Love in the Time of Algorithms

Hope Is Alive! Math Nerd Who Wrote Paper Analyzing Why He Didn’t Have a Girlfriend Just Got Married

Throw away that girlfriend pillow!
Mr. Backus (Photo: Facebook)

Mr. Backus (Photo: Facebook)

British math genius Peter Backus was pretty convinced he was going to be alone forever. He didn’t presume this because of the number of cats he owned or because he seemed genuinely comfortable eating out at restaurants by himself. Instead, he wrote a paper (PDF) where he applied the Drake equation, a “probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy,” to discern what exactly his chances of finding love were. Turns out, they weren’t so hot.

Mr. Backus wanted a university-educated woman between the ages of 24 and 34 that he finds attractive; since he estimated “generously” that he only finds 1 in 20 London-based, educated and age-appropriate women attractive (picky, picky!), he ended up with a pretty low number. By his estimates, Mr. Backus guessed that there were only 10,510 women in all of London that fit his parameters. This gave him a 1 in 285,000 chance of finding love–“about 100 times better than finding an alien civilization we can communicate with,” he wrote. Tough break, guy.

Mr. Backus had luck on his side, though. CNET reports that not only has he found a girlfriend, but they tied the knot this weekend, proving there’s hope for super picky single math nerds yet! The two met at a dinner hosted by a mutual friend, though, so you might have to actually log off OKCupid and leave your apartment if you want to improve your odds. Good luck out there.

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