Friday, February 20, 2009

The Drake Equation

If you aren't a devoted listener of This American Life, shame on you. It's amazing and everyone should listen to it. If you are, did you hear the most recent episode, "Somewhere Out There"? It's this year's Valentine's Day show and it has a number of stories about the trials and tribulations of love and relationships and pretty much skips out on the sort of lovey-dovey mushiness most V-Day shows typically air. Though the whole episode was great (as always), my favorite part was the story at the beginning of the program in which a man explains how he and his fellow physics grad students used math (specifically the Drake Equation) to determine the likelihood of finding the perfect mate. Please listen to it here and tell me what you think about their calculations and specifications.

Since I haven't put a silly end to my post in while, here's something from Craigslist that was too good to pass up. Today's oddity is brought you by the letter C:


You see, I like girls. cute ones. sexy ones. Not GAY MEN, so stop shooting them with your bow & arrow and then sending them my way. Especially, when I'm in the shower at the gym…I mean the guy with the rainbow flag tattooed on his ass. His glances were not furtive, homeboy was STARING!

Why can't you shoot the barista at the coffee shop who always smiles at me? Why can't you aim at any of these cute girls currently reading this ad?

Let's try this again.


Julia said...

Wow. When they put the numbers that way, the likelihood of meeting someone truly compatible looks pretty thin. Which is a bit disappointing. But then again, I think I suspected as much, given my few-and-far-between track record.

Katie said...

Yeah, it's pretty bleak. I work with a woman who's very quirky (to say the least) and she's married to an equally quirky man who's perfect for her. As one co-worker said, "It's amazing that out of the 6 billion people in the world they managed to find each other."

CalBruin said...

Application of some modified version of the Drake Equation may be used to determined the probability of desirable persons unknown, but various applications give differing results and skew one's expectation and the answer that everyone really wants to know.

In one case, a modified Drake Equation was used to estimate the probable number of eligible mates, period.
This application differs from determining the probable number of eligible mates who satisfy a select number of criterion.
For example, the number of eligible woman is different from the number of eligible women who, say, like Star Trek.
The more conditions or criterion of selectivity imposed, the more restricted the set of potential sought mates.

The point I am attempting to make is how the Drake Equation is applied, in modified form, effects the answer which may or may not address the central or primary objective.

Prima fica I have no doubt that there exists a non-zero number of potential, eligible soulmates, borrowing the local population within a particular geography.
Before applying the conditions of selectivity e.g. compatible political persuasion, tolerated religious attitudes, etc., let's address the factor of how desirable the searcher is to the potential soulmates. In other words, how attractive the person doing the searching for a soulmate matters and I shall claim garners more weight than any other condition for selectivity.

The quick retort is adding the measure of desirability as a factor into the modified Drake Equation.
That would be an error because the factors in the Drake Equation are probabilistic values but the measure of desirability is an absolute value -- measuring how attractive the searcher is.

Put plainly, how attractive some one is is a measured or calculated value not a probabilistic value, some number that falls within the measure space of the Reals in the interval [0,1].

In other words, any modified formed of the Drake Equation is insufficient to accurately and fairly determined the answer to the primary question: How likely it is for some one to find their soulmate of mutual attraction?

In conclusion, let me repeat.
Application of the Drake Equation will only be enough to answer the question: How likely does there to exist eligible soulmates?
I posit for anyone that is a non-zero number.

Second, if one adds criterion thereby restricting the number of potential eligible soulmates, such as requiring a certain level of education, a particular political view, or that their potential soulmate must like sushi, then with each additional criterion, the selectivity reduces the number of potential eligible soulmates tending toward zero.
A major problem is I do not think it possible to collect the data to determine a satisfactory and accurate answer/value. In other words, if some one only prefers heterosexual women who like both Star Trek and sushi but hate Democrats and Adam Sandler, I question seriously how any one is going to collect the statistical data, assuming such data exists in some form, that will give an estimate of such potential existing persons.

The factor that matters most, so I claim, more than the prior probable values is an answer to the question: how attractive would any potential eligible soulmate find you to be? Such a value is not probabilistic and therefore cannot be determined nor factored in, as it were, through any modification the Drake Equation.


Travis said...

I was really excited about this a few weeks ago so I made an online app at my blog, it will actually calculate the number of potential girlfriends (or boyfriends) in a given area.

here is the link to my app


Katie said...

Thanks, Travis! I'll check it out.

Big Mark 243 said...

Hi Katie! Sheldon obviously did not listen to the show because by my recollection the DID factor in modalities of which he speaks of accounting for their current geographical location.

I found your blog because I wanted to go back and refresh my memory of that episode and your blog popped up as the first link to my search. I will follow your blog and hopefully you will find your regular partner this year!!

Love & Rockets!