Maths in advertising

Reading the Economist last night, I came across the following rather strange advertisement.

A watch ad from the Economist 2008-06-28

It’s an ad for a watch, the “C1 Concord” apparently, not at all uncommon in the Economist (although it is rather on the ugly side…) Looking closer, though, there’s unmistakably some maths in the background.

Anyone know what the maths is about? It looks pretty plausible — there are some things looking like long exact sequences in there, as well as some fundamental groups, and power series for exponentials. Best of all there’s some text lower down in the ad – “What other watch has a formula for the ultimate construction?” I’m guessing they found a real mathematician to write some pretty looking maths for them — I wonder if they realised they were being asked to write “a formula for the ultimate construction”?

18 thoughts on “Maths in advertising

  1. Taking a closer look at the “writing” I’m pretty sure that no actuall human wrote this. Just look at the baroque sum sign.

  2. Scott-

    The long exact sequence is associated to the exponential short exact sequence, a very common tool is complex geometry. It’s a short exact sequence of abelian groups sending the sheaf of locally constant functions into the sheaf of holomorphic functions (since locally constant functions are always holomorphic), followed by the exponential map to non-vanishing holomorphic functions (thought of as an abelian group under multiplication). My favorite fact about this long exact sequence is the boundary map from H^1(X,\mathcal{O}^*_X)\to H^2(X,\mathbb{Z}), has a more commonly known name, that is “the Chern class of a line bundle.”

  3. My guess is that the bit involving homotopy groups poking out behind the watch has something to do with Bott periodicity. The circle looks about the right size to have 8 things around it….

  4. I just found an interesting web page about the advertising campaign, including the following juicy quote.

    The exercise went even further. Logical, methodical and exacting, the basic premise behind each design was born on a Cambridge University blackboard where a professor of mathematical science developed a unique algebraic formula encompassing the variables of the new chronograph’s specifications: case diameter and thickness, number of side screws, dimensions of the sapphire crystal and more. Taken together, the data produced an equation that served as the very matrix of the C1 chronograph. It also contains the genes of Concord’s identity.

    Wow… that webpage also includes a photo of (the back of the head of) “a professor of mathematical science” in the process of writing up the “Bott periodicity” diagram. Anyone recognise him?

  5. The recognition problem that Scott M. poses should be easy for some one who commonly sits in the back of the room at lectures.

    To me it looks a bit like Dan Matei or Bruce Westbury. But I think that Ben’s observation points to a complex geometer. The slate is in very poor condition and the chairs look to be
    kitchen chairs. So either the photo was taken at an institute in someone’s office, or whoever provided the math has a slate at home. The person seems to be on his knees completing the diagram, and judging from the placement of the board (unless the stools are bar stools), the person is about 5’6″ to 5’10”. Observe that the lines were drawn with a ruler and there are guidelines that are very nicely spaced (someone made an initial calculation about the sine of an angle).
    Also, the person is between 25 to 40 years old (hair color and bald spot).

    The line spacing indicates probably not a topologist (topologist tend to draw free hand). And the background suggests Europe. The items on the chairs (stools) look to be packages, so I am thinking this photo was taken at home. Finally, it looks as if the artist is wearing horn rimmed glasses.

  6. someone-
    I vote no to both on the basis of hair color and broadness of shoulders.

  7. I saw homological algebra in an ad for clothing in the printed New York Times a few years ago. Do the two ads stem from the same agency?

  8. Kaplan test prep has an ad with what looks like algebraic or arithmetic geometry in the background. What I like about it is that it looks very much like the state of a blackboard after a vigorous conversation.

  9. I think the Kaplan ad looks like the state of a blackboard after a schizophrenic (or perhaps an unfathomable math genius) has had a vigorous conversation! There is etale cohomology, the Fano plane, and some other stuff, none of which appear to be related. Two of those Kaplan ads are in the Stony Brook LIRR station. I love to show them to visitors.

  10. I once did some work for a stock photo company, coming up with ‘fancy complicated busy maths’. Most of it was as varied as could be, but in some of the photos I just copied out some calculations for a paper.

    Has anyone a link to or a photo of the Kaplan ad? It sounds strangely familiar…

Comments are closed.