Because next week is Valentine’s Day, here is re-share of an academic paper that you might find entertaining: Why I Don’t Have A Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the UK, by Peter Backus. For those that don’t know, the Drake Equation is traditionally used to calculate the probability of the existence of alien life.

Here it is:

Ye Olde Drake Equation for the existence of alien life in the etherverse
Ye Olde Drake Equation for the existence of alien life in the etherverse


The Drake Equation: applied to Peter Backus’ search for a partner

It goes something like this:

  1. There are 7 billion people out there.
  2. But the world is a big place – and you’re looking for geographic-convenience.
  3. So now you’re down to the 2 million people or so in your home-town and environs (assuming you’re into big city living).
  4. But for most of us, only half are gender-appropriate, so you’re down to 1 million.
  5. Then there’s age-appropriateness. Maybe 15% of people are in your age-range, so down to 150,000.
  6. Next, attractiveness. Let’s say that you find 1 in every 20 people in your age range attractive. Down to 30,000.
  7. Then you can start isolating out the important compatibilities (must have a university degree, not already partnered, similar beliefs, etc)
  8. Perhaps that brings you down to about 100 suitable candidates.
  9. Then assuming that the flipside of attractiveness is also working against you, then only 1 in 20 of those will find you attractive.
  10. So 5 potentials with real potential.
  11. Which means that there is a one in 400,000 chance on any given night out that you might meet a potential partner.

Those odds might seem thin. Although Peter Backus generously gives himself a one in 285,000 chance of meeting the right lady in London.

But cheeringly, there is online dating and Tinder. Which allow you to reduce the target population size for things like mutual attraction and general availability for dates.

And also, Peter Backus eventually found a girlfriend and got married.

I mean, there are a lot of people defying those bad odds. So those are odds are probably wrong.

But fun to post about.

Happy almost-Valentine’s Day.


Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and sometimes things that are only loosely related. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at Also, check out the RA podcast on iTunes: The Story of Money.