The really rather cute Peter Backus, a Ph.D. candidate in economics in England, has boldly attempted to solve one of the great mysteries of the universe, otherwise known as “Why I don’t have a girlfriend.”
To do so, he employs The Drake Equation, which “is used to estimate the number of highly evolved civilisations that might exist in our galaxy,” he writes. “I have used this approach to estimate the number of potential girlfriends in the UK. The results are not encouraging. The probability of finding love in the UK is only about 100 times better than the probability of finding intelligent life in our galaxy.”
The equation was developed in 1961 by Dr. Frank Drake at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia. The equation is generally specified as:
G = R • fP • ne • fl • fi • fe • L
G = The number of civilizations capable of interstellar communication
R = The rate of formation of stars capable of supporting life (stars like our Sun)
ne = The average number of planets similar to Earth per planetary system
fl = The fraction of the Earth-like planets supporting life of any kind
fi = The fraction of life-supporting planets where intelligent life develops
fc = The fraction of planets with intelligent life that are capable of interstellar communication (those which have electromagnetic technology like radio or TV)
L = The length of time such communicating civilizations survive
Backus makes the following adjustments:
G = N* • fm • fl • fA • fU • fB
G = The number of potential girlfriends.
R = The rate of formation of people in the UK (i.e. population growth).
fW = The fraction of people in the UK who are women.
fL = The fraction of women in the UK who live in London.
fA = The fraction of the women in London who are age-appropriate.
fU = The fraction of age-appropriate women in London with a university education.
fB = The fraction of university educated, age-appropriate women in London who I find physically attractive.
L = The length of time in years that I have been alive thus making an encounter with a potential girlfriend possible.
With me so far? I am now going to attempt to apply Backus’ equation to my chance of finding a man in New York — with the following caveats. (more…)