5 Of Life's Most Mundane Problems (Solved With Math)
Finding the ultimate solution to a problem is every scientist's dream, as the ensuing Science Kahuna Award attracts great peer reverence and preferential funding. But not everyone can discover the cure for cancer, which is why a whole lot of scientists opt to research other, more mundane things ... like toast or handshakes.
Perfect Toast and Pancakes
You wake up to a new day with a pang of ravenous hunger. It's clear that your normal breakfast of Cheerios and NyQuil isn't going to cut it this time. What you need is some serious carb loading -- a bushel of crunchy, greasy toast or a giant stack of fluffy pancakes. The only problem is your unrealistically high breakfast standards; you're simply too hungover to endure the disappointment of a soggy pancake. Do you have anything, science?
As a matter of fact, yes. There are renegade mathematicians who have devoted their entire professional lives to developing the perfect breakfast food ... and they are very good at what they do.
"Now, we dissolve the excess calcium with a little hydrofluoric acid, and ... breakfast!"
To find the perfect toasted bread, researchers painstakingly toasted more than 2,000 pieces of sliced bread in what must have been the most blatant abuse of grant money since the Hooters and Lube Squirt Gun Experiment. They found that there are certain specific conditions that the best toast in the world must meet. The bread must be exactly 0.55 inches thick. It must be toasted in a 900-watt toaster that is maintained at a steady heat of 309.2 degrees Fahrenheit for exactly three minutes and 36 seconds. Finally, the King of All Toast must be gently moved to a plate that is warmed to 113 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal condensation and slathered with 0.44 grams of butter per square inch.
Well there you go, time to meet the Godhead of all Toastkind and -- aw, shit, all you have is rye? Damn. Well, that's clearly inedible. How about that perfect pancake formula? The problem with pancakes is not the recipe -- anyone can mix up a half-decent batter. The hard part is the flipping. Good thing, then, that scientists have figured out the perfect way to do it. Here's how:
"Dad, you have to stop chanting that formula every time I try to help out with breakfast."
Oh, right. Obviously. We can clearly see that "L" indicates the hand's distance from the inner edge of the pancake, "H" is the height of the flip and "D" is the diameter of the pancake. Still, we can't help but feel that the vast majority of humanity isn't ready to wrestle with equations before their morning coffee, especially when attempting to flip a flat lump of scalding batter.
Luckily, scientists aren't complete dicks, so they've come up with an alternate method of pancake flippery:
You're really fucking with our morning, science.
The Most Effective Handshake
From those jackasses who take pride in their ability to squash the other person's hand into pulp to the clammy, vaguely fishlike dudes who leave you longing for a shower, there's no question that your handshake says a lot about you. Hell, an unwisely executed handshake both can and absolutely will change the tide of an entire election.
"I'm the dom, and you'd bloody well better accept it."
Knowing this, it's no surprise that politicians in particular have expressed interest in harnessing the untapped power of the perfect handshake. John F. Kennedy was particularly keen on handshake theory, even commissioning a personal study to find the best methods. He took the results to heart and promptly became Shakemaster Extraordinaire. His secret was to maintain eye contact, keep the grip, and shake in careful control while using specific speech patterns and memory tricks to enhance the effect. Kennedy even devised himself a special move, like a handshake Hadouken: He liked to cup his free hand over the handshake, thus giving subtle hints of a deep level of trust and intimacy between the parties. The overall result was that a three-second handshake with JFK could deliver more information than a whole dinner date with a lesser handshakist, and carried a lot more promise of hanky-panky later.
"You brought condoms, right? Actually, never mind, I have an assistant."
Geoffrey Beattie, head of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester, later brought Kennedy's techniques closer to the common man by coming up with an actual scientific formula for ridiculous mastery over the clasping of hands. While the formula itself is as convoluted as you'd imagine, it is luckily also available in handy chart form:
At what point is head-butting appropriate?
The rules are pretty much the same for everyone, regardless of age and gender: a complete grip and a carefully firm squeeze in a midpoint position between yourself and the other person, with no more than three or four shakes of medium vigor. The palm should be cool and dry to prevent the ick factor, and eye contact must be kept throughout. Cap that off with a natural smile and some carefully selected rhetoric, and voila! You are now that person's master, and they will do your bidding without question.
The Sexiest Way to Dance (for Guys)
Dancing plays an important part in many species' courtship rituals. Humans are no different -- even though most of us suck at it so badly that we have to be drunk to even consider the option.
That's why European scientists, notorious dance floor dominators, wanted to give other men a fighting chance by scientifically determining the sexiest dance moves. They did this by recruiting a bunch of young men, hooking up electrodes all over their bodies and capturing their movements on the computer screen, Gollum style. The subjects were then instructed to dance to their hearts' content, a feat made no less challenging by the fact that their thrusting and grooving was keenly observed by a bunch of elderly gentlemen in lab coats.
The dances were then evaluated and judged by members of the opposite sex. To restrain the men's individual attractiveness from affecting the results (and to further up the creepiness factor), each dance was performed by a faceless, soulless computer avatar.
Lady Gaga? OH, BURN!
From the results, the researchers were able to determine and construct the absolute best manner of male dancing. It looks like this:
Yes, men of the world, according to science, that little choreographed number that looks like the clinically stupid offspring of the Swim and the Cabbage Patch is officially the sexiest way to strut your stuff. The particular tricks that were deemed to catch women's attention include gyrating your neck, torso and right knee in wide, varied motions while -- in a shocking twist for all Lambada enthusiasts out there -- not gyrating your pelvis.
In short, the most attractive way to dance is stumbling around like a drunken asshole ... but rhythmically. Incidentally, the study also found the worst dancing style available to man. If you feel like you can't keep up with the Swimming Cabbage up there, you can at least minimize the damage by avoiding these moves:
Otherwise known as the Cracked Party Shuffle.
The Best Way to Parallel Park a Car
Parallel parking is easy as pie. All you need is to keep your mind away from the fact that you're trying to fit two tons of steel into a small space flanked on both sides by thousands of dollars' worth of other peoples' property aaaaaaa!
Whoops, sorry about that. Science, do you have any way to fix this?
Preferably without using the phrase "Now ramp that shit!"
In 2009, professor Simon Blackburn of Royal Holloway College teamed up with Vauxhall Motors with one goal in mind: to figure out the absolute best way to park your car. Blackburn finally came up with a solution, and when we say "solution," we mean "an unholy cluster of numbers and letters that would give Bill Nye an embolism."
Luckily, pretty much everyone who owns a car has a keen interest in parking. Other people saw Blackburn's work and both explained and elaborated on it. Before long, the BBC caught wind of the research and released this handy guide.
So, here's how you do it: First, you make sure there's at least 5 feet 11 inches more space than the length of your car available. Then, you calmly pull in as close to the car in front as possible. After that, all you need to do is reverse your vehicle smoothly into the parking space at a 40-degree angle. That's it. Just intrinsically know what 1 inch shy of 6 feet looks like as judged from 20 feet away through a car window, then crank a wheel with no measurements whatsoever on it in an arbitrary way that gives you a turning radius of exactly 40 degrees. Then ... floor it?
Well, it doesn't say not to.
The Perfect Marriage
With divorce rates soaring, the concept of a perfect marriage is not unlike the concept of unicorns -- they feature most prominently in the realm of fantasy and the diaries of preteen girls.
First, you'll need a unicorn.
Unlike unicorns, marriage has garnered a good deal of interest from researchers (when are you gonna start genetically modifying us some Pegasii, science?). In fact, scientists from the Geneva School of Business have actually managed to figure out a formula for the best possible marriage. They reviewed over a thousand marriages from all social backgrounds and age groups and then determined how happy each couple was. From this data pool, they were able to create the optimal conditions for a perfect marriage. Here's what they have:
First of all, the man should be about five years older than the woman, because the couple dynamic apparently works the best that way. The couple should preferably be from the same cultural heritage, as this saves them from waging the bloody "which way should the toilet paper roll hang" war.
Finally, the wife should be at least 27 percent smarter than the husband. Optimally, the woman should have a degree, while the husband would remain relatively uneducated. There's logic behind this: Because they usually invest more raw emotion in a relationship, women have a tendency to carry the emotional happiness of the entire relationship, while the men tag along. Basically, if the wife is happy, then the husband is happy, too. This essentially puts the woman in the position of the "brain" of the relationship, so it sort of makes sense to reinforce the setting by giving her superior cranial capabilities as well.
Second, she can't be a douche about it. Book learnin' is for assholes.
Of course, this formula is far from foolproof -- after all, love is a right bastard to control. Still, the researchers claim that the couples within their "perfect" model have a 20 percent better chance to maintain a happy marriage than couples outside of the model. And for the millions and millions of us who don't fit their findings, there's always a consolation: All those "dumb, fat husband with a brilliant, pretty wife" shows on ABC are totally scientifically accurate!
For more incredible things science has done, check out 5 Mind-Blowing Ways That Science Has Done the Impossible. Or learn about 6 Insane Discoveries That Science Can't Explain.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Ways Italy Is Trying to Undo the Renaissance.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why the Nutty Professor is the best professor.
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