How to Biff a Boffin!!!

December 24, 2009

 Mathspigs we need a formula to work out how to biff a boffin. I have one in mind, but let me explain. Maths professors are now in the habit of coming up with some crazy formula to grab media attention. 

 ‘Mathematicians’ who should know better (Show-Me-The-Money ethics may be involved) have produced formulae for The Perfect Sitcom ; The Perfect Joke; The Perfect Day; The Perfect Rugby Kick ; The Perfect Marriage (Yeah, right!); The Perfect Chip”  and so on. See : Britney’s Naughtiness Factor Calculated for Idiots  Sometimes the formula is rubbish because it includes impossible measurements such as N (the fraction of nipple shown in naughtiness calculations) or f (the funniness of a punch line for Perfect joke calculations.) Now Professor Simon Blackburn from the University of London’s Royal Holloway College has calculated the minimum extra length a parking space needs to be to parallel park your car in association with  – let me see – Vauxhall. Surpise! Surpise!

The following article by Murray Waldrop first appeared in the Guardian, UK and then The Age, Australia (17/12/09)

 Mathspig calculated the extra distance needed to parallel her Mazda 3 behind Mr Mathspigs Land Rover Discovery.

r = 5.45 m

l = 2.63 m

k = o.76 m

      w = 1.79 m

Minimum extra length needed to parallel park Mazda 3 = 1.64 m

The answer seems reasonable but you better check the calcs mathspigs as I was so boooooored I thought I might fall asleep and smash my face into the keyboard doing this calculation. 

Why is Mathspig so angry with boffins? Because this is maths for idiots. No one in their right mind would stop and calculate how much space they need to park a car. A driver has a look and – depending on driving skills – says ‘I reckon that’s a bit tight?’ or ‘Yep! that’ll do.’ These crazy formulae make maths and mathematicians look dumb. Is this what mathematicians do? Stop in the middle of the road to calculate if they can park their cars???? D’uh! Or do mathematicians use iffy formulae to calculate funniness factors?

If we want kids to do maths we should convince them it is both useful and relevant (Mathspig’s Mission, my friends). Even in the classroom student’s are asked to complete useless calculations. eg. If a farmer was grazing a goat in the corner of a rectangular paddock on a 5m tether, what area would the goat graze? Who would do this maths? The farmer simply looks at the paddock and says ‘I better move the goat?’  Students must practise their skills. But they absolutely have to do some real maths too!!!!!

 Mathspigs keep an eye out for dumb maths. Teachers purleasssse take these crazy formulae into class. Show your students they are rubbish!!!

Then show them some useful maths like I Got the Speed Camera Blues!! 

What’s the formula to biff a boffin? Who cares but if you must here is a hint:

  r = length of your arm with the boffins ear @ a point on the circumference of the circle.



  1. I saw an article about that somewhere and thought exactly the same thing – and you know there’s going to be some math teacher out there who tries to use this as a “real world” application of math.

    • HI Sarah,
      Great to here from you. I’m not alone on this issue. Cheers Mathspig

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