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Why you haven’t found love yet – the Math edition

Written by Deirdre Westenbrink

Have you ever wondered how many people are out there for you? How many people tick all your boxes? Many of us are searching for ‘the one’, but haven’t found them yet. We are all searching for love, as feeling loved makes us feel less pressure, less alone, less anxious, more secure, more confident, and more important. It turns out that we can actually use math to find out how many people could be your ‘the one’!

The Drake equation

Before we dive into the Mathematics of love, we first have to talk about an equation: the Drake equation. However, don’t worry, we will turn back to the subject of love soon! The Drake equation is used to calculate the number of technically advanced civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy, by looking at astronomical, biological, and physiological factors. The Drake equation is specified as follows:

where,

• = the number of civilizations in the Milky Way with which communication might be possible
• = the average rate of star formations that are capable of supporting life in our Galaxy
• = the fraction of those stars that have planets
• = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star with a planetary system
• = the fraction of planets that could support life of any kind
• = the fraction of planets where intelligent life could develop
• = the fraction of civilizations with intelligent life capable of interstellar communication
• = the length of time the communicating civilization could survive.

Why Peter Backus doesn’t have a girlfriend

Okay, back to finding love. One Peter Backus realized that you can use the Drake equation to find out what the chances are of finding love. In Peter Backus’ case, this resulted in an equation where he estimated the number of potential girlfriends. For this, he redefined the parameters:

• = the number of potential girlfriends
• = The population of the UK in 2007
• = the fraction of people in the UK who are women
• = the fraction of women in the UK who live in London
• = the fraction of women in the UK who are age-appropriate
• = the fraction of age-appropriate women in London with a university education
• = the fraction of university educated, age-appropriate women in London who Peter finds physically attractive

This gives us the following redefinition of the equation:

This is actually quite a great number! However, Peter has not yet taken into account that the women have to find him attractive, that he will have to get along with the women, and that they are single. If you say that 1 in 20 find him attractive, half are single and he gets along with 1 in 10, we only have 26 people left. That is not much.

Finding a suitable life partner

Now, you can adjust this equation to what you are looking for, as I guess not all of us are looking for university educated, age-appropriate women in London that Peter Backus finds physically attractive. Or, one can redefine new parameters. For example, Peter could have included that the women should also be able to fall in love with men (so, they should for example be heterosexual or bisexual). Hence, with this equation, you can take all the things you look for in a life partner that are measurable, and find out how many people are out there for you!

Are you the one?

If you find the concept of combining Math and love interesting, but you also love reality TV, you have probably heard of the show Are You The One. It is a game show where men and women try to find their perfect match. Here, ten perfect are determined by a matchmaking algorithm. The contestants have to find their perfect match. If they do so within 10 rounds, they can win a great amount of money. Every round, the participants can send one couple to the truth booth, where they can find out if they are a perfect match. Moreover, later a matching ceremony takes place, where either the men or the women choose their match. Then, they find out how many matches are correct. If all ten matches are correct, they win the game. If none of the matches are correct, they lose half the money.

This is a concept where a basic Math enthusiast will try to see if they can get all the perfect matches using Math. Hence, this is of course already done by quite some Math enthusiasts. As it turns out, the problem is very solvable using Math! For example, Hennie de Harder, Jody LeSage and Sebastian Gisler all considered some strategies in getting ten perfect matches. However, for reality TV lovers, it is best that the contestants are not using these forms of Math. Otherwise, the drama we are all watching for is nowhere to be found.

Does the math make sense?

However, can we really find out how many people are out there for us using Mathematics? The simple is no. We can make an estimation, but some of us will probably not even end up with someone that ticks all our boxes. Maybe Peter ended up with someone in Manchester, or someone that was not university educated. So, if the equation gives you a very low probability, don’t be sad: there might still be someone out there for you :).

Source:
Peter Backus. Why I don’t have a girlfriend: An application of the Drake Equation to love in the UK. http://www.astro.sunysb.edu/fwalter/AST248/why_i_dont_have_a_girlfriend.pdf