Mathematics of Love

Today is St. Valentine’s Day, the day in much of Western culture arbitrarily designated to be the day for love. So let’s see what mathematics has to say on the subject. Finding a relationship with someone special is often about being introduced to people and sifting out the inappropriate. It seems clear that there is plenty of scope for the application of statistical techniques to the processes of meeting and weeding.

First up is a great video from the ever-so-slightly geeky Amy Webb, who used mathematics to calculate the odds of finding a mate in Philadelphia. After producing a figure of 35 suitable men satisfying her criteria in a city of 1.5 million people she realized that she would have to turn to maths for help.

There’s even a book, Data, a Love Story.

Over on Wired, Chris McKinlay’s attempts to hack OKCupid’s online dating service is profiled. The article left me in two minds. Is this is great use of mathematics or is it just a bit creepy? Seemingly, the approach worked for him and no one is reported injured, so perhaps I shouldn’t judge.

As a bonus, Wired also produced a handy infographic slideshow describing tips for improving online dating profiles. Top tips: Avoid Karaoke, get into surfing. My favourite though is that it is more attractive to mention “cats” than “my cats”.

If everything goes well with the dating, then how do you arrange the wedding? “With maths” is not the standard answer. The Guardian reports on a statistically modelled wedding. This solves the centuries old problem of how to write the guest list. After all, you don’t want too few guests or too many accepting.

Next post: Calculating the likelihood of divorce…

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