Sometimes, a recipe for creating a story when the writer has little or no creativity at his disposal. A formula Disney animated movie, for instance, involves a brave but young hero or heroine who must discover within him/herself the strength to overcome an evil adversary and restore goodness and order to their world once again.

Come to think of it, George Lucas uses basically the same model.

Formula: or as we zealots prefer to call it "the other stuff":

"Formula" is the word commonly used to refer to the modified cow's milk or modified soy liquid or occasionally meat or other mammal or plant based fluid used to feed infants unfortunate enough to not be breastfed. Formula is usually proprietary but sometimes homemade.

A surprisingly large number of health care professionals and parents do not know that formula is just these base liquids, modified by water, sugars, oils, vitamins, and other trace substances.

Few know that manufacturing errors occur frequently or that the pharmaceutical companies who make formula are constantly changing the recipe, ostensibly to come closer to human milk but certainly also for marketing purposes. This year's "formula" with the newest magic ingredient is a tacit admission that last year's "formula" was really an inadequate substitute for the thing babies truly need, their own mother's milk. Next year there will be another nifty new ingredient, but it still won't be the real thing.

The World Health Organization ranks formula as forth in the list of preferred foods for newborns.

  • First choice: Mother's own milk, directly from the breast
    the Gold Standard of infant feeding
  • Second choice: Mother's own milk, pumped and fed to her baby
  • Third choice: banked breastmilk - from a reliable milk bank
  • Fourth choice: the other stuff

Formula feeding is to breastfeeding as Neonatal Intensive Care Units are to most babies. I'm glad it is there for the real emergencies but it isn't an equivalent choice. Go for the Gold!

When formula feeding is medically indicated and choice one or two are not available parents and health care providers should give some thought to just which formula is used. Especially in hightly allergenic families or those with a history of diabetes early exposure to bovine proteins should be avoided. However, those allergice to cow's milk are also frequently allergic to soy as well. Infant formulas exist that are less allergenic because their proteins are free amino acids. They are more expensive and smell awful but for short term, medically indicated supplementation with formula they would be my preference.

(logic, mathematics:)
(Logic). A formula is a wff1 with at least one free variable. As such, it may be impossible to assign a truth value to it, since the value depends on the assignments to the free variables.

These are all formulae (in the language of arithmetic):

`x', `y', `z' and `n' occur free. In arithmetic, we now know that there are no true assignments when n>2; there are infinitely many true assignments for n=1 and n=2.
`y' occurs free. This particular formula is always false (in arithmetic), since for any given value there is at most one `x' for which y=x*x. For instance, if y=36, it is not true that `∀x:36=x*x'.
`z' occurs free. In arithmetic, the formula may be translated as saying "z is prime".

The last example shows how every formula defines a predicate. Hence their importance: a formula can be seen as a definition of some concept.

(Mathematics). Formulae in mathematics are based on formulae in logic. The usage is less rigid, of course. Generally, no quantifiers are involved in a mathematical formula:

Strictly speaking, this defines a relation on 3 free variables `E',`m',`c'. In practice, we use it to derive the "correct" value of one variable from the other 2.
This formula defines `x' in terms of `y'. However, it doesn't quite define `y' in terms of `x', due to a small problem with signs
When there exists a unique solution to one free variable given the values of the other free variables, we may think of the formula not as a predicate, but as a computational method for computing the final variable.

In Physics and Engineering, variables come with dimensions. Dimensional analysis checks that the dimensions involved in a formula are consistent. Thus physicists and engineers talk about "dimensionally incorrect formulae": they cannot be correct, ever, because the dimensions on both sides of the equality are not the same.


  1. Yes, "wff" does incorporate the term "formula" in it, but it is usually defined first, and "formula" in terms of it. Think of "wff" as what linguists call an "utterance".
  2. The converse is generally not true; for instance, there are 20 predicates on the natural numbers and only ℵ0 formulae in the language of arithmetic!).

For"mu*la (?), n.; pl. E. Formulas (#), L. Formulae (#). [L., dim. of forma form, model. SeeForm, n.]


A prescribed or set form; an established rule; a fixed or conventional method in which anything is to be done, arranged, or said.

2. Eccl.

A written confession of faith; a formal statement of doctrines.

3. Math.

A rule or principle expressed in algebraic language; as, the binominal formula.

4. Med.

A prescription or recipe for the preparation of a medicinal compound.

5. Chem.

A symbolic expression (by means of letters, figures, etc.) of the constituents or constitution of a compound.

Chemical formulae consist of the abbreviations of the names of the elements, with a small figure at the lower right hand, to denote the number of atoms of each element contained.

Empirical formula Chem., an expression which gives the simple proportion of the constituents; as, the empirical formula of acetic acid is C2H4O2. -- Graphic formula, Rational formula Chem., an expression of the constitution, and in a limited sense of the structure, of a compound, by the grouping of its atoms or radicals; as, a rational formula of acetic acid is CH3.(C:O).OH; -- called also structural formula, constitutional formula, etc. See also the formula of Benzene nucleus, under Benzene. -- Molecular formula Chem., a formula indicating the supposed molecular constitution of a compound.


© Webster 1913.

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