The Washington Post

Why looking for love is like looking for aliens

This image taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows two very different galaxies drifting through space together in this image released on Sept. 6, 2012. (Reuters)

If you’re looking for love this Valentine’s Day, you may or may not find it comforting to know that the equations used to calculate whether there is life in the universe can be applied to your love life.

A new video from PBS Digital Studios outlines how astronomer Frank Drake’s equation, used to estimate the number of detectable alien civilizations there may be in the galaxy, can be used to find an estimate for how many perfect matches there are for you here on Earth:

The show is hosted by “It’s Okay to be Smart” blog creator Joe Hanson and goes by the same name as Hanson’s popular blog.

Applying metrics to online dating is a popular topic in the dating world now — thanks in large part to the amount of data available out there. All of those multiple-choice questions you’re answering on your online-dating-service-of-choice may not be broadcast to the public, but they’re going somewhere — probably into an algorithm a bit like Drake’s equation.

If you’re skeptical that this is a trend, check out Amy Webb’s “Data, A Love Story,” or Dan Slater’s “Love in the Time of Algorithms.” Better yet, read our own Outlook Assistant Editor Lisa Bonos’s review, and her outline of why love is now a marketplace — not a battlefield.

In the meantime, good luck hunting for little green men and women — or human ones.

Read more news and ideas on Innovations:

Innovation and the pace of the papacy

It’s time for an overhaul

Fixing the jobs mis-match



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