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Education Books Media Book Reviews Science

Mathematics and Sex 458

book_reader (Gary Cornell) writes "Wow, what an intriguing title! When I was getting my Ph.D in math, the words 'sex' and 'mathematics' were not juxtaposed all that often, and I suspect we would have been more likely to expect a book titled 'Mathematics and the (lack of) Sex.' But, hey, times change and the author, who is not only a mathematician but also someone who was voted one of Australia's 50 most beautiful people in their equivalent of People magazine -- and remember this is the land of Nicole Kidman -- has a point. As she says, echoing G.H. Hardy's famous comment in 'A Mathematician's Apology': 'Mathematics is the study of patterns: their discovery, their interconnections and their implications.' And what is sexual behavior but the most intriguing pattern of all?" Read on for the rest of Cornell's review.
Mathematics and Sex
author Clio Cresswell
pages 177
publisher Allen & Unwin
rating 8/10
reviewer book_reader
ISBN 1741141591
summary A very nice introduction to the modelling of inter-personal behavior

The way one studies patterns mathematically is by building models for the behavior being modeled. This is why most of this book is about mathematical models for interpersonal behavior. Well, that together with some amusing anecdotes that make the book a fun read even if you know the literature very well. Still, before I go any further with this review I want to remind everyone that the key question to ask oneself when reading any book that does mathematical modeling of any topic is always the same: are the models built realistic?. Mathematicians can't answer this question: only research by scientists (i.e., experience) can. Einstein probably put it best when he said:

"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

While we do study models for their applicability and their eventual predictive use by and for science, mathematicians can and do also study them for their intrinsic mathematics beauty, and some of the models Cresswell discusses in this book are certainly very pretty (in the mathematical sense of beauty--because the solutions are elegant, though the pun is intended.)

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. (In the pre-politically correct literature this model was called "The Sultan's Dowry Problem," or "The Secretary Problem"; now, alas, it is usually called simply an example of an "Optimal Stopping Problem." )

Is this a good model for how we behave? Is this a strategy that one can realistically adopt? Certainly, 100 possibilities seems like a lot of choices to have if one is not the current day equivalent of a sultan -- a movie star or an athlete. But the model is intriguing, if not totally realistic and applicable.

Models that spring from modification of the rules of the Sultan problem have always been one of my favorites in this area. This makes Chapter 3 my favorite chapter: it is chock full of goodies with lots of interesting variations of the original problem, and thus even more interesting models. Some may be far more applicable. For example, if you get to play the cad and can keep potential mates 'stockpiled,' then, by stockpiling seven potential mates, there's a strategy that you can use to increase the odds of finding the best one to 96% or so! Or, in another variation of the model, whose solution she refers to as the "twelve bonk rule," there's a result that says that if you simply want to ensure that your choice is better than 90% of the other choices available, simply 'sample' the first 12 possibilities and pick the first person who is better after the first 12. This strategy gives you a 77% possibility of success.

I obviously can't go over all the models she builds, the interesting results she cites, or the interesting observations she makes in a review so let me simply give you some of the high points of the remaining chapters:

Chapter 1 is entitled "Love, sweeeet love" and mostly consists of showing you various differential equations that can model love's attraction and repulsion i.e. variations on standard "prey-predator models." For example, she mentions the following model of attraction:

"The more Romeo loves Juliet, the More Juliet wants to run away ... Romeo gets discouraged and backs off, Juliet finds him strangely attractive. Romeo tends to echo her..."
This model gives rise to a standard and very simple first order differential equation. She then talks about more sophisticated versions of this model including one by Rinaldi that tries to model a famous love poem by Petrarch. (Personally, I think these models are only useful for learning differential equations but don't shed much light on the problem.)

Chapter 2 is called "Marriage and the Happily Ever After" and describes models for behavior in a relationship, including an analysis of how absurd the folk tale is that more sex occurs in the first year of marriage then in all subsequent years combined. Probably the most interesting work she talks about in this chapter are the models by Guttman et al. intended to analyze conversations between lovers to determine if the relationship is on the rocks. In this case the models they build are known to be highly accurate in predicting problems in the relationship.

Chapter 4 is entitled "Dating Services -- are you really being served?" and it has a fascinating analysis of the perils of questionnaires that try to match too many variables (i.e. why those questionnaires don't help that much). As she points out, this is called the "curse of dimensionality" in the literature. The problem is that if you are trying to determine whether two points are very close in n-dimensional space where n is large, you are unlikely to get a whole lot of difference between points and so closeness doesn't really matter much.

Chapter 5 is called "Pairing Up," and shows how Game Theory can (should?) enter into the problem of "choice" preferences. This chapter is a very nice gateway into models that are studied in the greatest depth in economics; there is an incredibly interesting literature on these issues. One should start with Arrow's paradox on voting (that most logical axiom systems for building choice models are actually inconsistent and can't simultaneously be satisfied) and then work up to real problems with how congressional seats are allocated in the United States. Wikipedia has good articles to start with on these models.

Chapter 6 is called "Action Reaction Attraction" and is about ways to model people's attractiveness. This means things like symmetry as a cross cultural model for beauty, and waist-to-hip ratio for females as a cross-cultural model for male choice. Whether these models are correct is an extremely active area of research in anthropology and evolutionary psychology. The jury seems to still be out, but the evidence for their truth is certainly growing.

Chapter 7 is called "Pick a Sex, Any Sex" and is a tantalizing hint of what the mathematics of evolution is all about. In particular this chapter includes a nice discussion of how sex itself can evolve. (It seems paradoxical that the question of how sex itself can evolve is not yet resolved. After all, in a naive "selfish gene" approach to evolution, it would seem seem that asexual methods of reproduction win hands down. But, as usual, the issues are more complex then naive models would predict. For example, who would have thought that parasites might be the reason sex arose? Again, for more details on the science behind the models the author discusses, you can start with a useful Wikipedia article. Ridley's popular science book called the Red Queen (or anything by Maynard Smith) is where to go next.

Chapter 8 is titled "How Ovaries Count and Balls Add Up," and is about models for feedback levels of hormone concentration and circadian rhythms and didn't particular interest me.

Finally, Chapter 9 is called "Orgasm" and I'm not going to summarize it, since that would be telling.

To sum up, is this book perfect? No. I think more mathematically literate people would like appendices which give some indication of the deeper math behind what she discusses. For example, the math that shows why the answer I gave above to the Sultan's choice problem really is approximately 36.787944117144235 - or more correctly n/e, where e is the base of natural logarithms and n is the number of choices one has to go through, is well within the reach of any 2nd year calculus student. The differential equations she introduces in other chapters can be understood by anyone with a good engineering or math background. The game theory and even a proof of Arrow's theorem should be accessible to any literate person etc. As is, though, anyone with even some knowledge of or interest in mathematics will find this book great fun.


You can purchase Mathematics and Sex from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Mathematics and Sex

Comments Filter:
  • f(sex) = (Score:5, Funny)

    by 10000000000000000000 ( 809085 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:27PM (#11087433)
    69 :D
  • calculus (Score:4, Funny)

    by utopianfiat ( 774016 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:27PM (#11087445) Journal
    hey baby, I'll be your derivative so I can be tangent to all your curves.
  • Beautiful Mind (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FiReaNGeL ( 312636 ) <fireang3lNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:28PM (#11087459) Homepage
    The movie Beautiful Mind on the life of John Nash present a scene in a bar where he gets his novel idea (which led to a Nobel Prize).

    A beautiful women with 3 of her (so-so) friends, 4 guys. If we all go for the cutie, her friends get no attention, go away and we all lose. If we each take one (a guy being luckier than the other), every girls feels she get attention we all 'win'.

    Is this scene true or pure romanced fiction? In any way, a good representation of Math + Sex (if this is possible).
    • Re:Beautiful Mind (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pHatidic ( 163975 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:47PM (#11087731)
      No no no you've got it all wrong. First you start by hitting on the ugliest girl in the set. Then the next ugliest, then next ugliest. You have to get all the ugly chicks to be friends with you. That way when you start hitting on the hot chick they won't cock block like they normally would.
    • by austad ( 22163 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:49PM (#11087753) Homepage
      Also referred to as jumping on the grenade.
    • Re:Beautiful Mind (Score:5, Informative)

      by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:58PM (#11087868) Homepage
      Actually its an economics problem. What Nash showed was that individuals maxamizing profit could lead to markets being heavily under utilized. A good example is radio stations:

      Assume you have in a city you have
      40k who like rock
      30k who like news
      12k who like country
      9k who like classical

      1 station: rock only
      2 stations: rock + news

      3 stations: 2 rock + 1 news the third station does better splitting the rock vote then going after country or classical (i.e you end up with 2 rock + 1 news).

      4 stations: 2 rock + 2news
      5 statations: 3 rock + 2 news
      6 stations: 3 rock + 2 news + 1 country

      it might even be worse if additional stations go after the rock and news markets trying to drive others out
      _____

      Under nash's ideas the stations can pool their earnings and:

      1 station: rock
      2 stations: rock + news
      3 stations: rock + news + country
      etc...
      • Re:Beautiful Mind (Score:4, Insightful)

        by daveo0331 ( 469843 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @08:55PM (#11088931) Homepage Journal
        So in other words, if one Company were to own severaL differEnt rAdio stations, instead of each station being undeR separate ownership, the stations Collectively could tHen be more profitAble. In other words, someoNe could make a lot of moNEy by starting a company that buys out Lots of different radio stations (at prices based on profitability under single ownership) and then makes them (overall) more economically efficient than they were before.

        I wonder how come no one's thought of this yet...
    • A beautiful women with 3 of her (so-so) friends, 4 guys. If we all go for the cutie, her friends get no attention, go away and we all lose. If we each take one (a guy being luckier than the other), every girls feels she get attention we all 'win'.

      Nah, that's bullshit. Most guys (those with a soul, that is) are terrified to take a shot at the best looking one. That rejection thing looms its ugly head when there's a large perceived attractiveness differential. Most will go for one in the middle, realist
      • My brother-in-law ending up marrying a very cute girl. He met her and started chasing AFTER she was already engaged to someone else. Now granted he wasn't a computer geek.

        This isn't the norm, but I've seen it more than once. Men really can marry above their level if they give it a little effort. In fact, now that I think about it, every Slashdotter married... had to marry above their level (self included).

        • Re:Not true. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:27PM (#11088168)
          This isn't the norm, but I've seen it more than once. Men really can marry above their level if they give it a little effort. In fact, now that I think about it, every Slashdotter married... had to marry above their level (self included).

          Oh, absolutely. I agree 100%. I'm definitely nothing to look at, and I'm routinely amazed by the women that I get just because I *try*. Most guys just see a good lookin' chick, and assume they don't have a chance, but women don't think the same way. Many women could care less what the guy looks like (to a certain point).
          • Re:Not true. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <(ten.suomafni) (ta) (smt)> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @09:01PM (#11088974) Homepage
            I'm definitely nothing to look at, and I'm routinely amazed by the women that I get just because I *try*.

            Fellow geek guys, gather round. Let me tell you a vital secret:

            Confidence. Is. Sexy.

            Just like anything else, you have to work at it. Don't try to pick up the next "hot chick" you see, but do smile and nod, say "hello" as you pass by. Try that for a while, then move on to striking up a conversation with no intention of making a "pick-up". Practice this diligently and some day you'll be surprised as a beautiful woman is suddenly trying to pick you up.

            I'm almost 35, certainly not better looking now than I was at say 22 and dateless. I'm certainly not rich (especially since I started downshifting and only work part-time now). But right now I'm almost getting more dates than I have time for. It's all attitude - by which I don't mean being an asshole, as some guys think is the ticket; just a quiet self-assurance goes a long way.

            (Yes, I'm mid-thirties and still single, so if you want relationship advice go see someone else. I'm just talking about getting in the door here.)

      • by Elfan ( 677935 ) <elfan@@@db-forge...com> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @09:00PM (#11088965)
        I think most guys go for the drunkest.
    • Re:Beautiful Mind (Score:2, Informative)

      by Rod Beauvex ( 832040 )
      I love brainy chicks. Even if they aren't that pretty.
    • I don't get this. In US by studying math, you are some kind of freak and all these jokes here on slashdot are kind of out of whack. In Czech Republic on the math department of Charles University there are very different jokes. One runs like this:
      • What does a math student think about when he sees a red balooon?
      • ????
      • Sex! And you know why?
      • ????
      • Because thats what he thinks about all the time.
    • but if you want to use game theory to analyze sex, here's an article about faking orgasms [utexas.edu].
  • Google search (Score:2, Informative)

    by jkitchel ( 615599 )

    Ok, how many other people immediately did a google search [google.com] to see how attractive she really was? The first link gives a decent picture of her. She's cute.
  • Incorrect assumption (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apoplectic ( 711437 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:29PM (#11087477)
    "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 1/100 chance that the last person is the optimal choice assumes there exists one optimal choice in the original batch of 100 in the first place.
    • by Bronster ( 13157 ) <slashdot@brong.net> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:58PM (#11087866) Homepage
      The 1/100 chance that the last person is the optimal choice assumes there exists one optimal choice in the original batch of 100 in the first place.

      As the cowards have said, of course it's the optimal of that 100.

      Given that, there are many different ways of measuring optimal, but I think that given the question "choose your life mate" the optimal has to be "person who you will be most happy with for the rest of your life".

      Ok, we have a comparison function. Now I don't have a clue how you can tell which one is optimum - and besides you're only going to reach number 100 (assuming they're the best) if the second best was in the first 37.

      I'm also assuming that no two people are exactly identical, and hence no two people are going to be exactly as "enjoy rest of life with" as each other. I think that's a fair assumption with humans.
    • Actually, assuming a normal distribution of traits with measurable variance (and 0 identical twins), there is a pretty high probability that one 'winner' among the 100 exists based on weights for/against specific traits.
    • by JHromadka ( 88188 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:13PM (#11088025) Homepage
      Who cares? You just slept with a hundred people. :)
  • by mekkab ( 133181 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:30PM (#11087487) Homepage Journal
    The Integral of e to the x equals f of u sub n,
    which looks like

    Sex = Fun.

    Wow. Ascii sure takes the fun out of a high school math joke!
  • Patterns? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spillman ( 711713 ) <spillman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:30PM (#11087496)
    And what is sexual behavior but the most intriguing pattern of all?

    Apparently he never saw Pi [imdb.com].
  • Here she is. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ghostgate ( 800445 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:30PM (#11087498)
    Come on, you know you were curious! Here's the author [google.com], Clio Cresswell.
  • by kwilliamyoungatl ( 835177 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:30PM (#11087500)
    In addition to "How 'bout you plus me subtract our clothes, you divide your legs and we multiply", I can use the less cheesy "Hey baby, I'm a mathamatician"
    Oh, yeah.
    -kwy
  • hmmmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anubis350 ( 772791 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:30PM (#11087501)
    gives whole new meaning to the squeeze theorum and the chain rule.... :-p
  • by anactofgod ( 68756 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:31PM (#11087507)
    Didn't I see this movie in the 80s? "Weird Science"?
  • While This movie [imdb.com] about John Nash did show how you can use math to get sex, it sadly came at the expense of the man's sanity.
  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:32PM (#11087528) Homepage Journal
    ...especially the detailed, in-depth research into topics such as "fluid-damped, mutually exciting, pair-coupled oscillators."
  • by chjones ( 610558 ) <chjones AT aleph0 DOT com> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:32PM (#11087534) Homepage Journal
    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.

    Waddya know, Kevin Smith was onto something [viewaskew.com].

  • by glrotate ( 300695 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:33PM (#11087538) Homepage
    http://www.betterhumans.com/News/news.aspx?article ID=2004-12-10-2

    Finding supports anecdotal evidence and reinforces evolutionary theory of human mate selection
    Betterhumans Staff
    12/10/2004 3:20 PM

    Men don't want to marry powerful women, shows a new study that supports anecdotal evidence and reinforces evolutionary theories of human mate selection.

    The study highlights the importance of relational dominance in mate selection and discusses the evolutionary utility of male concerns about mating with dominant females.

    "These findings provide empirical support for the widespread belief that powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less accomplished women," says social psychologist and study lead author Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

    Subordinate attraction

    With the help of a grant from the US National Institute of Mental Health, Brown and coauthor Brian Lewis from the University of California, Los Angeles tested 120 male and 208 female undergraduates by asking them to rate their attraction and desire to affiliate with a man and a woman they were said to know from work.

    "Imagine that you have just taken a job and that Jennifer (or John) is your immediate supervisor (or your peer, or your assistant)," study participants were told as they were shown a photo of a male or a female.

    After seeing the photo and hearing the description of the person's role at work in relation to their own, participants were asked to use a nine-point scale (in which one is not at all, and nine is very much) to rate the extent to which they would enjoy going to a party with Jennifer or John, exercising with the person, dating the person and marrying the person.

    Brown and Lewis found that males, but not females, were most strongly attracted to subordinate partners for high-investment activities such as marriage and dating.

    Cautious investors

    "Our results demonstrate that male preference for subordinate women increases as the investment in the relationship increases," says Brown. "This pattern is consistent with the possibility that there were reproductive advantages for males who preferred to form long-term relationships with relatively subordinate partners.

    "Given that female infidelity is a severe reproductive threat to males only when investment is high, a preference for subordinate partners may provide adaptive benefits to males in the context of only long-term, investing relationships--not one-night stands."

    According to Brown, the findings are consistent with earlier research showing that expressions of vulnerability enhance female attractiveness. "Our results also provide further explanation for why males might attend to dominance-linked characteristics of women such as relative age or income, and why adult males typically prefer partners who are younger and make less money."

    The research is reported in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior (read abstract).
  • > "The more Romeo loves Juliet, the More Juliet wants to run away ... Romeo gets discouraged and backs off, Juliet finds him strangely attractive. Romeo tends to echo her..."

    ...as first illustrated by the esteemed mathematician Charles Jones, in his 1949 paper For Scent-I-Mental Reasons [imdb.com]...

  • by snookerdoodle ( 123851 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:34PM (#11087553)
    Looks like we've found a slightly confused answer right here.
  • by cwest ( 66027 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @06:40PM (#11087631)
    "how absurd the folk tale is that more sex occurs in the first year of marriage then in all subsequent years combined"

    It is a well-documented dietary fact that a woman's lack of sexual desire is caused by the consumption of wedding cake.
  • Here is a bio page with photograph [unsw.edu.au] of the author, for anyone interested.
  • Using a word like juxtaposed won't do much for you, either.
  • If the author believes sex is a pattern, that would explain his familiarity with the lack of sex, in mathematics or otherwise.

    Good sex is art, not math.

    Maybe a nice fractal every now and again.
  • If the way congressional seats are allocated in the US bears any resemblence to models for sexual behavior, wouldn't we expect Republicans to be getting more sex, especially in Texas?
  • robot poets (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheLastUser ( 550621 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:01PM (#11087900)
    from "The Cyberiad" by Stanislaw Lem

    Come, let us hasten to a higher plane
    Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
    Their indices bedecked from one to n
    Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

    Come, every frustrum longs to be a cone
    And every vector dreams of matrices.
    Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
    It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

    In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
    Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
    Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
    We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

    I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
    Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
    And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
    And in our bound partition never part.

    For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
    Or Fourier, or any Bools or Euler,
    Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
    Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

    Cancel me not - for what then shall remain?
    Abscissas some mantissas, modules, modes,
    A root or two, a torus and a node:
    The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

    Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
    the product o four scalars is defines!
    Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
    Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

    I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
    I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
    Bernoulli would have been content to die,
    Had he but known such a^2 cos 2 phi!
  • by rinkjustice ( 24156 ) <<rinkjustice> ... Mrocketmail.com>> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:05PM (#11087932) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of this clever essay someone wrote, where he determines through demographics and statistical calculus why he will never have a girlfriend [nothingisreal.com].

    Hilariously geeky stuff.
    • His search strategy is off.

      Sure, a small proportion of the total population is actually eligible, but he can screen more than one candidate / day. Many will not meet his age requirements, attractiveness requirements, etc.

      Apply some crypto-fu, take some shortcuts. Don't solve the problem the hardest way.

      Of course, it's actually harder than he figures. I think the number of folks I could actually hang with lifetime are more than two standard deviations from norm...

    • Agreed... that great stuff.

      But I'd have to disagree with him... he is *extremely* picky. He will only settle for the top 2% beautiful girls.

      The top 2% is comparable to *the* ultimate babe in your highschool.
      If he's not willing to accept girls who are not at least as beautiful as that girl everyone lusted for in highschool who is at the same time smarter than 85% of people out there, then you've got issues.
      I've met one girl personally throughout all of my life that *might* qualify according to those crit

  • by mattOzan ( 165392 ) < vispuslo@nospaM.mattozan.net> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:06PM (#11087945) Homepage Journal
    "Wow, what an intriguing title! When I was getting my Ph.D in math, the words 'sex' and 'mathematics' were not juxtaposed all that often...

    How about Monty Python's Logic vs. Sex [jaller.com]?

  • Add the bed
    Subtract the clothes
    Divide her legs
    Multiply

    Thanks, I'll be here all week.
  • ...test out all 100 candidates. That way you get laid 100 times. If you just marry the 38th candidate she'll decide she has a headache every night from the moment you agree to be a 'life mate'.
  • by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:13PM (#11088026) Homepage
    is actually rather solvable, especially in this situation.

    Most people decide to use Euclidean distance, or distance-squared. It's possible to do some statistical tests comparing it to Manhattan distance, or distance-added, and you end up with Manhattan distance often being a "better" indication. So why not exaggerate?

    Take the general formula d=sum(abs(x_n^v),n=1..nmax)^(1/v). Euclidean distance is this formula with v=2, Manhattan distance with v=1. Lower v below 1 - 0.5, 0.3, or lower - and you get a distance metric that works quite well with high numbers of dimensions.

    Meanwhile, back in reality, the meaning of this distance metric is something along the lines of "it's okay if there are a few major differences, as long as mostly we're a good match", as opposed to "avoid major differences at all costs" . . . so instead of getting someone who's marginally different from you in all ways, you get someone who's very similar to you except for one major difference.

    Which can be interesting.

    Sometimes, the kind of "interesting" that involves handcuffs . . . either in the good way or the bad way.

    I don't know if any online dating sites do this or not. But they should.

    (For the curious: On the surprising behavior of distance metrics in high dimensional space [google.com])
  • Chapter 7 is called "Pick a Sex, Any Sex" and is a tantalizing hint of what the mathematics of evolution is all about. In particular this chapter includes a nice discussion of how sex itself can evolve. (It seems paradoxical that the question of how sex itself can evolve is not yet resolved. After all, in a naive "selfish gene" approach to evolution, it would seem seem that asexual methods of reproduction win hands down. But, as usual, the issues are more complex then naive models would predict. For exampl
    • You are an idiot. The paragraph you quoted made perfect sense. You desperate attempts to pick it apart seem deranged, like the submitter is your lifelong enemy and you are desperate to show the world that you are smarter than him. I don't feel like going through all of your stupidity, so lets just take one example:

      Submitter: In particular this chapter includes a nice discussion of how sex itself can evolve. (It seems paradoxical that the question of how sex itself can evolve is not yet resolved.)

      Yo
  • by dh003i ( 203189 ) <.dh003i. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:17PM (#11088081) Homepage Journal
    There are many problems with mathematical modeling of human behaviour. Firstly, economic phenomena (and we can broadly characterize all phenomena as such) are not infinitesimal. They are discrete. Thus, various operations of calculus are completely invalid, as the reality of human action is not continuous, but discrete.

    Secondly, human beings can choose. The reality of game theory is that it is a bunch of humbug which is often wrong, and when it's right, doesn't do any better than common sense would. In real-life situations, the only people who behave as game-theorists predict are actual game-theoreticians.

    I suggest this article on John Nash and Game Theory [mises.org]. I also suggest this article by Prof. Murphy [mises.org], and this excellent chapter on game theory by Ludwig von Mises [mises.org].
  • 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 fr
  • by CaptainCarrot ( 84625 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:23PM (#11088130)
    All I know is, out of all the classes I ever took in college, only the Math professors consistently acted as if they'd gotten laid recently.

    This was in sharp contrast to the Electrical Engineering department...

    • by Dolly_Llama ( 267016 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @09:47PM (#11089302) Homepage
      Feynman is quoted as saying, "Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation"

      so it wasn't necessarily that your math professors had gotten laid per se...
      • Feynman wouldn't necessarily have known from personal experience. As a physicist, he was unique in many ways.

        Reflecting on the array of instructors, it occurs to me that each department had its characteristic temprament by which we might be able make a guess or two about their personal lives.

        The math department was uniformly good-tempered and mellow, while the EE profs all seemed a little... tense. As noted above.

        The CS department formed while I was there -- this was the early '80s. When I started out

  • That's say 1 weekend to meet someone + 3 weekend dates = 1 month each for about 7-8 years. Take twice as long and still get married by 30. The key here is that you have to commit yourself to keeping the early relationships short, or possibly juggle multiple relationships.
  • by Bifurcati ( 699683 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:26PM (#11088156) Homepage
    Do you find other numbers too complex? Are you looking for that perfect number to be an integral part of your life? Never fear! They don't have to be imaginary! Our Numeric Dating [geocities.com] service factors in all variables so even odd numbers can be happy!

    (For the record, I wrote this during a second year maths lecture...good ol' vector calculus inspiring my creativity.)

  • Eat PI, not read about it. Dammit.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:34PM (#11088243) Journal
    the words 'sex' and 'mathematics' were not juxtaposed all that often
    When I did my PhD they frequently appeared together. Often in conjunction with phrases like "isn't getting any".
  • Here's her video (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaoudaW ( 533025 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:56PM (#11088460)
    Here's Clio's video [allenandunwin.com]. I'm late to the discussion, so I'm kind of surprised no karma whores got there before me!
  • by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @07:58PM (#11088479)
    I go to UNSW in Sydney and actually have been in a tutorial which was taken by Dr Cresswell when my normal tutor was away about a year ago. This was when I was doing MATH 1231 (Mathematics 1b).

    She seemed fairly competent teacher although it was obvious she took the class at almost zero notice as a favour for someone and didn't know what the hell we were supposed to be learning. She struck me as someone more in to research than teaching, though that applies to most accedemics I guess.

    I went onto IRC and for some reason, during the course of the conversation, I mentioned the fact that I just came back from a math tute which was taken by a youngish, blonde, female substitute. Since I was talking to males on IRC, someone asked the obvious question: "is she hot". My reply was something like: "she's ok I guess, nothing special... she might look better under different lighting".

    Now I find out on slashdot that she was voted one of Australia's 50 most beautiful people. So now I am thinking, um, are my standards abnormally high or what? No wonder I can't get a date.

    But it's funny that a woman can be standing less than two meters away from a guy for an entire hour but he won't know she's hot without slashdot. I'm not kidding either.

    • by MrHanky ( 141717 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @07:14AM (#11091277) Homepage Journal
      So, considering there are about 9,956,572 female australians, of which less than 50 are sexy enough for you, the chance of you getting laid is about 0.000005022, a rounding error from zero. And we haven't even started considering your own attractiveness from a woman's viewpoint.

      More seriously, though: Those lists of 'most beatiful women' only take those who figure regularly in the media into consideration, and noone gets on television without a thick layer of make-up, and the lighting is always better than at a uni in a TV studio.
  • by glamb ( 191331 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @10:35PM (#11089619) Homepage
    Don't know where this comes from, but the best mathematical model is the one where the age that you find girls most attractive is half your age plus 7 years. So a 10 yo boy thinks 12 yo girls are hot (10/2 + 7) A 20yo thinks 17yo girls are good, 30yo goes for 22yo, 40 for 27 etc. It works out pretty accurate.

    Probably developed by mathamatitions on a Saturday night "If I could get a date on a Saturday night, what age would I go for?"
  • by Bequita ( 813032 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @11:15PM (#11089812)
    I think that personal relationships and emotions are really far too complicated to match up to a mathmatical equation. Once we like someone, are we really willing to give that person up just in case "someone better" might come along? If we do give them up did we ever really like them in the first place? I would say that finding the optimal person is a pointless exercise in the first place, and that expecting someone to be our optimal partner just sets us up for failure when they fail (in our eyes) to live up to such optimal-ness. A more rational approach is finding someone we like enough to deal with their sub-optimal nature. I suppose this could be quantitated, but how do you do this when we each gauge a person's worth by a different set of values?

    I love my husband very much (we'll be married a year on the 3rd of January) but I didn't marry him because he was the most attractive, and I didn't marry him because he was perfect (he is neither). I married him because I liked him enough to deal with his weirdness. And he married me because he liked me enough to deal with mine. But neither of us can quantitate WHY we like each other. Frankly, if we could, it would worry me.

    At this juncture my husband would like to say that he really married me because he says I'm going to be a world famous (read wealthy) cardiologist some day, and that when that day comes, he can quit his job, build a state of the art gaming system, and play computer games all day for the rest of his life.
    Dream on, honey.

    In short, and because it's getting late, I'd just like to say that I think the concept personal relationships can be defined by an algorithm is a load of dingos kidneys, and I'll leave it at that.
  • by Faithman2k ( 604227 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2004 @11:39PM (#11089925)
    Here is her picture http://www.saxton.com.au/saxton_db_data/images/Cre sswell_Clio.jpg [saxton.com.au] Moderators please ignore karma whoring.
  • by puck13 ( 102616 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @01:10AM (#11090313)
    Unfortunately, the author of the review didn't actually offer much insight into the quality of the writing.

    Cresswell doesn't do a very goood job of integrating the actual math with the implications of the the theories. She'll say things like "Mathematicicans would use an equation that looks like this: [large integral here]", but then not explain the integral or math at all, and instead launch into a discussion of the social ramifications of the mentioned theory.

    When it comes to the social aspects, she's not a very clear writer either. Her writing style can be ambiguous and make it difficult to follow her examples.

    Her writing is also filled with cheap sexual puns and insinuation. Perhaps good for your average /. reader, but not for anyone who's made it past the adolescent humor phase.

    Overall, the book had some interesting notions and some notable flaws. She didn't do anyone any favors by pointing out the scary math and then ignoring it. She could have conceptually addressed the math a little more without scaring off the math-phobic. It also could have benefited from a good editor.

    (Apologies for the vague examples; I haven't got a copy of the book with me.)
  • But... (Score:3, Funny)

    by ayjay29 ( 144994 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @03:51AM (#11090766)
    Consider the equation

    b 4i 4q r u/18

  • by solferino ( 100959 ) <hazchem@nOsPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 15, 2004 @04:57AM (#11090941) Homepage

    Reading from the Kama Sutra, Chapter 1

    Oh beautiful maiden with beaming eyes, tell me, since you understand the method of inversion, what number multiplied by 3, then increased by three-quarters of the product, then divided by 7, then diminished by one-third of the result, then multiplied by itself, then diminished by 52, whose square root is then extracted before 8 is added and then divided by 10, gives the final result of 2?

    This excerpt came up in an interview with this book's author which you can read here [abc.net.au]

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