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The perfect formula for mathsiness

It’s mid-January, which means it’s time for the tabloids to trot out their annual “this is the most miserable day of the whole year!” story — before they spend the rest of the year blaming immigration, youth and political correctness for problems they’ve spent the last year stoking up.


In any case, to pre-empt the inevitable “A Cambridge scientist has discovered the perfect formula for the perfect day of misery” angle, I thought I should give the perfect formula for the perfect formula in a nonsense mathematical story, bearing in mind Goldacre’s law:

All stories that claim to have found the perfect formula for anything are PR hogwash.

Here is the perfect formula for the mathsiness factor of a tabloid maths equation:

\[MF = \frac{al \times mnoliv \times cs + di + mpf \sqrt{imn^3}}{(pra + sc)}+ul\]

According to boffin Dr Colin Beveridge [hey! that’s me!], a maths tutor in Poole, the perfect formula for mathsy story has a large number of arbitrary letters ($a$) with unusually long names ($mnoliv$ is the maximum number of letters in a variable) and corporate sponsorship ($cs$, in pounds). The formula, commissioned by Flying Colours Maths, also rates stories by their dimensional inconsistency ($di$), mentions of the phrase ‘perfect fomula’ ($mpf$) and irrelevant mathematical notation ($imn$).

Counting against mathsiness are such irrelevancies as the number of peer-reviewed articles related to the story ($pra$ is typically 0) and scientific content ($sc$ is typically on the order of $10^{-7}$).

As it happens, this article has a mathsiness factor — or $MF$ — of around nearly three billion. I look forward to the Daily Mail’s attempts to beat this score over the coming year.

5 Responses to “The perfect formula for mathsiness”

  1. Avatar Ralph Hartley

    Shouldn’t it also have many undefined variables?
    Does “ul” incorporate that?.
    No points for incmprehensible symbols?


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