Before he became a professor of operations research at Carnegie Mellon, Michael Trick was a graduate student

bigger the applicant pool gets, the more valuable knowing
the optimal algorithm becomes. It’s true that you’re
unlikely to find the needle the majority of the time, but
optimal stopping is your best defense against the haystack,
no matter how large.

Before he became a professor of operations research at
Carnegie Mellon, Michael Trick was a graduate student,
looking for love. “It hit me that the problem has been
studied: it is the Secretary Problem! I had a position to fill
[and] a series of applicants, and my goal was to pick the
best applicant for the position.” So he ran the numbers. He
didn’t know how many women he could expect to meet in
his lifetime, but there’s a certain flexibility in the 37%
Rule: it can be applied to either the number of applicants
or the time over which one is searching. Assuming that his
search would run from ages eighteen to forty, the 37%
Rule gave age 26.1 years as the point at which to switch
from looking to leaping. A number that, as it happened,
was exactly Tr1'ck’s age at the time. So when he found a
woman who was a better match than all those he had
dated so far, he knew exactly what to do. He leapt. “I didn’t
know if she was Perfect (the assumptions of the model
don’t allow me to determine that], but there was no doubt
that she met the qualifications for this step of the
algorithm. So I proposed,” he writes.
“And she turned me down.”
Mathematicians have been having trouble with love
since at least the seventeenth century. The legendary
astronomer Johannes Kepler is today perhaps best
remembered for discovering that planetary orbits are
elliptical and for being a crucial part of the “Copernican
Revolution” that included Galileo and Newton and
upended humanity’s sense of its place in the heavens. But
Kepler had terrestrial concerns, too. After the death of his
first wife in 1611, Kepler embarked on a long and arduous
quest to remarry, ultimately courting a total of eleven
women. Of the first four, Kepler liked the fourth the best
(“because of her tall build and athletic body”) but did not
cease his search. “It would have been settled,” Kepler
wrote, “had not both love and reason forced a fifth woman
on me. This one won me over with love, humble loyalty,
economy of household, diligence, and the love she gave the
“However,” he wrote, “I continued.”
Kepler’s friends and relations went on making
introductions for him, and he kept on looking, but
halfheartedly. His thoughts remained with number five.
After eleven courtships in total, he decided he would
search no further. “While preparing to travel to
Regensburg, I returned to the fifth woman, declared
myself, and was accepted.” Kepler and Susanna Reuttinger
were wed and had six children together, along with the
children from Kepler’s first marriage. Biographies describe
the rest of Kepler’s domestic life as a particularly peaceful
and joyous time.
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ZAKARIA AL BAZZAR, 19 yo, university student. love everything about new tech, and I'm sharing it with you :)
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