Math wiz who said he had 1 in 285,000 chance of love -- now engaged
Peter Backus, who once published a research paper called "Why I Don't Have A Girlfriend," finds his one true love. How? With an algorithm?
Love hurts. To which a logician might reply: "So shouldn't hate feel, really, really good?"
Logic and love have about as intimate a relationship as bread and a calorie-controlled diet.
This, however, didn't stop Peter Backus from attempting to quantify just how great (or small) his chances were of finding that one, true person who can bring meaning to life's absurdity.
In 2010, while a tutor at England's University of Warwick, he wrote a research paper called "Why I Don't Have A Girlfriend." Its subtitle will, I know, make several of you swoon: "An application of the Drake Equation to love in the U.K."
I confess that I've tried the Move Halfway Across The World Equation, the Shut My Eyes And Hope For The Best Equation and even the She's So Cute I'll Forgive Her Anything Even The Fact That She Hates Me Equation.
The Drake Equation -- a means of discovering just how many evolved civilizations might exist in the Universe -- has passed me by. I simple assume that everything out there must be more civilized than us.
At the time he wrote the paper, Backus hadn't had a girlfriend for three years. His work showed that he had expectations that some might find picky.
He wanted his beloved to be university educated. He wanted to be able to discuss his work with her. Perhaps even more troubling was that he believed he would only find 1 in 20 of women in his target age group (in London, with a university education) attractive.
I can already hear echoes against my walls. "Would that be drunk or sober?" they say.
He ended up believing that there were only 10,510 women in the whole of the U.K. who might even, possibly maybe satisfy him. As it were.
Oh, did I mention that he also specified chest size, inner seam measurement and propensity to wear Poison perfume on a Tuesday? I didn't, because he didn't.
Still, when he continued on his reductio ad amorem, he offered -- perhaps wisely -- that the fraction of his potential lovers who would find him attractive would be "depressingly low."
And then there's the chance that many might not be single. To which I might reply: "Why should that stop you?" But only on a Friday in November.
Piling onto this haystack of woe, how many of this needle-thin band of women would he actually get on with? Judging by his research paper, depressingly few.
Still, wasn't he a touch pessimistic? So many people pass through London on a regular basis -- students, money launderers etc -- that he surely had a far better chance than he calculated. Unless, of course, he's that sort of Englishman.
As far as he was concerned, though, his chances of finding a loving partner were 1 in 285,000.
I am telling you this story because Peter Backus is getting married. You will be wondering whether he has compromised his principles. I will be wondering that there must, after all, be extraterrestrial saints already on earth.
NBC's Today Show offers that the bride of Backus is a woman called Rose.
Little more has been revealed about her. But this could be their Pinterest wedding page.
Did he find her online, by examining each photograph with a microscope and each paragraph of self-descriptive mendaciousness with an interpretive linguist?
Did he then agree to meet her, but only on condition that she answer a 20-question document on his preferred subject of Empirical Microeconometrics? Almost.
"It was just a chance meeting, just a friend of a friend," he told the Today Show.
So there you have it. As with so many things in life, thinking doesn't help. Calculating will do nothing for you. The singularity will merely keep you single.
You have to get up in the morning, go about your life and hope that someone stops you in your tracks and says that one thing that turns your day from an empty one to one that is suddenly running over.
Yes, something like: "Hullo, my name is Polly and my marriage was annulled on account of my never remembering it happening."