- Physics Ph.D. candidate Dominik Czernia has developed an online tool to help you calculate your chances of falling in love.
- Using the "Optimal Stopping Problem," or the "Sultan's Dowry Problem," you can determine the best way to optimize your dating pattern.
- It comes down to probability: the more dates you go on, the better your chances.
As they say, there are plenty of fish in the sea. And as mathematicians will tell you, the more fish you kiss, the better your chances of finding a catch.
Sea life analogies aside, Dominik Czernia, a physics Ph.D. student at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kraków, has built an online calculator that can help you figure out the chances of you finding the love of your life this Valentine's Day.
Although the underlying principle isn't quite as romantic—the "Optimal Stopping Problem," as it's called, basically asks you to reject your first two of every five dates—Czernia has managed to make the art of love as close to a science as possible, with some spaghetti dinners required.
"Experimental psychologists say that we don’t search enough when encountered by several options sequentially," Czernia tells Popular Mechanics. "For example, let’s say you want to rent a flat [to] someone. You don't know the value of the offers before they come. With each offer, you must decide whether you accept or reject it. How long should you wait for the best deal?"
Such is the case in the hunt for the perfect partner, he says. If you go on 100 dates with 100 different people—and Czernia is careful to note that, of course, the actual number of dates will vary by person—it's difficult to know which of the 100 people you should choose to date. If you pick someone randomly, the probability they're your perfect match is just one percent. Not exactly promising.
But with the Optimal Stopping Problem, you can bring your chances of finding love up to 37 percent, theoretically. And better yet, if you're okay with resigning yourself to the top 10 percent of matches, your probability of finding The One™️ will reach nearly 80 percent.
"With every new person we meet, we realize what our real expectations are, and so we’re looking for the things we care about the most," Czernia explains. "The Dating Theory Calculator is here to make people aware of that process."
The Optimal Stopping Problem
Czernia's calculator is certainly a bit cheeky, but to fully understand the mathematical concept behind the dating scheme, we'll need to dig into the Optimal Stopping Problem, also referred to as the "Sultan's Dowry Problem," "37 Percent Rule," or "Secretary Problem." It's exactly what it sounds like: a method for finding the perfect time to stop going on dates.
Regardless of what you call it, they all boil down to the same purpose: find the best possible option from "sequentially observed random variables." That's a bit of a mouthful, so Czernia has broken up the phrase into two parts:
- Sequentially observed: This means you're dealing with variables (here, dates) one by one, and you can't go back to the previous one (or risk having a glass of wine dumped on your head).
- Random variables: Each variable (here, date) you encounter has a random value (that would be the level of compatibility with you).
Let's pretend you have a set of five numbers, Czernia says. They're [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] and describe the rank of the potential partners you've met so far, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst.
"Sequentially observed means you’re going from the left to the right of this set, and random variables make this set randomly ordered," he says. "So, the sequence might be [4, 2, 3, 5, 1] as well as [1, 5, 3, 4, 2], etc. And that’s the same with dating since you won’t ever know when you would find the ideal partner."
In other words, you can't exactly gather all of your dates in one room and then pick from the group—unless, of course, you're on The Bachelor.
What's Up with 37 Percent?
There's a reason why this is also called the 37 Percent Rule. The best strategy for dating, according to math, is to reject the first 37 percent of your dates. The actual percent is 1/e, where the base is the natural logarithm. That's 36.79 percent, but you need to round up because you can't date a fraction of a person.
So if you go on 10 dates, reject the first four, no matter how good they seemed. Then, wait until you've met someone better than those first four. If you follow those rules, you'll increase your chances of finding the best suitor. In this example, your probability of finding the love of your life increases from 10 percent to 40 percent.
Practically speaking, rejecting the first 37 percent of dates allows you to get familiar with what you can expect from the people that you're meeting. Hey, you can't go back to those you rejected, but 63 percent of your options are still available, and now you know what you want to find most in a partner.
Practically Speaking ...
Love, unlike math, has no guarantees. As Czernia points out, it's actually a bit like Russian Roulette. There's not a 100 percent success rate in using the Optimal Stopping Problem, though a story in the Washington Post did find that even among just three suitors, the problem led to a 20 percent higher success rate. And, as you might imagine, the more dates, the higher that success rate.
Still, this is all for fun at the end of the day. You can try filling in Czernia's calculator by clicking here. He does admit it's not the universal solution for finding love.
"As much as I'd like to believe that science has finally solved the mystery called 'humans,' I'll have to say there's still a long way to go," Czernia says. "Indeed, the math doesn't account for all variables like human emotions. These calculations should be treated as a guidance tool to make a final decision."
Just keep in mind the probability you'll be rejected is also crucial. And it should go without saying, but you probably shouldn't tell your date you're using math to determine whether or not to pick them.
"Moreover, showing the chances of a person finding 'the one' encourages people to be more outgoing and keep searching until they can safely say, 'I don't need this math anymore,'" Czernia explains. "Until then, I think one should keep trying different things, including different approaches to find the most compatible date."
You Might Also Like