I, like many others, am looking for science to control the world. Humans have used their instincts for far too long. They have bungled too much. Now it's time for the scientific to become beatific.
I am therefore leaping as if it were February 29 to discover that scientists in Europe have finally come up with the perfect formula for the ultimate human condition: marriage.
Regular sufferers here will know that this subject fascinates me beyond the usual level of engagement. A little while ago, mathematicians came up with a formula for choosing a wife. Essentially, it involved selecting the 38th woman you meet. And now, in a study due to be published in the April 16 issue of the European Journal of Operational Research, science begins to take even more uncertainty out of the marriage principle.
The Swiss study, romantically entitled "Optimizing the marriage market: An application of the linear assignment model," offers solutions to life's biggest problem. The abstract begins by taking all thoughts of love and passion and tossing them down the chasm of objectivity: "Research shows that the success of marriages and other intimate partnerships depends on objective attributes such as differences in age, cultural background, and educational level."
The highlights are, indeed, a joy to behold, squeeze tightly, and never, ever let go. The perfect wife is five years younger than her husband. She is from the same cultural background. And, please stare at this very carefully: she is at least 27 percent smarter than her husband. Yes, 35 percent smarter seems to be tolerable. But 12 percent smarter seems unacceptable. In an ideal world--which is the goal of every scientist--your wife should have a college degree, and you should not. At least that's what these scientists believe.
I know your bit will already be chomped with your enthusiasm for learning these learned scientists' methodology. Well, they interviewed 1,074 married and cohabiting couples. And they declared, "To produce our optimization model, we use the assumption of a central 'agency' that would coordinate the matching of couples." Indeed.
This optimization led research leader Nguyen Vi Cao to speak with some certainty to the Telegraph: "If people follow these guidelines in choosing their partners, they can increase their chances of a happy, long marriage by up to 20 percent."
Up to? Couldn't they be a little more exact? That 27 percent thing seemed pretty exact.
Still, let me tell you about one of these guidelines: marrying a divorcee makes it far more unlikely that you will be happy. I know, I know. It doesn't seem fair, does it? But science has spoken. And when science speaks, you bow your head until your nose tickles the frigid floor tiles.
I am concerned, though, about what this research might mean for the future of dating. Does this mean that every single, available man and woman should have with them an IQ questionnaire at all times--like a batch of questions Google asks during interviews?
There you are, seated at the bar, third martini twirling between your lonely fingers, when you espy a tousled-haired lady whose fingers seem to be lonely too.
You go through your usual opening lines. You know, like, "Is your dad an alien? Because there is nothing else like you in this world?" Or, for the more intellectual type, "I know why Solomon had 600 wives. Because he never found you."
Then you stop yourself and remember the research. "What's the square root of 4,724?" you whisper. Just imagine how your heart will pound, your palms will sweat, and your eyes will tear up when she instantly gives you the correct answer.
Mind you, what if she then looks at you and says, "Who was the first president of the United States?" What if you actually know, but fear that giving the correct answer might indicate that you are far less than 27 percent more stupid than your potential paramour? Do you deliberately answer "George W. Bush"? Or even "Kevin Kline"?
Love. Even in the ideal world, it's hard to make it ideal.