An economics graduate student in the UK has used the well-known Drake Equation - used to figure out how many advanced civilizations might reside in our galaxy - to determine why he hasn't had a girlfriend in three years.

The Drake Equation was created by astronomer Frank Drake at the first SETI conference in the 1960s, and was used to determine how many civilizations in our galaxy might be capable of communicating with ours.

Here is the typical Drake Equation:

N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L

According to the SETI institute, these are the original parameters:

N = The number of civilizations in The Milky Way Galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* =The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

To investigate his girlfriend problem, researcher Peter Backus wrote a brief paper in which he modified the parameters of the Drake Equation to discover the number of women in the UK who could be his girlfriend. He changed the N to G, for possible girlfriends. Here are the other modifications he made:

R is the rate of formation of people in the UK

fw is the percentage who are women

fl is the fraction of women who live in London

fA is the fraction who are age-appropriate [by this he means up to 7 years younger than himself, but no more than 3 years older]

fu is the fraction of age-appropriate women in London with university degrees

fb is the fraction of these age-appropriate university women in London who he finds attractive [he claims 1 in 20]

L is length of time he's been alive [31 years]

So basically you multiply the values he provides for each of these parameters (read the paper [PDF] for details), and you get his tragic chance of getting a girlfriend: There are only 26 women in the UK he could actually date.

Before you get all weepy for this guy, let's consider his methodology when it comes to his vain attempts to get laid, shall we?

Backus has modeled his search for a human being on a planet coated with human beings by using an equation designed to locate communicative civilizations in the vast reaches of our galaxy. What does that mean? He's assuming that "women I can have sex with" and "communicative aliens" are roughly comparable values. If you consider the rest of the Drake Equation, that would make most women into the equivalent of dead planets, empty space, and alien life without intelligence. A tiny percentage of those women might not be dead or empty. An even tinier percentage could communicate intelligently, but possibly not during his lifetime.

This aspiring economics researcher has made one of the most basic mistakes men make - especially men who are science fiction writers or scientists. He's confused women with extraterrestrials. And he has drawn a comparison between the cultural attributes of those women and the evolutionary development of ecosystems on other worlds.

I think we know why Backus is having a hard time getting laid. He's treating women as if they aren't human. Maybe if he'd remember that we're part of his species, he'd be spending more time putting that pretty face of his to good use, instead of writing papers about why he isn't.