I've produced some equations for PR firms, applying physics to everyday things. Just Google Dr Hadley and the topic to see what the press made of these assignments.
The best driving road ADR, Avis Driving Ratio
The most exciting project to date, working with Atomic PR for AVIS car rental to promote their prestige performance cars. We developed an equation for the ratio of time negotiating bends to the time on the straight enjoying the view - the Avis driving ratio, ADR. And then I mapped out over 20 roads to determin the ratio for different types of car..
My first work for Ocado and frankPR. Great equations and there really is an equation for the perfect toss. The result was known before, but I prefer my presentation of it. The work was widely used and has been on local radio. And its all ready for the next Shrove Tuesday.
Clas Ohlson FrankPR Mainly fluid dynamics equations, hard to draw any conclusions.
Hovis and FrankPR. Complicated equations of fluid flow, diffusion etc. mind boggling and few simple conclusions.
This is not publicly funded research
I do the work in my own time. It is fun and I get paid by the PR company directly (FrankPR and Wildcard). When I was asked to do a series of radio interviews I took a day's holiday. The Physics department at Warwick is supportive - part of our mission is to reach out to the public. This works. It applies physics to everyday life; to an audience that may be less interested in rockets and Higgs Bosons and more interested in their dinner.
Of course some publicly funded research does make it into the everyday news, it entertains us, informs us and sells newspapers as an accident. well, an accident of the research, quite deliberately by the editor. The work I do is cheekily presented as independent research and some naive readers take exception. Most can spot a piece of fun work done in a couple of lunchtimes from a 3 year, million pound, research programme.
Of course I don't prepare the editorial copy. I don't control what actually appears. About 50% of the time journalists want a quick easy article. They chop up a press release and we are all lucky if it still makes sense. Others try to understand the equations and present the work with their own original slant.
It is physics
I am using real physics equations in situations where they really do apply. That is not always easy to do. It requires imagination and the amount of physics is sometimes limited. Tidla rice had very little physics but was a marketing success. Giovanni Rana pasta was the opposite. In most cases the physics is at A-level or first year undergraduate level. It is certainly accessible to college science students. My training gives me the confidence to use the physics I know in novel situations. I also have the imagination to tackle the brief from the PR agency often on tight timescales. What I also introduce are approximations and scientific methods. Not everyone realises how important it is for a scientist to make skillful approximations. Too simple and no results come out. Too complicated and it is insolvable. Invalid approximations and the results are simply wrong. That applies in all physics but even more so when a quick result is required for a messy, real-life situation.
Other PR articles use equations that are essentially curve fitting exercises based on sometimes dubious data. e.g. the saddest day of the year etc. Again these are probably commissioned pieces delivered for fun after a few hours activity. Dodgy science? well maybe rather weak on rigour, but the techniques are used by your insurance companies to calculate premiums and by supermarkets to stock their shelves. They really do want to know the best BBQ weekend and how big it will be - the results are commercially secret. If they get it wrong there will still be unsold BBQ sets when the sledges are piled up for winter!
Enjoy the articles, think about the physics .... and how you could do it even better.