Oct 3, 2006

Like a kick in the head

Finding true love and the Poisson curve.
If there's an average occurrence of any event over time, however low, Poisson's formula can predict a likelihood for the here and now.

True love is such an event. It could be today; it could be never. All we know is that it happens to some people, sometimes. This makes me believe that the hope of meeting the love of your life is also governed by the Poisson curve. If so, it suggests some interesting conclusions.

Woody Allen pointed out that being bisexual doubles your chance of a date on Saturday night — but, sadly, Poisson shows very little change in response even to this drastic rise in probability.

His curve, applied to finding true love, charts two things: the chance this rare event will happen once, twice, thrice, in a lifetime; but also how likely it is to happen at all in progressively more unlikely circumstances. When you move away from the back of the horse, the chance of being kicked to death falls precipitously. Similarly, edging away from the kind of people who are the current focus of your affections (in the hope that, say, a Florentine millionaire-poet-ski champion will come knocking at your door) makes the chance of success drop away much more quickly than it would for normally distributed phenomena.

This implies that your best chances come from seeking out and sustaining friendships with the people you already like most, rather than devoting too much time to the exotic alternatives. Rare things become near-impossible once you compound their rarity — say, by buying a lottery ticket only on your birthday.

Via Jill Fallon.

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