Maths, love, and friendship

Think Maths is useless? Think again.

Here is a mathematical formula that will help you to find a great job, a great house and a great spouse. Even if these prospects seem a bit irrelevant to your season in life now, this formula can also help you to find a bunch of great friends.

And what is that problem? Out of 11 women, he did not know who to marry

Before we reveal what this life changing formula is, let me first tell you a story.

The year is 1611 and one of the most eligible bachelor of Germany, Johannes Kepler, has a problem. You would think that the man who invented spectacles, figured out the laws of planetary motion, significantly contributed to integral calculus and derived the birth year of Jesus Christ, would be able to work out any problem. But no, this problem troubled him for 2 whole years.

And what is that problem? Out of 11 women, he did not know who to marry.

Candidate #1 has stinking breath. Out.

Candidate #2 was basically a shopaholic who has expensive tastes. Out.

Candidate #3… it’s complicated. She was already engaged to a man who had a child with a prostitute.

Candidate #4 was beautiful and sporty… but Kepler was unsure. What if a better woman comes along?

Candidate #5 was reputed to be modest, thrifty, diligent and motherly. But Kepler was still undecided. What if…

But because he could not decide, candidate 4 and 5 got tired of waiting. Because after all, you only live once. Life should not be wasted on a man who cannot decide whether he loves you enough to marry you.

And from then it was a downhill ride.

Candidate #6 was a rich lady who has unbelievably high expectations for Kepler. If even the guy who is written in the history books alongside the likes of Newton felt pressurised, then the expectations must be really high.

Candidate #7 rejected him.

Candidate #8… Well, Kepler liked his potential mother in law more.

Candidate #9 could be heard coughing and sneezing from a distance. Not that attractive.

Candidate #10 was an all-rounder. Literally.

Candidate #10 was an all-rounder. Literally.

Candidate #11 would still be schooling had she lived in our times. And Kepler did not want to add paedophilia to his already long list of credentials.

Fast forward a few hundred years and mathematicians think they have an answer to his problem. It does not guarantee the best outcome but it will certainly maximise his likelihood of satisfaction. In the case of Kepler, he has two choices when he meets a potential wife. He can either make a marriage offer to her or move on. If he makes an offer, the game is over. He cannot court other women after that(because like us, he lived in a conservative society). If he does not make an offer, well both the woman and him will move on.

According to mathematicians, the best way to play at this game is to interview date the first 36.8 percent of the candidates. But do not make an offer to that bunch! After that, as soon as you meet a candidate who is better than the best of the first group, that’s the one you choose. If you play like this, the odds will be in your favour.

Why 36.8 percent? Well, it is derived from 1/e which is 0.368.

This can be applied to school as well. Do you remember how at the start of each new year, you do not know anyone in your class and you have to mingle around until you settle down into a clique? If you join the first clique you meet, you may discover that they do not share the same interests as you, or otherwise are a bunch of very boring people. But if you float around too much, all the cliques would have formed without you, and you will have to join the other floaters and form your own “reject group”. (To all you adults out there who are reading this, school life is not as rosy as you think it is.)

By applying this formula, you get to strike a balance between seeing the world and also settling down before it is too late. Remember the magic number 36.8%. So if you have 30 classmates, you can “shop around” with the first 11 classmates. After that, you can decide who to join.

So back to our story, what happened to the most eligible bachelor at the start of 1600s? After a long period of reflection, and combined with profuse apologies, he finally re-wooed and married the fifth woman.  And he lived happily ever after.

Had he tried out the 36.8% formula, he would have ended up with the same wife, and probably saved himself from a lot of disappointing dates

Had he tried out the 36.8% formula, he would have ended up with the same wife, and probably saved himself from a lot of disappointing dates.

Still think Maths is not applicable to your life? Read again.

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