Perimeter Institute: Turning romance into a game of numbers

Professor Emily Riehl, of Johns Hopkins University, presents a mathematical solution to the “matchmaker’s dilemma”
By Daniel Kitts - Published on May 11, 2021
Mathematician Emily Riehl has published more than 20 papers and two books. (Johns Hopkins University)

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One reason many people find committing to a long-term relationship difficult is the idea that there’s a sea of possibility around them.

No matter who you are, or how happy you are with the person you’re with, it can be easy to wonder, “Is there someone else out there who would be even better for me? Is this my best possible match?”

Well, if you’ve ever thought that way, you’re in luck: math may have a solution. While it probably wouldn’t eliminate failed relationships in the real world, there is an algorithm that can, theoretically at least, determine the best matches in any pool of opposite-sex couples.  

Watch the Perimeter Institute’s webcast on a mathematical solution to the “matchmaker’s dilemma” on May 12 at 7 pm.

The algorithm does, of course, have a few drawbacks. For one thing, it works only for opposite-sex couples. It also benefits one sex over the other. (How you tweak the algorithm determines which wins out in terms of optimal marriage choices.)

In a public lecture on May 12 at 7 p.m., mathematician Emily Riehl will explain this seemingly magical algorithm, its sexist implications, and how at least one similar algorithm has been used successfully in the real world for decades.

A man filming in The Agenda studio

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An associate professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, Riehl has published more than 20 papers and two books. She is also a co-founder of Spectra: The Association for LGBT Mathematicians.

The Perimeter Institute’s public lectures are usually held once a month. TVO.org is streaming the entire 2020-21 series.

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