The Math of Predicting Divorces

05.18.10 6 years ago • 2 Comments

She eventually leaves him for an orangey cat because of his raging catnip addiction.

In a Spanish research paper that sounds like something from The Foundation, José-Manuel Rey posits a mathematical model based on the second law of thermodynamics to explain why marriages fail.  He’s calling it “sentimental dynamics” whereas I’m calling it Liz Taylor’s Law.

Building on a simple version of the second law we use optimal control theory as a novel approach to model sentimental dynamics. [Ed- Well of course.] Our analysis is consistent with sociological data. We show that, when both partners have similar emotional attributes, there is an optimal effort policy yielding a durable happy union. This policy is prey to structural destabilization resulting from a combination of two factors: there is an effort gap because the optimal policy always entails discomfort and there is a tendency to lower effort to non-sustaining levels due to the instability of the dynamics. [PLoS ONE via Physorg]

This was a reeeeally long way to show, with numbers, that if you put no effort into a relationship, it’s going to dissolve, and that partners who are similar emotionally tend to contribute enough effort in balance with each other.  Thanks, Catedrático Obvious.  Here I thought that haggard looking couple in Walmart yelling at each other over an expired coupon for hot pockets were going to be together forever.  Let me pull out my calculator and see if their marriage is working.  Seriously though, here’s the math if you’re interested:

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