This is a question that needed some science applied to it. It turns out the optimal wife is 27 percent smarter than her husband. IQ tests on the first date probably come on a bit strong – but by the time you reach the altar you need to have established a pecking order. Here’s the science. Here’s the CNET report.

The highlights are, indeed, a joy to behold, squeeze tightly, and never, ever let go. The perfect wife is five years younger than her husband. She is from the same cultural background. And, please stare at this very carefully: she is at least 27 percent smarter than her husband. Yes, 35 percent smarter seems to be tolerable. But 12 percent smarter seems unacceptable. In an ideal world–which is the goal of every scientist–your wife should have a college degree, and you should not. At least that’s what these scientists believe.

I know your bit will already be chomped with your enthusiasm for learning these learned scientists’ methodology. Well, they interviewed 1,074 married and cohabiting couples. And they declared, “To produce our optimization model, we use the assumption of a central ‘agency’ that would coordinate the matching of couples.” Indeed.

Finding that woman might prove difficult. But if you synchronise the science with a separate mathematical model (at the end of this article) you’ll learn that the 38th woman you consider is the one.

If you interview half the potential partners then stop at the next best one – that is, the first one better than the best person you’ve already interviewed – you will marry the very best candidate about 25 per cent of the time. Once again, probability explains why. A quarter of the time, the second best partner will be in the first 50 people and the very best in the second. So 25 per cent of the time, the rule “stop at the next best one” will see you marrying the best candidate. Much of the rest of the time, you will end up marrying the 100th person, who has a 1 in 100 chance of being the worst, but hey, this is probability, not certainty.

You can do even better than 25 per cent, however. John Gilbert and Frederick Mosteller of Harvard University proved that you could raise your odds to 37 per cent by interviewing 37 people then stopping at the next best. The number 37 comes from dividing 100 by e, the base of the natural logarithms, which is roughly equal to 2.72. Gilbert and Mosteller’s law works no matter how many candidates there are – you simply divide the number of options by e. So, for example, suppose you find 50 companies that offer car insurance but you have no idea whether the next quote will be better or worse than the previous one. Should you get a quote from all 50? No, phone up 18 (50 ÷ 2.72) and go with the next quote that beats the first 18.

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