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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Sexy Math

In browsing book reviews, any title as incongruous as Mathematics and Sex is bound to stand out. This looks like a fun book.

Let's quote the review:
As an example of what this whole subject is like let me tell you about a long-studied model of interpersonal behavior that the author discusses in Chapter 3, a chapter titled "Road Testing the Bed"--I kid you not.

"You have to choose your life mate. The rules we adopt for this model are that you will be presented 100 choices one after another, you may date them, sleep with them, whatever. But, at the end, you must say yea or nay and if you say nay, you will never see them again."

What strategy should you adopt? Well, if you wait to the end, the odds are only 1/100 that the last person is the optimal choice; ditto if you choose the first person. The modeler then asks: what strategy should you adopt for optimum results? A little bit of mathematics involving infinite series gives the answer. You can prove mathematically that the best strategy is to look at (approximately) the first 36.787944117144235 people (rounding it to, say, 37 people) and then you should choose the first person from that point on that is 'better' then the previous 37 people. This increases the odds of your finding the best match from 1% to about 37%- roughly a 37 times improvement.

I may have to add it to my reading list. Heck, anytime there is some math that I can understand, I'm interested.


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