On The Chances of Love

I was amused by this L.A. Times piece by statistician Michael Kaplan, in which he tries to explain the chances of finding true love:

True love is like a kick in the head. No, really. It’s not just that it comes out of nowhere, knocks you sideways and changes your life forever. It’s statistically like a kick in the head.

Most statistics are about things that usually happen or that most people share: prices, salaries, IQs, political opinions. These qualities are called “normally distributed”: If you chart them, the graph they produce is that old favorite, the bell curve.

Love, here as everywhere, is different. True love is rare; we can only hope to find it once in a lifetime, and maybe not even then. The curve that charts love is very narrow — more like a steeple than a bell. It’s called a Poisson curve, and its classic exemplar was the chance of being kicked to death by a horse while serving in the Prussian cavalry.

When I was in high school, Lo, these many years ago, one of my favorite subjects was math. I used to love probability. By the time I got to grad school, though, and had to take a class for my research, I got a C. I was mortified.