Comment »Posted on Wednesday 10 December 2008 at 9:42 pm by Jacob Aron
In Mathematics

I’m sorry to have two similar stories so close together, but when I saw that the Sun had published a formula for determining if your boobline is too low, I just had to say something.

Apparently, following the dress-popping antics of Britney Spears “scientists, undies experts and mathematicians have been trying to figure out where the decency perimeter lies.” I’ll quote the “result” in full.

The equation is O=NP(20C+B)/75.

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).

The sum in brackets is 20 multiplied by the cup size (C), where A cup is one, B is two, C is three and D or above is five.

Add that figure to B, the bust measurement in inches. Then divide your answer by 75. Any score higher than 100 is counted as obscene.

Can anyone spot the immediate problem with the equation? It’s this: if N is zero, then O will be zero, because anything multiplied by zero is zero. In other words, if no nipples are shown then the “naughtiness rating” will always be zero! Hardly scandalising, I think you’ll agree.

What’s worse is the Sun actually demonstrate this in the article, with their example calculation for Britney:

Britney’s tight fitting Roberto Cavalli dress showed off around 70 per cent of her breasts, 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.

They’ve clearly multiplied by zero, and yet got a non-zero number! What’s worse, the sub-editor who wrote the headline has substituted the O in the equation for a 0, rendering it completely meaningless. It’s a shame actually, because for once everything in this formula is quantifiable in an non-subjective manner. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a load of rubbish (why multiply the cup size by 20? Why is a score of 100 obscene), but I have to give whoever came up with this formula some small amount of credit for dealing in actual measurements.

That’s the other problem actually – who did come up with this? The Sun quote William Hartson, “who holds an MA in Maths from Cambridge University”, and is also the author of “Drunken Goldfish and Other Irrelevant Scientific Research”. Ah, I thought to myself – another book to shill – but no, Drunken Goldfish was published in 1987! I think the Sun may have just gone to Mr Hartson for an “expert” quote. A listing on another book at Amazon indicates that he writes “surreal humour” for the Daily Express. Further on in the article, a spokesperson from Wonderbra is quoted. Maybe they came up with the formula? It’s possible, but I can’t find any information indicating this to be the case.

Really, I’m over-thinking this. The article is little more than an excuse to publish pictures of scantily clad women, under the pretence of evaluating them with the formula. Sex sells papers, as is well documented on Just A Theory with what I like to call the Scarlett Johansson School of Science Reporting. Still, as you should’ve realised by now, I can’t resist a “formula for” story. Thankfully however, my reasons are the exact opposite of the mass media!


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