friday diary

Really, there are some things you’d rather not know till later.
Like the mathematical impossibility of finding a soulmate.
And who to blame when the extraterrestrials invade.

It’s official.  (That is, it’s academically declared.  Which is almost the same thing.  Sort of.)  It’s not much easier for an actively inquiring bloke to find a girlfriend than for mankind to find life in outer space.

Peter Backus, a doctoral candidate in economics at the University of Warwick, reported his calculations in ‘Why I don’t have a girlfriend: An application of the Drake Equation to love in the UK’ (Unpublished Article, 2010).  As the satisfyingly academic title suggests, Backus employed Frank Drake’s famous Drake Equation for estimating the odds of intelligent life in the universe to estimate  his odds for finding a ‘suitable girlfriend’.

1 in 250,000.

And that’s just the math.

As Michael Marshall explains in New Scientist, things get even more complicated, leaving Backus only 26 potential girlfriends in London.

It seems Backus used the Drake Equation according to it stated purpose as  ‘a simple, effective tool for stimulating intellectual curiosity about the universe around us.’

But it may be Backus unduly stacked the odds against himself and other liberal arts majors.  Or underestimated the warp and woof of time and space.  Fox News reports that Backus has been dating a young lady from London for about six months.

they're coming.

So, theoretically, the Invasion of the Pea-Green Reptillian Masterminds with Really Deadly Phytoblasters should happen any day now.

New Scientist also spoke with Frank Drake himself.  The SETI guru is celebrating fifty years of Project Ozma, his personal and professional search for whoever, whatever, may be Out There.

‘In 1957 I was studying the Pleiades star cluster at Harvard University’s radio observatory,’ Drake recalled.  ‘On one occasion we saw an added feature in the data. It turned out to be an amateur radio enthusiast near the observatory, but at the time I thought we had detected clear evidence of another civilisation.’

The thrill of the experience led Drake to begin Project Ozma.  But, he says, with ten million stars (ish) to listen to, ‘There’s no reason to think we should have succeeded yet.’

Drake told New Scientist that he expects extraterrestrial lifeforms to be humanoid: ‘my hypothetical ET looks a lot like us but has four arms.’  Should these four-armed ETs invade, Drake admitted, ‘if that happens it might be my fault!’

Which is nice to know, but it isn’t very comforting.  Especially not when  doctoral candidates are starting to find girlfriends.

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2 thoughts on “friday diary

  1. Another perspective (thermodynamics) which looks at the “Why I don’t have a girlfriend” problem using a state-based formulation, which incidentally shows that the estimates used in the “drake-inspired” equation would require that you be able to exist in more than two possible states (i.e. there would have to be something in between having and not having a significant other):

    http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/phd_students/backus/girlfriend/diego.pdf

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