad if you don't speak english and you have to translate the alien language into english and then into your own tongue and you come upon a word like nerdlinger which really isn't a word at all, but still aptly describes someone who would actually translate such a word, twice, and those of you who are reading this translation on a Futurama newsgroup aren't any better, we lurk on those newsgroups and we know what nerdlingers you guys are, too, of course, you're also probably our biggest fans, which is sad in its own way, but, since you went to all this trouble to translate an easter egg, we do owe you something, so here's a secret about the show. The writers, producers, directors and most of the actors who worked on the show are all nerdlingers, too".

But any cryptanalyst, without having to be a nerlinger, can decrypt this text without knowing the clues given in the series, since the correspondence between alien symbols and human letters, can be obtained making a statistical attack of frequencies.

To make an statistical attack of frequencies, first you have to calculate the frequency of appearance of all the letters of the alphabet in the language that we believe that is write the clear message.

In other words, we take a pair of page of a book and we count the times that appears every letter. In the english language the "E" is the most frequent letter, if we replace by the alien symbol most frequent, now we have the first step to continue decrypting. After, in the words of three letters where appears "E" at the end, we could deduce that here goes the article "THE" that is the more frequent. So, replacing letters and frequent words, little by little we get the code used.

The complete key to encrypt/decrypt the called "alien alphabet 1", is the following:

alien alphabet 1 of Futurama

Next I leave a cryptogram for your entertainment:

Secret message

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Date: Aug, 11th 2012 Time: 6:03:47
The next week I will publish a post explaining the alien alphabet two.
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