Don't tell Mystery this, but finding a suitable mate may be a science, not an art.

That's what one hard-up economist explores in his paper, "Why I Don't Have a Girlfriend: An Application of the Drake Equation to Love in the U.K.," in which he uses a brainy math formula to estimate the number of potential girlfriends in London.

His findings are less than encouraging.

The lovelorn economist is Peter Backus, a native of Seattle and a fourth year PhD candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, near London.

His offbeat paper, which he devised after a three-year girlfriend drought, is based on the Drake Equation, which is normally used to estimate the number of highly evolved civilizations that may exist in our galaxy.

The equation, which might make you nauseous, states that:

Yeah, we have no idea what it means either. But Backus does. And he decided to put the formula to work for romantic purposes. "It seemed like a natural thing to do," says Backus in an exclusive interview with Asylum. "Basically, it was a way of quantifying my dismay."

Backus reimagined the equation by inserting U.K. population figures along with the general parameters for his potential girlfriend: a woman between the age of 24 and 34, with a university degree, whom he finds attractive. Simple enough. But there are complications. First, the woman in question must find him attractive (a 1-in-20 chance, he estimated). Second, she must herself be single (50-50). Lastly, he must get along with her (1-in-10).

The result of the equation? Of the roughly 30 million women in the U.K., only 26 are potential mates for Backus. In his conclusion to the paper, Backus expresses this more depressingly: "On a given night in London, there is a 0.0000034 percent chance of meeting one of these special people."

But somehow, he did just that. Asylum is pleased to report that Backus now has a girlfriend of about six months. "She's from London," he says. "And she meets all my criteria."

If you've come up empty in your own search for a significant other, Backus's research should give you some measure of solace that being girlfriend-less doesn't necessarily make you a loser. But maybe it's time to move out of your parents' house.

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