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April 16

Does NYC dating suck? We do the math (AND the chemistry)

Filed under: News — posted by Kristine @ 5:21 pm

Ah, springtime in the city. Birds are chirping, trees are blooming, squirrels are frolicking, and MATH is in the air? The Huffington Post’s “Why Dating in New York Sucks (With Mathematical Proof!) reminds me of another article in which a British economist employed Drake’s equation to figure out why he had no girlfriend. In the HuffPo iteration, Satoshi Kanazawa is presented with the question: “Is there mathematical proof that dating in New York is difficult?”

Kanazawa references a theorem proven by two dorks without dates (ahem…mathematicians in 1966). According to Kanazawa:

This applies to anything, dating, looking for a job candidate. If you have a pool of candidates that you haven’t seen and if your job is to pick the best candidate then it’s been mathematically proven that the best strategy to do is to reject the first 37% of the candidates regardless, so you just reject the first 37% of the candidates and then choose the next candidate that is better than all the candidates that you’ve seen before. So if you apply that to a dating situation that means that you have to reject the first 30% of all the people you date regardless and then you marry the one who is better than all the ones you’ve dated before.

Already, I am finding some holes in Kanazawa’s rationale. First off, if the mathematicians said your best strategy is to reject the first 37% of candidates when hiring someone for a job, then why would you reject only 30% of all the people you date? Isn’t a life partner supposed to be a little more important and hopefully permanent than your employee?

Second, does Kanazawa mean all the people you’ve ever dated or just since you’ve been in New York City? The argument is further complicated by the mobility of New Yorkers, many of whom spend their time in and out of the city for various reasons ranging from work to leisure. Do the people you reject while away also count in the 30%? Do you have to start over every time you return to the city?

Third, who exactly counts as a rejection? Does the guy standing at the corner bodega yelling “God bless you, Mami” and “When you gonna be my wife?” count? Does it count if you reject a tourist who doesn’t live here? I would say an equation involving limits would have to be employed to define what exactly constitutes either a rejection or dating in New York City. Not to mention that if you apply this mathematical theory to dating, you also have take into account the fact that you will also be rejected at least once or twice – no matter who you are or how awesome your hair is. Does that rejection count as your 30% or someone else’s? If multiple people are rejecting 30% of all the people they date and those people are all dating each other, then you have to go into probability, permutations and possibly that famous problem that stumps everyone in school. You know, the one about the two trains leaving at different times from different locations traveling at different speeds, yet both arriving at Grand Central and YOU have to figure out the times arrive and possibly intersect. You’re just thinking way too much….and…it’s sunny outside.

So, instead, apply some simple ideas of chemistry. In chemistry, there are three main types of reactions.

1. A combination reaction: when two or more substances combine to form a single substance (also called a synthesis reaction)
2. A decomposition reaction: when a compound is broken down into two or more simpler atoms
3. A single-displacement reaction: when one atom present in a molecule gets displaced by another atom.

With regard to dating, well, it’s pretty obvious. A combination reaction is when you find someone, decide you’re in love, and combine your names in some cutesy fashion a la Brangelina. A decomposition reaction occurs when you decide calling yourselves by one name is no longer cute and that you can’t stand the sight of each other. A single-displacement reaction happens when another party becomes involved (i.e. Jennifer, Brad, Angelina). Yes, you, too can make one or all of these your reality…just minus Jennifer, Brad and Angelina.

These reactions are constantly occurring in our world. They are due to a chemical change commonly represented by the equation (and its permutations):

X + Y -> XY

The necessary conditions for this to occur include: a minimum amount of energy to break old bonds and form fresh bonds, collision between molecules and atoms in order to break aforementioned bonds and form new bonds, an appreciable speed or rate of reaction (dependent on temperature, presence of light, presence of a catalyst, electricity, and pressure).

According to chemistry, if you exert some energy, and say break old bonds (like with your baggage, your ex you call when you get lonely, the notion that you’re too cool, etc.), get off of your couch, stop looking at your iPhone, computer, Blackberry and get out there, you just might come into contact or even collide with that special someone and form a new bond. Since the rate or speed of reaction is dependent on such things as mentioned above, you might want to try some hot yoga, dinner in the dark, or electrolysis to facilitate said reaction.

If you’re looking for something more simple to apply to your current state, then we could also discuss physics and good old gravity. Newton, as in Sir Isaac — not Wayne — gave us the following equation:

F = Gm1m2/d2

If you have two objects of mass m 1 and m 2 at a distance d, then these two objects will attract each other with a force F given in this formula. G is the gravitational constant.

Newton stated in his first law of mechanics that unless acted upon by forces, a body at rest will remain at rest or a body in motion will remain in motion, moving with the same speed and direction. Despite being the first law, it oddly follows from Newton’s second law of mechanics which determines the motions of objects. Force is the driving impetus.

Basically, we are attracted to each other, but the force of that attraction is different between individuals (given some masses are more attracted to others) and given a certain distance. Without interacting or exerting energy (i.e. force, which is not to be misconstrued with “lack of consent”) to bridge the distance to divert that hottie on the way to the subway, we would basically travel at a constant speed in a fixed direction until we die. We would never change direction or movement and life would be…well, BOOOORRRRIIIINNGGG.

So, people, put your pencils down and stop computing the probability of x + y to infinity. Get out there. Find out why you might not want to make an ex of someone just because the numbers compel you. Enjoy the sunshine.


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