Man Calculates Number Of Suitable Partners In London

binary_heart.jpg Economics lecturer Peter Backus has used a famous equation for enumerating alien civilisations to calculate his chances of finding the perfect girlfriend. They’re not good. Despite his hedonistic surname, Mr Backus can only expect to find 26 women in the whole of London who match up to his exacting standards. Let’s examine his working.

His calculation is based on the Drake Equation, which famously estimates the number of contactable civilisations in our galaxy:

N = R* x Fp x Ne x Fi x Fc x L

Although the numbats at the Telegraph find it ‘baffling’, the formula is actually very simple, including terms for the fraction of stars with planets (Fp), the fraction of those that develop life (Ne) and the fraction of those with intelligent life (Fi). All fairly intuitive. Mr Backus has reimagined the terms to suit his own amorous ambitions thus:

N = The number of potential girlfriends.

R* = The rate of formation of people in the UK (i.e. population growth).

Fw = The fraction of people in the UK who are women.

fL = The fraction of women in the UK who live in London.

fA = The fraction of the women in London who are age-appropriate.

fU = The fraction of age-appropriate women in London with a university education.

fB = The fraction of university educated, age-appropriate women in London who I find physically attractive.

L = The length of time in years that I have been alive thus making an encounter with a potential girlfriend possible.

(See his original ‘paper’ for values of these terms, and context.)

His conclusion?

That on any given night out in London, there is a 0.0014% chance that he’ll meet an appropriate partner, even less if he factors in vagaries such as whether they’ll get on or not. Now, there are any number of reasons why his calculation is shaky (for example, it assumes random mingling, whereas he’s more likely to attend events with similar kinds of people). But the paper is fun to read through for anyone with nerdish tendencies. And it’s refreshing to see a ‘boffin creates formula’ story that isn’t tied into an advertising campaign for some related product.

Image from xkcd, reproduced under Creative Commons license.

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  • http://undefined cobo04

    doesn’t take into account a suitable partner who wasn’t born in London but moved here, also a sprinkling of chance may work in his favour.

  • http://thesisavoider.blogspot.com/ RuthL

    Indeed Colin. In fact, as an ex-bumpkin I would gladly volunteer my services to this young man to test your theory…

  • http://undefined Kinky Pinkys

    Hope he has considered that studies like this classify the author as a Class-A geek and therefore will have limited swim time in the gene pool of eligible ladies. He is assuming all the ladies encountered would actually want to date him. Yikes!

  • Dave

    His original paper is quite amusing. Intentionally so, thankfully. For example, when talking about age-suitability, he says:

    I
 would 
like
 my 
girlfriend 
to 
be 
near 
my 
own 
age. 
I 
don’t 
want 
to 
feel 
older 
than 
I 
am
 by 
not 
being
 able 
to 
keep 
up 
with 
a 
spritely 
20 
year 
old, 
or 
because 
I
 haven’t 
read 
Twilight 
and I 
don’t 
know 
who 
the 
Jonas 
Brothers 
are. 
Nor
 do 
I 
want 
to 
fall 
prey 
to 
a 
voracious
 cougar 
or 
to 
be
 regaled 
with 
stories 
of
 the 
war.

    Less amusingly, I have geekily inserted my own personal parameters into his equation. Whilst my chances would appear to be better than Dr Backus’s (primarily due to my less stringent criteria — make of that what you will), it’s still hardly encouraging. Oh well.