Well Thomo is still away so you’ve still got me. Lucky you.
I found this a little while ago but didn’t write about it because at the time it wasn’t the most interesting thing happening but as I was going through my saved RSS feeds I found it again, and it made me happy.
Peter Backus, a Grad student at the University of Warwick (UK) has used the Drake Equation to determine the chances of him finding a girlfriend. He says that it has been done by others before and that its a pretty obvious thing to apply the equation to but its still brilliant.
The Drake Equation was developed by Frank Drake who was one of the founding members of SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) in order to describe the chance of finding intelligent life in the universe. Essentially he made a series of assumptions and then assigned them a probability. When combining the probability of two events occurring the probabilities are multiplied and so the more events that need to occur, the smaller the odds they will. An example is flipping a coin. There is a ½ chance of getting heads. But if you flipped the coin twice the chance of getting heads come up both times is ½ multiplied by ½, ¼.
Drake’s Equation looked like this
N = R* x fp x ne x fℓ x fi x fc x L
N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which we might be able to communicate
R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
fℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L = the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
To use his numbers the equation looked like this:
N = 10 × 0.5 × 2 × 1 × 0.01 × 0.01 × 10,000 = 10
So in our entire galaxy, and if we make HUGE assumptions, there might be 10 other sources of intelligent life in the galaxy.
Anyway, back to Backus. He used the same equation but simply changed the meaning of the variables.
N = the number of potential girlfriends
R* = the population of the UK as of 2007 (60,975,000)
fw = the fraction of those people who are women (51% or 0.51)
fL = the fraction of women who live in London (13% or 0.13)
fA = the fraction of women who are ‘age appropriate’ (limited to women aged 24-34, 20% or 0.20)
fU = the fraction of women with a University education (26% or 0.26)
fB = the fraction of age appropriate women, living in London with an University education that he finds physically attractive (estimated at 1/20, 5% or 0.05)
L = the length of time available to have encountered a girlfriend (31 years).
Solve for N. Carry the one. He’s left with N ≈ 10,000. Or in other words, in the entire UK the pool of women the equation predicts for him is limited to 10,000 individuals. But then he adds that he’s only considered it from his perspective, what about hers? By adding the chances of her finding him attractive, being single and getting along with him reduced 10,000 to approximately 26 women. That’s a low number. At least I don’t need to worry, I’m spoken for!