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(S+C) x (B+F) / (T-V).

Well, what does that formula calculate…

Hitting break-even for a Bussard fusion reactor?

The fundamentals of a scramjet?

Or buttock loveliness?

Click to know.

Yes, Dr David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University four years ago discovered the callipygian formula.

He came to some remarkable conclusions… After exhaustive research he discovered that Kylie Minogue has a nice bottom. Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert here unlike the good Doctor but the vast majority of the population of the planet came to pretty much the same conclusion just watching MTV. In particular this.

This whole “tale” of “scientific” research hitting “rock bottom” [quit now Nick - Ed] reminds me of something a mate of mine studying biology said once. He defined zoology as the, “systematic study of the bleeding obvious”. He was disconsolate when he said, “I’ve been in lectures all day and all I learned was that gibbons have long arms because they swing in trees”.

It also reminds me of something Einstein said. I paraphrase from memory here… “It is possible to analyse a Beethoven symphony in terms of air-pressure waves but what’s the point of that?”.

Yeah, and he shagged Marilyn Monroe who also had a nice bottom. Undoubtedly the great man could have written reams on it’s gorgeous topological qualities [If you now mention "naked singularities" you're off the team - Ed] but what is the point? He undoubtedly could have used complex analysis and mentioned poles of various orders as well [Enough - Ed].

I keep on saying this is all pointless but I actually have a point and a very important one. There is a limit to the usefulness of science. Many things are meaningless to try and understand scientifically and in fact are sometimes dangerous to do so. Defining the perfect set of female buttocks is certainly playing in the arena of the eugenicist. Moreover if you get a date and take a tape measure and a Casio you will be slapped. But [you're starting again - Ed] there is a happy ending [hmmm... - Ed] and it is very simple but difficult to put in words. Peter Medawar put it like this (again paraphrased from memory), “There is no limit to the capacity of science to answer the sort of questions science can answer”. That is a tautology of course but at a semantic level it is struggling towards truth. Some things just aren’t scientific questions. This does not mean they are not important questions and sometimes they aren’t even questions with obvious answers like the beauty of the buttocks of a certain Australian singer but they are questions for which using the apparatus of “science” is literally hitting a posidrive screw with a mallet.

There are questions which exist eternally off the agenda of science. I think that is what Medawar was getting at. He wasn’t so much trying to define the limits of what science can do as much as say what is and isn’t a suitable subject for it. The scientific method (or something that looks like it) can be applied to anything. The question is whether it should be. There is a reason I have that picture by Diego Velázquez here. The subject of the female form is rightly the subject for artists and (obviously) lovers but every attempt to “science it up” results in something that is both farcical and potentially quite sinister. The Nazis were more interested in measuring heads than bums but does it not amount to the same thing?

I love science. I love a nicely pert bum as well but I know they aren’t the same thing. Not only is a Unified Field Theory of Beauty completely missing the point but it is fundamentally [watch it! - Ed] dehumanising. It is essentially saying we are replaceable parts. I bought a camera yesterday and it is insured. This means if I drop it I get a camera of equal or greater value. Fine. Good deal. When I stuck my card in the slot [really! - Ed] I struck that deal. A very different deal from getting married. The marriage registrar (and yes this was in Manchester around the time Dr Holmes, just down the road, was publishing his epically counter-intuitive study that nice-looking girl’s bottoms are attractive to men) didn’t offer me the same sort of additional cover. She didn’t say, “If you drop your wife we can supply one with an equivalent or higher ‘booty-index’ and yes we do take Mastercard”.

I am aware of the irony that I have posted on philosophy of science riffing off taking the mickey out of the “science” of pretty girls’s buttocks.


  1. Chuckles says:

    If you like that sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing you will like?

    A Callipygean Quest perhaps?

  2. Lynne says:

    I don’t need a formula to appreciate a nice arse, Nick. I prefer the eye candy principle. ;)

  3. ian says:

    C’mon – if you got could get sponsorship for a close study of the female bottom, are you trying to say you would turn it away? He was paid to do this by a drinks company. I don’t think he took it seriously at all – look at the photo with the linked article.

    I think this is just an excuse to post a Kylie video – in which case you got the wrong one…

  4. El Draque says:

    There might be a point to it, but who knows until the research is done?
    Studies show that a 7:3 ratio of hip to waist is universally considered beautiful in the human race, wherever you go. Tells us something about evolution, I think.

    Another study showed that girls in night clubs wear less when they are ovulating. Tough research assignment, that one.

  5. NickM says:

    I thought that was a 0.7 ratio. 7:3 is a bit too hourglass!

    But does that really explain much? I have dated quite a few girls of different shapes and they had one thing in common. I liked them. The reduction of sexual attraction to numbers is just not sexy. And yes, I have dated mathematicians and physicists too. 1.5 physicists ( one was joint honours) and 1 mathematician. Seriously though… All “scientific” studies into sexual attraction focus on the physical which is the same as the measurable and they do this because that is what science does. Does any of this explain things like personality, sense of humour (I’m sounding like an ad here), kindness or “events”. The last being very important. We’ve all struck-out on dates through the unforeseen. Or to put it very simply. How likely are you to phone her again on the basis of geometry and how likely on the basis that you enjoyed the night out? And that’s random. You might have seen a terrible movie but if in the car park afterwards you laugh about it and hit that synchronicity as to why it’s a terrible movie then… I have had dates that were objectively disasters but subjectively worked. They built the narrative of the relationship. They were the “Remember when…” moments. They are bonding and moreover I don’t think it’s possible to separate the physical, emotional and intellectual aspects of attraction. They feed on each other.

    Or, as I’ve said before, Naomi Campbell is objectively stunning physically but I wouldn’t take the stroppy cow out for an Egg MacMuffin even if she was paying. She gets away with it because we see models as models because they are models and not expected to tell an amusing anecdote on the runway at Milan. I would much rather have a second date with Victoria Wood because at least it would be fun. There is way too much cultural concentration on an almost Darwinian dating process of selection. It’s like the Terminator movies when you see through Arnie’s head-up display. No. It shouldn’t be like that. It should be a fun night out and then who knows where it might end? I mean the script then writes itself. But dating really ought to be fun and not like a job interview. “I see one of your exs only gave you 6/10 for oral sex…”. No! I mean fun in and of itself. It is an organic process not a selection one. If we mean anything to each other we don’t fall in love by totting up scores on an Excel spreadsheet. We do it by writing ourselves into the story of each other’s lives.

    And if that makes me a romantic then so be it! It’s more fun that way. And more real.

    PS. Might I suggest an explanation for the nightclub thing. Doesn’t body temp change over the menstrual cycle? Night clubs do tend to be hot.

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    You were watching QI repeats on Dave last night, and I claim my five pounds.

    Anyway, isn’t all this about getting in the papers? A sort of “Hey, look! Science is Relevant!” sort of thing, thus securing funding but signifying nothing?

    (By the way, Nick: I emailed you and Cats at the official CCIZ addresses about your offer of joining the feline enumeration effort, and I’ve just got them back undelivered. The usual Cats server rubbishness, or… ?)

  7. NickM says:


    My Dave habit stays on the Green Mile. OK?

    It’s just because… Current TV is utter bollocks. I got a lovely 32″ wall-mounted Samsung LCD TV and I watch things I watched on my folk’s 14″ Sanyo bought in 1980.

    And yes, Cats and I are both computer techs and it’s frankly a disgrace is it not?

    I mean that is the problem. We gotta sort this site out.

    So mail me at N1ck{at}

    With login name and password.

    You’ll need to make the obvious changes to the email addy there.

    And I’ll sort ya. But maybe not for a bit because I’m on me hols Sunday.

    But do mail.

  8. El Draque says:

    Correct, Nick, I typed faster than I thought.
    Came back to correct it, you beat me to it.
    36-24-36 was the formula in my youth.

    Totally agree too, that there is more to it now. My suspicion is that a preference for the hour-glass figure is a relic of very early human evolution, which has been overlaid since then by other factors.
    I first got on well with my wife because she and I both had similar Christian conversions. But she also had tight, faded jeans on.
    Who knows what really goes on in the depths of the mind?

  9. Roue le Jour says:

    What I find fascinating about the perfect bum/boobs/legs discussion is the implication that there is a chunk of dedicated hardware, a clump of neurons, that has nothing else to do but look for a particular curve or set of curves and then ring a bell. And not only that, but it only works on actual visual input, you can’t close your eyes and imagine curves to see what one sets it off, you’re completely unaware of it until it fires.

  10. NickM says:

    ED, Roue,

    Interesting stuff. ED, your description of how you and your wife got together actually makes sense. It’s not “scientific” but it makes more sense than what is literally curve-fitting. I’m not sure I entirely buy the hour-glass = fertility thing. It’s too pat and it fails to address the history of art, fashion, erotica, nutrition. Basically distilling it down to some sort of formula or recipe doesn’t work. Fashion is perhaps the big one there.

  11. Stonyground says:

    It seems that appreciation of women’s behinds is subjective and also changes as we age. I used to like small pert bottoms but now like much bigger ones. Having said that, I would say that his input date is pretty subjective too so to a certain extent you could get the result that you desire, or expect.

  12. David Gillies says:

    These so-called ‘formulae’ for calculating this, that and the other that crop up in the innumerate mass media almost invariably share a similar defect: if you run a dimensional analysis on the parameters, the only physical data yielded of any interest are the mass of the lump hammer and the velocity at which it should be brought to bear on the crania of the perpetrators. It’s generally about 3 kg at approx. 30 m/s. That gets good splash, in my experience.

    One of the more truly dispiriting things in soi-disant ‘science journalism’, for example, is not simply the average hack’s inability to distinguish between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour, but his mulish reluctance to understand why the distinction is of such clarion importance.

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