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Visualizing the math of soul mates

A look at the new book by the author of the XKCD comics

November 20, 2014

Randall Munroe has accustomed us to his fantastic comics for the past nine years. He worked on robots at NASA and has abandoned this job to devote himself exclusively to create XKCD,  a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language. Finally the XKCD comics were published  in the form of a book, entitled What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, about three months ago. The book  contains a compilation of several of the author’s answers to hypothetical questions submitted by his fans.

Check his TED talk about this project:

One of the many comics this author published in his book is about the mathematics of soul mates, which we adapted slightly to present here:

If soul mates were to exist we would be in a lot of trouble…

What if… soul mates were randomly assigned and determined by birth. It could happen that one of them was born 100 years before the other and was already dead… Or that one of them was yet to be born…

SM1
Image from the book “What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”

 

Let’s imagine this situation does not happen and you and your soul mate are nearly the same age. Cultural factors, language or sexual orientation could also make it difficult for you to meet your soul mate …

what if…your soul mate was drawn to you and you would recognize him/her as soon as you both make eye contact…

Eye contact is something you may have with none, one or hundreds of people per day… and only a small percentage is with people around your age (Randall Munroe estimates about 10%). If you make eye contact with a few dozen people around your age every day, you would make around 50000 eye contacts with potential soul mates during your lifetime. Estimating that you have around 500 000 000 potential soul mates, the chance of finding your soul mate one lifetime out of 10 000…

SM2
Image from the book “What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”

 

Conclusion:

SM3
Image from the book “What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”

 

References: [1] [2]

 

Written by Susana Pereira

Susana Simões Pereira, maths teacher and PhD in science teaching and communication. I enjoy games and photography and I'm passionate for science and art, specially when together in the same context. You can follow my updates on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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