Just to be clear, nobody listens to a word I say. More important equation news from the Sun this week, with the exciting headline “How to tell if the boobline is too low… use this equation 0=NP(20C+B)/75”. Alongside a photograph of poor old Britney with her boobs falling out.
“Following her wardrobe malfunction — where she was snapped nearly popping out of a very low-cut dress at her 27th birthday bash, below — scientists, undies experts and mathematicians have been trying to figure out where the decency perimeter lies. And here we can exclusively reveal the formula to work it out.”
I will talk you through this important work. “To figure out the naughtiness rating (O), you times the number of nipples exposed, from zero to two or expressed as fractions of nipple shown (N) with the percentage of exposed frontal surface area (P).” And we’ll stop there.
This is, of course, part of a crap effort to sell a presumably crap book by an apparently crap mathematician who I shall not name, partly in protest at the crass way he makes a big fuss about doing maths at Cambridge (congratulations), and partly because it seems to me that he can’t do basic arithmetic.
“Britney’s tight fitting Roberto Cavalli dress showed off around 70 per cent of her breasts,” said the Sun: “and experts at Wonderbra think she is a 32D. Without any nipple exposure, Britney’s formula works out as 0x70x(20×5+32)/75 = 123.2.”
No. Without nipple exposure Britney’s score is zero, because zero multiplied by anything is zero. In fact, even if that error wasn’t made by our genius mathematician (did you know he did maths at Cambridge?) the formula is still cock, because if all women walked around wearing absolutely nothing but tassles on their nipples – fanny, bum, the whole lot – they would still have a naughtiness rating of zero.
Meanwhile my frighteningly anal chums at the ApathySketchpad.com blog have performed quantitative analysis on this question, by doggedly documenting every single equation story to appear in the Telegraph, a serious paper that covers science properly. Their finds include such important breakthroughs in the field of mathematical modelling as: The Perfect Sitcom (quality = (rd+v)f÷a+s) to promote UKTV Gold; The Perfect Joke (x = (fl + no)/p) to promote some comedian; The Perfect Day (quality = O + NS + Cpm÷T + He) to promote ice cream; The Perfect Rugby Kick (KP = CSP – s + w + r + yn + cr + sc + mt + xn + ctw), which somehow has something to do with a research company called Qinetiq; The Perfect Marriage (some guy); The Perfect Chip (Tesco); The Perfect Football Penalty (odds of scoring = (X + Y + S)×(T + I + 2B)÷8 + V÷2 – 1) for, oh, Ladbrokes; How To Open Champagne (P = T÷4.5 + 1) (Marks and Spencer); The Perfect Place To Shop (D=f(m,b,c)), Yellow pages; The Perfect Newspaper (it’s the Telegraph, heh); How To Pour Gravy: (amount of gravy = (W – D÷S) ÷ D × 100) mmm Bisto; The Perfect Biscuit (where the formula was deemed to complicated for Telegraph readers, and was “half funded by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and half by United Biscuits”); and many, many more.
Then they’ve done exactly wthe same thing for the Mail.
These stories tell us nothing about science. They are what PR companies call “advertising equivalent exposure”, a way to get your brand into the paper without paying, and onto editorial pages. They are copied and pasted onto the page by hurried journalists with a hangover and other deadlines to deal with, exactly as I have copied and pasted this work from my friend’s blog into my column, in a rather pleasing and self-effacing moment of rhetorical symmetry. But most crucially of all, these companies know that the way to get a non-story into a national broadsheet newspaper is to make it about science, the one subject which is regarded by editors and senior executives with universal derision and incomprenhension. Merry christmas.