Over the years mathematicians have given us the perfect biscuit, the perfect marriage, the perfect joke and the perfect penalty, now Simon Singh needs your help, and your pupils' help) finding the perfect phoney formula. And there are so many to find - in newspapers, in advertisements in magazines, in films ... almost everywhere.
The British Science Festival kicked off on Saturday (5th September 2009) at the University of Surrey and on Sunday Simon will be giving a lecture discussing those quirky equations that seem to appear in the media every few weeks purporting to describe everyday phenomena.
For example, you may remember the equations that supposedly calculated the perfect TV sitcom, the best day of the year, or the likelihood of scoring from a penalty. You can find lots more documented at the blog Apathy Sketchpad.
Despite the fact that these media-friendly formulae have enough variables to make them look as though they are based on proper research, in most cases they are effectively meaningless. Indeed, Simon reports that he has been approached a couple of times by PR companies who have wanted him to construct similarly cockamamie formulae.
Read about it here (The Guardian, 4th September 2009):