Thursday, May 05, 2005

unThoughts and pessimistic non-science

I signed up for Google's adSense on a whim; watching the ad-robot frantically trying to find topical ads as I wander away from my mean topic of astrophysics is fascinating.
I wonder how badly it could be screwed with.

Gaming Googlebots is cruel but fun.

At the current pace, I have 4 more hours of grading to do. AARGH.
Well, actually, that is not too bad.

I have learned that non-science major undergrads are instinctive pessimists; either that or they have a very, very poor sense of quantitative numerical concepts (I wonder...).
Anyway, they, almost without exception, choose very short (T_civilization) values when running Drake equation solvers; like anywhere from 100 years (we're Doomed, Doomed Right Now) to a generous 10,000 years.
One day I'll have to get back to this, and why the Fermi paradox hinges on outliers and mean values, not modes or medians...

In the meantime, everyone should look at the far more relevant "Date Equation"

Oh, sod it. Here's the whole thing. I can't find Chip's original website copy - he moved.

In the 1960's astronomer Frank Drake formulated an estimate of the
number of intelligent civilizations in the universe by multiplying
together the probabilities for the existence of planets, habitable
planets, proper conditions for life, etc. With only a little
varitaion, it has occured to some of us that a similar equation can be
used to estimate the number, N, of intelligent, civilized, dateable
persons of the appropriate gender in one's terrestrial neighborhood by
multiplying critical probabilities, F_*, as follows.

N = F_gender xF_age xF_single xF_babe xF_school xF_pc xF_cool xN_pop

Just like in the real Drake equation, the exact probabilities are
somewhat uncertain, and will vary according to your locale. We offer
here some rough guidelines for illustrative purposes.

F_gender (this one's pretty well defined):
0.5 if you are unisexual
1.0 if you are bisexual

F_age (this accounts for your age preferences)
0.01 if you're interested only in people within 1 year of your age
0.04 within 3 years
0.14 within 10 years
0.42 within 30 years
1.00 Seek professional help!

F_single (this one will probably depend on what age range you're after)
0.25 if you want someone never married
0.5 if you'll consider those presently single
1.0 if you have no respect for the institution of marriage

F_babe (or, substitute F_hunk, using the appropriate change of variables)
(physical attractiveness)
0.10 if you consider only the knockouts in the top 10%
0.30 if you're reasonably picky
1.00 if you're desperate

F_school (level of education)
0.10 if you requre an advanced degree
0.40 if you require a college education
0.80 if you require a high school diploma
1.00 if you require consciousness

F_pc (political/social/religious compatibility; this one
is pretty ill-defined)
0.001 if you belong to a far right or far left militia group
0.10 if you're very libral or very conservative
0.50 if you're moderate
1.0 if you're not interested in conversation or verbal interaction

F_cool (fraction of people who are cool to hang out with,
similar interests, etc.; this one's really uncertain;
take a wild guess)
0.01 if you're a couch potato
0.10 if you're picky about your friends
0.50 if you're really hip and travel in all crowds

N_pop (the total population of your metropolitan area; adjust
by factors of 2-3 as necessary))
10^0 if you're a hermit
10^1 if you live in antarctica
10^2 if you like in podunk, USA
10^4 if you live in a small town
10^5 if you live in a small city like Santa Cruz or Victoria
10^6 if you live in a large metropolis

For example, for a single female in Victoria, BC, interested
in single heterosexual men, 30-40 years of age, well educated,
moderately attractive, with libral social views, we obtain:

0.5 x 0.15 x 0.25 x 0.30 x 0.10 x 0.25 x 0.25 x 300,000 = 10.5


Created by Tess Lavezzi and Chip Kobulnicky for your amusement only.
Use only under the supervision of a Dr. or qualified statistician. For
aural use only. Do not take or combine with any other formula or


Post a Comment

<< Home