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I think we can all agree that mathematicians are well known for being extremely popular
with the opposite sex. But it's not just because of our dashing personalities and superior
pencil cases. Oh no. It's also because we've have done an awful lot of work in the mathematics
of, how to find the perfect partner. In my favourite paper on the subject, entitled
"Why I don't have a girlfriend", Peter Backus tries to work out his chances of finding love.
In particular, he is looking for single women who live near him in the UK, are of the right
age range, have an university degree, are likely to be attractive, and he is likely
to get in well with. And the total he comes up with is 26 in the whole of the UK.
Now to just put that in perspective that's 400 times fewer than the best estimates of
how many intelligent extra-terrestrial life forms there are. And it gives him a 1 in 285,000
chance of meeting one of these 26 ladies on a given night out. It's not looking very good
is it Peter? Now I don't prescribe to this frankly pessimistic
view. I think there is a lot of people you can have a successful relationship with if
you want to. But given all the people you'll date throughout your life time, how do you
know when is the right time to settle down? Of course it isn't wise to cash in the first
person who shows you any interest, but equally if you want to be truly happy you can't leave
it too long. As my good friend Jane Austin says "An unmarried woman of seven and twenty
can never hope to feel or inspire affection again." Yeah, thanks a lot Jane, what do you
know about love? But the thing about dating is that once you've
made up your mind, you can't go back and change it. Typically people aren't that happy being
recalled later after being passed up for somebody else. So many people should you date before
you decide to settle down? Now, if only there were some kind of a mathematical
formula for a dating strategy that we could use to help us. Oh wait, there totally is!
And its called optimal stopping theory. So, let's say you start dating at about 15
years old and ideally you'd like to settle down at 35. And the rules are you can't see
ahead of what you could've had once you settle down and you can't go back and change your
mind. So the theory says that in the first 37% (or 1 over e) of your dating time, you
should reject everybody as serious marriage material. And after that period has passed
you should pick the next person that comes along that is better than everybody else you've
seen before. And if you do that it can be mathematically proven that you're maximising
your chances of picking the perfect partner. So this method has been observed in the wild.
So certain types of fish will reject any suitor who comes along within the first 37% of the
mating season and then pick the next male fish that comes along that's bigger and burlier
than all of the rest. But you could also use this strategy when
you're looking to buy or rent a house. Say you got three months in which to look for
a house. You should spend the first month (30% of the time window) just getting a feel
for the market, going to see houses but never cashing in on any of them. And after that
period has passed you then pick the first house that comes along that is better than
everything else you've seen before. Now this method does come with risks, it doesn't
guarantee that you'll get the perfect partner, it just gives you your best chance of finding
them. You could, for instance, be really unlucky and have your perfect match appear within
that first 37% window when you're rejecting everybody. And if that's the case, unfortunately
the maths says that you'll grow old alone probably be surrounded by cats.
Or let's say you got really unlucky and the first 37% of the people you dated were just
incredibly dull and boring and terrible people. And that's ok because you're still rejecting
all of those people. But let's say the next person that comes along is still really dull
and boring but marginally less terrible everybody you'd seen before. If you're following the
maths and marry that person you'd just be in a relationship that was suboptimal. Sorry
about that. But if everybody followed this strategy then
one in three people who do, they can settle down in the knowledge that maths says they'd
done the very best they can.
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How to find your perfect partner! I Number Hub with Hannah Fry I Head Squeeze

1526 Folder Collection
Halu Hsieh published on May 11, 2014
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