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Relationships like atomic nuclei, says physicist

Weak partnerships decay. Sigh

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A physicist has built a computer model of the dating world, which he says shows people behave like decaying atomic nuclei, when it comes to finding love.

Richard Ecob, a postgraduate student, noticed similarities between the histories of people's relationships and the decay histories of atomic nuclei, the BBC reports. For example, he said, the probability of a person having been in two relationships matches the probability of a nucleus having decayed twice.

Inspired by this observation, Ecob went on to develop a computer model of a social network in which virtual people were looking for their perfect partners. These "software singles" were each allocated interests, which they would be looking to match with those of any potential partner.

The model suggested that those who have lots of partners don't do better than those who only have a few. It also found that the serial daters could end up making things better for everyone, breaking up weak partnerships so that each person can move on to something better.

Ecob, who developed the model as part of his masters research degree, thinks the same model could be applied to business relationships. He is working with his supervisors to develop it further.

Is this phenomenon behind the decline of the nuclear family (groan)? Is it proof that physicists should never be trusted to unentagle complex social situations, or is it just a daft story, perfectly suited to an August afternoon? We may never know. ®

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