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Formulaic fashioning of fun formulas

Frank Swain laments the torrent of cute, quickie formulas loosed upon and lapped up by news media. He writes:

formula_cc_dullhunk.jpgIt was too much to hope for to get through the season without someone, somewhere, attaching their name to a bogus scientific formula and calling it news. Ever since McVities paid Dr Len Fisher to come up with a formula for biscuit dunking, advertisers have seen the ?perfect formula? story prove irresistible to media editors. Len Fisher, to his credit, performed some proper science to back up his equation, but this diligence didn?t follow on to the many scientists who were willing to pick up a cheque for attaching their name to some spurious nonsense.

Len Fisher‘s formula, carefully arrived at, won him the 1999 Ig Nobel Physics Prize. No one who attempted to copy his success has been so keenly celebrated. Frank Swain, in a previous lament, listed some of those attempts:

the BBC has ?news articles? detailing how to make the perfect toast, what makes scary movies so scary, when to sack football managers, where to find the perfect shopping street, how to hold chopsticks, the key to good biscuit dunking, which bread is best for mopping gravy, the perfect holiday resort, the perfect beach, the perfect pint, the perfect romantic comedy, the perfect commentating voice, how to make chemistry on-screen, how to build sandcastles, both the best method of pulling crackers and how to choose a Christmas tree, therefore the perfect Christmas (not actually related), the perfect sitcom, what makes a perfect marriage, perfect pork crackling, the perfect cup of tea, how to make the perfect film, a scientific solution to pancake flipping, the most depressing day, how to make the perfect free kick, the perfect cheese sandwich, the secret of the perfect golf swing, the small matter of everlasting perfect happiness and, inevitiably, an article entitled ?the formula for a perfect formula?, which, as it turns out, is an article on spurious formulas published by err? the BBC!

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