Maths and Cheese on Toast

Cheese on toast as served in a cafe in Harlow,...

Cheese on toast as served in a cafe in Harlow, Essex (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been off-line for a few days so have some catching up to do.  Here’s a headline which caught my eye on 18th August – the application of maths to solving the problem of how do you make the best cheese on toast.  The real issue here is the expectation that the application of maths to a mundane subject like cheese on toast lends it an artificial credibility.  Anyway, here goes:

Cheese on Toast

You’ve had a few beers,
you’re feeling all right
returning home late at night
and you lust for some cheese on toast.
You’ve a most urgent craving
and you think you are raving.
As you slap vintage cheddar onto granary bread
you’re aware of a thought creeping into your head –
How do you know that your rarebit’s the best?
Is there a test?
The answer is “YES!”

It lies in the maths.
You think somewhere you may have read
the thickness of bread, the strength of the cheese,
the sauce that you add, the heat of the grill
can all be combined …… until
the variables create
a multi-variate polynomial equation
waiting there to differentiate
and thus calculate
the coordinates of the maximum,
revealing the optimum
formula for cheese on toast.

No idle boast.
The power of mathematics
with its lies, damned lies and statistics.
Do they think we’re all dipsticks.
It all seems so crass,
this abuse of the wonder of maths.

18th August 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Perfect cheese on toast: If b=bread, c=cheese and t=time, what is the point of all these formulae?”..The scientists at the Royal Society of Chemistry have come up with many complex mathematical formulae in their time, but perhaps never one this silly: today they unveil their sums for calculating how to make the perfect cheese on toast.  It comes only days after an equation was published to predict the murder rate in Brazil as its population increases – rarely can there have been two formulae so far apart in the seriousness of their subject matter.  These kind of marketing exercises, using maths as advertising tools, do not amuse all mathematicians. According to Nick Ovenden, a mathematics lecturer at University College London, “These equations provide no useful value. Worse still, they distort perceptions of what proper mathematical research is about and do not inform on what amazing contributions mathematics can make to society.”

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