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Spanglefish Gold Status Expired 20/09/2014.

The Mathematics of Why I Don't Have a Boyfriend

Brilliant! Incredibly funny! Totally delightful!

These were some of the comments about Trina Dinnis's story of the search for romance, and how the search for Mr Right can be optimised by the use of the right mathematics. Here's her account of what started it all off.

Trina Dinnis writes:

There were several things that gave me the idea for my talk about the mathematics of why I don't have a boyfriend.

There was the guy who was talking about how a girl he was very keen on decided not to go out with him because he didn't like a certain book. I did wonder (very nastily) if it would have been so important to her if he had more hair.

Also I had a colleague at work who during every coffee break would describe in great detail how much he wanted a girlfriend, and what he wanted from a girlfriend. He had quite a long wish list. Top of the list seemed to be sharing the bills. For some reason I wasn't enormously tempted to apply for the position.

It was then that the concept of using a multidimensional space to describe selection criteria began to form in my mind. Finally I had had the wonderful idea of writing a new version of the song "You can't get a man with a gun" from the musical "Annie get your gun", entitled "You can't get a man with a sum" and was thinking about where I might get the opportunity to perform such a masterwork.

In the end I decided not to include it in my talk because of:

a) worries about copyright issues

b) I felt the talk worked better without it

c) it is perhaps kinder not to expose the world to my singing and

d) I never managed to finish it, though I did manage the immortal couplet "a knack with a fraction, won't get you any action" of which I am inordinately proud.

I then set to work, using my world-class engineering skills to start developing a model of the boyfriend acquisition process.

Throughout my research career I have used my modelling skills to simulate a large range of systems, from mobile phone networks to electrical sparks, but this is definitely the most challenging system that I have encountered.

My aim in modelling systems is twofold. Firstly, it should be able to give me a better understanding of the system in question, and be able to predict how the system will behave under different conditions. Secondly, it may give me ideas on how to improve the system and make it work more effectively.

Although my boyfriend acquisition model is still very much a work in progress – I am currently engaged in a statistical analysis of fairy tales which I hope will prove highly illuminating – I feel that I am making very good progress in understanding the mechanics of getting a boyfriend. That this allows me to talk about such things as statistics, house price bubbles and Venn diagrams is purely coincidental.

Trina is an electronic engineer by training, with experience in research and industry which ranges from aspects of wireless networks to designing and testing computer hard drives. She has a particular interest in communication of science, and was encouraged to develop her skills in this through the NESTA Crucible programme. She is involved with Girls Get SET, a scheme to encourage women to study engineering.

This talk took place on Wednesday 12 November, in The Old Brewery in Cromarty.

During the Festival she also spoke on The Physics of the Hula Hoop. And she was featured on the BBC website: Engineer to Reveal Hula Physics.

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