Unexpectedly Intriguing!
21 October 2010

We're not sure how we missed this news story when it broke earlier this year, but apparently, there's a mathematical formula that has been developed to explain why a geek is unlikely to find love. Really:

Don't tell Mystery this, but finding a suitable mate may be a science, not an art.

That's what one hard-up economist explores in his paper, "Why I Don't Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the U.K.," in which he uses a brainy math formula to estimate the number of potential girlfriends in London.

His findings are less than encouraging.

No, really? An economist who has taken the time to adapt a famous equation from astronomy to try to guess at the number of advanced alien civilizations to explain his ongoing datelessness is both:

  1. Without a date, and
  2. Unlikely to find one.

To quote the long-missed Tanta, "hoocoodanode"?! But let's get back to the story:

The lovelorn economist is Peter Backus, a native of Seattle and a fourth year PhD candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, near London.

His offbeat paper, which he devised after a three-year girlfriend drought, is based on the Drake Equation, which is normally used to estimate the number of highly evolved civilizations that may exist in our galaxy.

At least he has a decent foundation from which to start, unlike one other geek's math related to the opposite sex that we had to correct several years ago.

Speaking of which, here's Backus' formula:

Backus' Drake Equation

Keep in mind that it took a dating drought of three years in duration before Backus thought to adapt astronomer Frank Drake's math to his own situation. He explains his motivation:

"It seemed like a natural thing to do," says Backus in an exclusive interview with Asylum. "Basically, it was a way of quantifying my dismay."

Because, for an economist, dismay must be quantified! Gosh darn it, there's a *reason* why we call it the "dismal science"!

So, as Dr. Phil might ask Backus as this point, "how did that work out for you?"

The result of the equation? Of the roughly 30 million women in the U.K., only 26 are potential mates for Backus. In his conclusion to the paper, Backus expresses this more depressingly: "On a given night in London, there is a 0.0000034 percent chance of meeting one of these special people."

Of course, economics offers a simple suggestion for the lonely economist. Backus could, for example, expand his search to consider more options than just a London-based, university-educated, single, 24-34 year old woman that he finds attractive and whose personality he can stand, who in turn, also finds him attractive.

But at least we now have a methodology that uses math to quantify a lonely economist's dismay.

And though it appears that Backus has actually defied his own calculated odds in finding a girlfriend who satisfies all his mathematically-defined constraints, we should note that the true lessons from Backus' math will be found here and here.

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