Cheryl Ladd turns 65

Cheryl Ladd

Cheryl Ladd in 1978 recently.

Fifteen years ago today, I noted in utter astonishment that Cheryl Ladd had just turned 50.

I'm no mathematician, but I reckon that makes Cheryl Ladd 65 years young today.

And I'm now 51, which makes me older than Cheryl Ladd was when I was astonished at her being 50 just a few short years ago.

None of this makes any sense.

Anyway, in celebration of this remarkable event, here is what was always my favourite track from Cheryl's eponymous first album.

The track is called Skinnydippin'.

To be honest, that is almost certainly why it was my favourite.

Many happy returns, Cheryl.

Not wishing to be pedantic, but...

Spectator: The myth of the 'middle class drink epidemic'
[…] The hook for all this is a study (in reality, a glorified survey) published in BMJ Open which found that successful, wealthy, middle class people over the age of 50 are more likely to exceed the government’s drinking guidelines than their peers.

No. Successful, wealthy, middle class people over the age of 50 drink, on average, exactly the same amount as their peers. That's because they're in the same peer-group.

What the article means to say is that successful, wealthy, middle class people over the age of 50 are more likely to exceed the government’s drinking guidelines than people in other groups (who, by definition, aren't their peers).

A head for figures

BBC: Mathematics: Why the brain sees maths as beauty
Brain scans show a complex string of numbers and letters in mathematical formulae can evoke the same sense of beauty as artistic masterpieces and music from the greatest composers.

This news won't come as a surprise to anyone who has studied maths in any detail.

When I was studying maths (double-maths, actually) for ‘A’ level, one of our teachers once wrote a fiendish problem on the blackboard for us to work through as a group. “Any ideas?” he asked.

After studying the equation for a couple of minutes, I suggested that we might like to subtract y2 from both sides.

“Why would we want to do that?” asked the teacher, beginning to foam at the mouth.

“Because that will give us an x2 and a minus y2 on the right-hand side. And x2 - y2 is, well… nice.”

The class burst out laughing. But the teacher, whose foam had turned into a real lather by now, gave them a right bollocking, explaining that Carter was right, and that x2 - y2 was indeed nice. In fact, it was beautiful.

This particular maths teacher tended to foam at the mouth rather a lot. I don't think this was down to his passion for mathematics. I suspect it was due to madness. He talked to trees. I know this for a fact, because he told us so. He also used to play opera at us during our maths lessons. Wagner, mostly. Very loudly.

To a mathematician, a beautiful formula is every bit as aesthetically pleasing as a piece of Wagner, a painting, or even an attractive film-star. Indeed, any red-blooded male mathematician worth his salt would be hard-pressed to choose between:

Scarlett Johansson

Euler's equation.


Euler's equation

Scarlett Johansson.

Which is why I never became a mathematician.

How to use maths to get chatted-up

Fact: Bad mathematics can get you chatted-up. Well, sort of. Bad mathematics certainly got me chatted-up once; I don't know if it works that way for everyone. Well, when I say chatted-up, I mean spoken to unexpectedly by a member of the opposite sex—which pretty much counted, back in the early 1980s. Or it might even have been the late 1970s.

Irish Mick and I were on our way home from school. For some reason, we were on the top floor of a bus. There must have been something wrong with the trains. Anyway, it had been raining heavily, and the windows were all steamed up, so I explained to Irish Mick (who wasn't even Irish Mick back then) how I could prove mathematically that two equals one. I wrote my proof in the condensation on the window. It went like this:

Let a = b
∴ a² = ab
∴ a² - b² = ab - b²
(a + b)(a - b) = b(a - b)
∴ (a + b)(a - b) = b(a - b)
∴ a + b = b
But remember, a = b, so…
b + b = b
∴ 2b = b
∴ 2 = 1

Irish Mick looked on bemused, then went back to reading The Lord of the Rings. After about ten minutes, however, this cute girl on the seat behind us leant forward and said, “Excuse me, I've been staring at that proof for ten minutes, and I can't work out what's wrong with it. Can you explain, please?”

So I did.

I never saw her again.

Lesson: Never explain anything: it totally destroys the air of mystery.