Randall Munroe’s work should be on the physics syllabus. And maths. And possibly art and English, too. Seriously.
Munroe is the man behind the ineffably brilliant XKCD comic strip (“A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”), which, as everyone knows, is one of the Best Things on the Internet.
A recent addition to the XKCD empire is “What If”, in which Munroe uses words, equations and stickman sketches to tackle readers’ questions weekly – “Answering your hypothetical questions with physics, every Tuesday”.
Such as “How long would the Sun last if a giant water hose were focused upon it?” (Short answer: get much hotter, turn into a black hole.)
Or, “What if a rainstorm dropped all of its water in a single giant drop?”
Well, if we ignore sexuality issues, assume your soul mate is set at birth and alive at the same time as you, and guess that people on average make eye contact with a couple of dozen strangers a day, you have, Munroe demonstrates, roughly a one in 10,000 chance of finding your soul mate.
He doesn’t stop there. He imagines a computer program, SoulMateRoulette, which would mean everyone could find their soulmate within a decade. A flawless solution. Apart, Munroe notes, from the fact that it requires everyone to spend 56 hours a week online focused on the search.
And by everyone, that’s everyone in the world.
It’s hard to argue with his conclusion:
Even if a bunch of us spent years on SoulMateRoulette, another bunch of us managed to hold jobs that offered constant eye contact with strangers, and the rest of us just hoped for luck, only a small minority of us would ever find true love. The rest of us would be out of luck.
Given all the stress and pressure, some people would fake it. They’d want to join the club, so they’d get together with another lonely person and stage a fake soul mate encounter. They’d marry, hide their relationship problems, and struggle to present a happy face to their friends and family. (Of course, this never happens in our world.)
All in all, the world of random soul mates is an even lonelier one than ours.