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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The Dating Dance

The Obama Effect

In my eyes, the whole dating game is a bit like doing the Hokey Pokey. Ultimately, you just want to meet someone who makes you think ‘That’s what it’s all about!’ (whoa, the Hokey Pokeyyy, whoa, the Hokey Pokeyyy…). But until that point, you go through the motions of the dating dance. At times it’s good fun, even exhilarating; at times it’s exhausting. And at other times you’d rather lop off a limb that participate in any more rounds of this bizarre social ritual.

Obviously how you perceive a date or a romantic gesture depends on whether you like the person. If someone you like remembers your favourite song (which you mentioned in passing 6 months earlier) it’s sweet. If someone you don’t like tries to serenade you with this song, it’s creepy. The adorable/deplorable line is pretty much subjective.

That said, there are certain things you can do to set a date up for success:

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Tinderbell: clap your hands if you believe in online dating


At our college Exchange Dinner last night, there was a bit of an awkward moment when I went up to get a drink and Barman Sam boomingly announced to the entire room, “My roommate found you on Tinder!” Apparently, this roommate had come across my profile and remarked, “Elodie, that’s a weird name” (note: in this broadcast Barman Sam couldn’t even employ flattering poetic license to make it something like, “Elodie, wow! What an attractive girl. I can just tell from her 5 overly-filtered pictures and 2 sentence bio that she is fun, beautiful and an interesting conversationalist!”). Anyway, Barman Sam made the connection, and saw fit to make a Public Service Announcement of my Tinder presence to the entire college.

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