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Being an equation-writer-for-hire May 15, 2006

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics.

I like reading phyiscs blogs. People talk about different things, some of them are interesting, some are not — real life, right? Here is the post I recently read in one of my favorite blogs, Cosmic Variance: it is called "Theoretical Physics Goes Corporate." One of the points that they raise in that post is that big corporations are starting to realize the power of mathematical equations as a commercial tool — it attracts customers! One of the ads that Clifford Johnson (one of the four CV contributers) has in mind is this:

What is interesting about this ad is the equations that this lady is writing — they look like the equations from the famous Peskin and Schroeder's book on Quantum Field Theory (QFT) , equations describing renormalization of phi^4 theory! How did Ford get a hold of them?

As it turns out, I happen know the answer. This ad was made by a company that is headquatered in Detroit — I have a business card of one of the authors of this ad!

What happened is that a couple of months ago I was sitting in my office at Wayne State University, looking over my QFT notes that I’m supposed to teach next Fall. A guy showed up at my door and asked to “write down a complicated-looking equation.” Now, that’s not a usual question that I get when I sit in my office during the lunchtime! He quickly explained that he works for this advertisement company (called JWT) and they were contracted by Ford to produce a series of ads that should highlight the talent of Ford engineers and at the same time appeal to young people. (He showed me a prototype of an ad with that girl sitting next to the blackboard.) So his boss sent him to the closest university (which happen to be WSU, we are located 5 min down Woodward Avenue from their office) to fish out a “complicated equation.” The rest is simple — I use Peskin and Schroeder as a main text for my course, so that list of equations was indeed about renormalization of phi^4 theory… I must add that I received no monetary (or any other) compensation…

Amazing, isn’t it?



1. dorigo - August 25, 2006

Hi pal,

thank you for your link to my blog – I will do the same (despite the fact that you seem to be kind of lazy in yours, keep up with the good posts!).

And congratulations for your contribution to the battle we battle against the chaos of science loathers and the onset of a new dark age. Equations are cool, the message needs to pass!


2. Alexey - September 8, 2006

Hi Tommaso,

Thank you for your comment and for adding me to your blog roll. Yeah, I kinda took a summer vacation with my blog: too much travel. Will try to post more regularly…



3. Alejandro Rivero - November 26, 2006

So the girl is photoshopped into the picture?

4. apetrov - December 8, 2006

Hi Alejandro,

I think the picture is real. Honestly, I don’t really know how they did it, but I presume they just did the standard photoshoot in their studio. They also put equations on the board — my handwriting is not as nice…


5. Jim Carrey in a Penning trap « Symmetry factor - March 2, 2007

[…] I wonder who wrote it for them? Maybe it was similar to this… […]

6. Why advertisers should know physics « Symmetry factor - June 12, 2012

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