The Mathematics of Love

A couple of days ago as part of Oxford Literary Festival I went to a talk by UCL mathematician Hannah Fry on The Mathematics of Love: The Search for the Ultimate Equation. Personable, interesting and accessible, Fry is like the Jamie Oliver of maths. If Jamie Oliver were wearing an ‘Emily Blunt as Emily in the Devil Wears Prada’ skinsuit.


Applying behavioural stats to love and dating is fascinating, because it helps to explain so much about why we act the way we do…as well as highlight the forces which maths just cannot quantify. There were some great tongue-in-cheek takeaways from Fry’s talk (though I’m not sure everyone got the tongue-in-cheek part…like the girl sitting beside me who spent the hour manically scribbling notes in a rhinestone-pocked notebook and tweaking her Tinder profile), such as:

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For 2 weeks now people have been talking excitedly about Spring being upon us. Classes have ended (and hearts have collectively lightened), punts are being dusted off, and the stores are filling out with spring fashion – lace, palazzo culottes, and flimsy cotton dresses galore. The cafés more accurately reflect the weather – still advertising whisky hot chocolates and teaming crème anglaise with heavy puddings rather than fruit fools (lesson: crème anglaise is transeasonal; broderie anglaise is not).

I do like dressing for winter; swathing myself in dark layers like one of those hidden Victorian mothers dressed as a curtained chair to keep her kid from squirming in a longass photoshoot. Minimal effort, maximum comfort, no shaving or rejuvenating scaly legs required.

But warm weather dressing is infinitely more romantic. Spring means lace and whimsically printed sundresses. For inspiration, look no further than Dolce & Gabbana SS ’11 and ’12 (like a dog with a many seasons old but ethereally beautiful bone, I’m still hankering after these collections…)

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Playing Oxford Tour Guide

Since the end of last year, a number of friends have come to visit me here in Oxford. That number is 6, so by now I’ve developed a standard walking tour of Oxford sights and snippets of information…that I’ve never bothered to verify. Like butter on a toasty baguette, I think that historical anecdotes and hearsay should be laid on thickly, and unclarified.

I start by taking them around my college and its deer park (source of Magdalen’s venison meatballs), point out the Old Library (excavation yielded a bunch of bodies from the 15th Century hospital site, plus Oxford’s largest collection of wig curlers), make up some symbolic meanings for the scores of gargoyles and grotesques we pass along the way, and then take them up the Magdalen tower.

15mar3  15mar4

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100th Post

Apparently the typical blog lasts for 100 posts which, assuming maybe thrice-weekly posting, is about the shelf-life of a commercially-produced stroopwafel. Admittedly I’ve let this space get a little stale over the last month or so, but I intend to push it past the mean expiration date. Because for me, blogging, like a syrup-filled dough sandwich, is a treacly life-sweetner.

Firstly, it has encouraged me to try new things. Obviously not in a Hannah Horvath-ian get sex-punched in the chest/sleep with the boss for the story kind of way, but I might (for example) have chickened out of improv if it hadn’t been a slow week with little else to write about. I also have an amazing blind date story itching to be written up into a pivotal romcom scene; after all my hypocritical whinging and an interesting plot twist, I ended up going on this college date exchange because I thought it could make for a good tale.

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Torpids Madness

torpids9 torpids2

Eat. Sleep. Row. Repeat. Add in a ‘Frantically scratch out 3 sub-par essays’, ‘Attend most classes’ and ‘Flout the tacit drinking ban because omg another Guest Dinner‘ and you’ve got a fair account of my week. Or maybe the worst Nike slogan tee ever.

It was the infamous and ironically-named Torpids week here in Oxford; the big intercollege regatta of Hilary Term. A few weeks ago, after a season of apathy, I got swept up in the excitement of it all and became a total gym/river rat. Like a slow-blossoming, normal-coloured and even-tempered Hulk (ok, bad analogy) I’ve gotten fitter and stronger than ever before in my life. Almost Madonna arms, you guys. Still, I couldn’t match the fervency of some of my crew. After ‘rowing on’ the Friday prior (time trialling to qualify for Torpids), there was this slightly awkward interaction:

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Room for Improv-ment

Before I left Sydney, a fantastic Sandberg-ian mentor gave me a piece of advice: to take the opportunity of starting fresh as a student here at Oxford to fail at something. She hastened to add that she didn’t mean my course. She was thinking more along the lines of ice-skating. And obviously the goal wasn’t to fail, but to try my hand at something without caring about the consequences. Shrewdly, she perceived that one of my personal obstacles is self-consciousness.

Paradoxically, it is the fear of looking like a fool that often leads to…looking like a fool. Just think the people who pull out their phone at parties the second they’re left alone (as if anyone thinks they’re fielding a bunch of urgent/hilarious messages), or when someone is so concerned about how they look on the dancefloor that they end up awkwardly moving like a stick insect on a hot plate. Rather than just letting themselves go and creating this kind of magic:

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