Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pub science

Hey, if this name catches on, let it be known that I coined the term. As far as I know. You'll get the idea of what I mean after reading the two texts that friends sent me:

Physics enlisted to help singles
Successful couples are said to have chemistry, but a study by an Oxford graduate suggests that dating may actually have more to do with physics.
Richard Ecob adapted a system for modelling atoms in radioactive decay to investigate how we look for partners. He found that "super daters", people who have many short relationships, have a good effect on others' lives. This is because they break up weak couples, forcing their victims to find better relationships.
Transit states
At the root of the system, says Mr Ecob, is the similarity between the probability of the nucleus of an atom decaying and that of a couple breaking up. The decay of a nucleus is described in terms of "transit states": the series of change it has been through to get to its current situation.
The probability of someone having been in two relationships, for example, is the same as that of a nucleus decaying twice.
"We had an inkling that it might be the same because we saw similarities," he told the BBC News website.
"When we worked it out, the graphs we got were very similar."
To model the phenomenon, he wrote a computer program which placed "software singles", people seeking partners, in an imaginary social network. Each single had a set of interests, which they also looked for in potential partners. The research suggested that multiple daters, those who form many relationships, were less effective at finding the right partner than those who remained in one place and let others come to them.
"If you have a complex network and you stay in one site you see more traffic coming through," he said. "It's a denser network, so there are more possible matches."
Another surprising discovery was that an increased set of preferences made no difference to a single's chance of ending up in a relationship. Despite modern people having more complex and varied interests than before, said Mr Ecob, this had no impact on their ability to date. So long as they were still willing to accept partners who met only a fraction of their criteria, the number of potential matches remained the same.
Prestigious contest
The next stage of the project is to show that it can also be applied to business and political matches as well as it can to personal relationships.
"We think it'll match up the same," said Mr Ecob. "If you're with a phone company and you know they're not an ideal match, you're going to look for someone who is. It's a very similar situation."
Mr Ecob, who was recently awarded a first class Physics degree, undertook the study as part of his Masters research project. He worked closely with his supervisors, David Smith and Neil Johnson, who are now taking the study further. They have entered the project in the prestigious Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year awards, which will be presented in London's Guildhall next month.


The Soul Gene
Rome, April 1, 2000
According to a spokesperson for VatGen, a holy owned subsidiary of the Vatican, the gene for the soul has been identified. The search for the soul gene has been a crash project for VatGen during the sequencing of the human genome. According to the Pope, the human species evolved and acquired souls during the course of evolution by the grace of God. It naturally follows, said B. Ware, chief geneticist for VatGen, that the Lord must have inserted some specific gene in the genome which enabled humans to have souls. VatGen has dedicated its 650 Meg supercomputer to scanning the sequencing data for the genome using the "Here a miracle occurs" algorithm perfected by VatGen programmers. According to B. Ware, the soul gene has 666 coding base pairs, and an intron which, when translated, reads "ecce homo". Leading evolutionary theorist Michael Behe commented on the news, "I knew there was intelligent design and this is the proof." A worrisome side note to the discovery is that, according to a genetic survey conducted by VatGen, about 40% of the world's population has a defective soul gene. The Vatican has petitioned WHO, the World Health Organization, to undertake a world eugenics program to sterilize "The Half Souled Ones." A spokesperson for WHO said that the Vatican's petition has been accepted but that no immediate reaction is planned.


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