Do Mathematicians Eat the World's Tastiest Breakfasts?

By Rachel Cernansky | February 26, 2009 2:09 pm

pancake.jpgUPDATED (see below).

Thank goodness we have mathematics to solve the world’s most pressing dilemmas, such as “What’s the speed of light?” and “How do I make the world’s tastiest pancakes?” Dr. Ruth Fairclough, a mathematics professor at Wolverhampton University, set out to solve the latter problem, and has now unveiled her formula for the perfect pancake—coincidentally, just in time for International Pancake Day.

So what’s the secret to the choicest possible breakfast? With L representing the number of lumps in the batter, C the consistency, T the temperature, and a host of other variables, she calculated that perfect pancakes need only follow this simple equation:

100 – [10L – 7F + C(k – C) + T(m – T)]/(S – E).

The closer to 100 the result is, the better the pancake. The temperature of the pan (m), the consistency (C), and how long the batter sits (S) before cooking—to allow for absorption of the milk by the flour—are among the most crucial factors in making successful pancakes. The size of the pan is also important—too big and the pancakes will be hard to flip, of course.

Dr. Fairclough said she began the pancake challenge because of her two daughters’ love for the tasty breakfast treat. Lucky—and well-fed—kids!

UPDATE: A few mathematicians around the blogosphere have taken issue with the formula, calling it “unusable” and “ridiculous.” So is it bogus? Here’s a breakdown from SciencePunk:

[N]otice that although the formula uses “ideal temperature” and “ideal consistency,” there’s no clue as to what those values might be. This is kind of like saying:

Perfect pancake = ideal ingredients * ideal cooking * ideal toppings

That is to say, a total truism.

Related Content:
Disco: Is There Such a Thing as Dyslexia for Math?
Bad Astronomy: I’ll have the Silver Dollar pancakes and a probe to go, please
Bad Astronomy: Holy crepe!

Image: Flickr / mind on fire

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
MORE ABOUT: algebra, breakfast, food
  • Linear Equations

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  • Sonali Noolkar

    Amazing and very interesting!
    But i wonder,how can we measure the lumps in batter and consistency?

  • Pingback: Pictures of the Week. | Mind on Fire()

  • paul coombes

    This article demeans mathematics because it is rubbish. The formula does not make sense and it encourages people who do not understand to think that mathematics is incomprehensible. For a better analysis see

  • Bill Miller

    Great article. As to measuring the lumps in the batter. If you apply a greater centrifigul force, over lengthy period of time, you will eliminate the need to perform lump measurement.

  • TerriLyn

    @Bill Miller: According to Alton Brown of FoodTv’s Good Eats program… Pancake batter should retain some lumps. In fact, he is of the opinion that blending the batter beyond 15-20 strokes is superfluous.

    This is something we have tested in our house, and we have found, that indeed, the pancakes do have more character and less “rubberyness” to them via this methodology.

    For more information:

  • Mike Cederholm

    Are there no mathmaticians out there? Since when can an equation exist without and equals sign (=). The very definition of an equation, if not the name itself implies, no mandates, there must be an equals sign. To state in words that the ‘the closer to 100’ this so called equation is, the better the pancakes are says this is an inequality and not an equation!… Not to be overly critical, but I have always believed that mathmatics was one of the purest and most exact sciences. For this author of this so called equation to call herself a mathmatician is IMHO a degradation of anyone that truly is on. Therefore I say the artical is total bogus!

  • konakoffee

    I would reconsider any formula where, if you refer to the picture, the pancake looks more like a well-risen pizza with breakfast toppings…
    If you want a good pancake, buy a mix. The chemists/mathematicians have already done the hard work for you.

  • morbidwax

    I think Mrs Waltons’ Pancake Paradise would disagree completely. This equation does not even consider the ‘Love’ factor. Einstein would agree, things taste alot better when made with love? :)

  • Hahaha

    How can you have a formula for tastiers thing if people have different tastes? i think the formular would probably taste like crap

  • A


  • Paps

    Isn’t it enough that the universe is already governed by mathematics?! We have to do that for cooking too!? jeez… what happened to cooking with tlc?

  • Duncan Campbell

    What do you expect from Wolverhampton? After all, when it was still a Polytechnic it was under threat of having its degree status withdrawn by the CNAA.

  • Mike

    Reporters fall for the stupidest things because they don’t understand math and science. Not only is this not an equation, it’s a meaningless expression.

  • Math Help

    I definitely agree with posts #7 and #14…..(I’m a mathematician by the way)


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