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Man behind 'Why I Don't Have a Girlfriend' theory to marry

May 24, 2013 at 4:46 PM ET

Peter Backus
Courtesy of Peter Backus
After writing his thesis about why he didn't have a girlfriend, he is set to marry.

If you've been bemoaning your lack of romantic options, don't give up hope. Peter Backus, a researcher in the U.K. who once calculated he had only a 1 in 285,000 chance of finding love, has beaten the odds: He's getting married this weekend.

In 2010, Backus, then a tutor at the University of Warwick, published "Why I Don't Have A Girlfriend," a research paper that used something called the Drake equation to figure out his probability of landing a romantic match in London.

"It was supposed to a be a little joke, just a silly tongue-in-cheek research paper," Backus, who hadn't dated anyone in three years at that point, told TODAY.com. "I was reading a book by Carl Sagan about the Drake equation, and the idea just occurred to me that you could do the same thing with any population."

The equation in question, written in 1961 by radio astronomer Frank Drake, was initially used to estimate how many alien civilizations exist in our galaxy. Backus used it to determine how many women he could meet in London who fit his age, educational and physical preferences. And the odds were slim: He calculated there were only 26 women in the entire United Kingdom who could be his potential girlfriend.

"So, on a given night out in London, there is a 0.00034 percent chance of meeting one of these special people, about 100 times better than finding an alien civilization we can communicate with," Backus wrote in his paper. "That's a 1 in 285,000 chance. Not great."

Backus didn't wallow alone in his stats for long — his paper soon drew media attention and even warranted a reference on "The Big Bang Theory."

"It was supposed to be a funny little thing," Backus told TODAY. "And then one of my students posted it on their blog. Somebody found it on AOL." But even though Backus knew his chances at love were dire, he didn't give up the search.

"I was still hopeful that I would find a partner at some point," he said. "When you work out the numbers, they're not unreasonable, that's the reality people face. It might feel surprising, but most people work out the equation."

Two years after publishing "Why I Don't Have A Girlfriend," Backus cracked his own code: he met Rose, a London woman who satisfied all his criteria, and fell in love.

"I met her at a dinner with some friends in London," Backus said. "It was just a chance meeting, just a friend of a friend." This weekend, Backus and Rose will tie the knot, and he says that despite the initial odds, there are plenty of ways to best the Drake equation.

His advice to the lovelorn: "Keep looking, and spend a lot of time hanging out in places where other people who satisfy your criteria hang out. Go to bars, go to music shows, go to places where people hang out and increase the probability. That's what the equation shows."

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