They say love is a numbers game. Bobby Seagull – the mathematician who rose to fame as a finalist on University Challenge in 2017 – took them literally.

A few years ago, he sat down to try to work out why he had been so unlucky in life. “I was 32 or 33, I was single, I loved maths and science – I thought: ‘Can I use maths and science to help me?’ It was a genuine, earnest attempt.”

Inspired by Peter Backus – a Manchester University economics lecturer who in 2010 wrote a paper titled Why I Don’t Have a Girlfriend – Seagull used the Drake equation, developed to estimate how many intelligent alien civilisations there might be in the galaxy, to determine his number of potential partners. “You start by assuming there’s infinitely many, then you keep on making the pool smaller and smaller.”

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