Asking Her Out: A Game Theory Analysis

Since it’s getting to be that time of the year for summer romances, I want to write something about the subject. I’m calling this a Game Theory Analysis, though I know very little about the subject, and am probably greatly misusing the term, and am not really doing Game Theory at all. But I’m going to stick my neck out and just go with it, and we’ll see what happens.

There is a specific sort of situation that I want to analyze, and this is for you guys out there that have a hard time asking out those great treasures of humanity – women. Let’s assume that you are friends with this girl, but you’re also strongly attracted to her, and would like to explore say, a more romantic approach. But there is a nagging fear that asking her out might ruin even your friendship, and your left off worse than before. So let’s see if we can setup a matrix that models this basic situation:

Ask Don’t Ask
Yes
No

Ok, let me explain what we have so far. Basically, the guy has the top choices, or strategies, either to Ask her out or to Not Ask her out. The girl as the choices on the left, Yes or No. A yes would indicate that she is interested in pursuing a more romantic approach as well, and a no would indicate that she’s not interested in you.

The next trick is assigning values to each of these boxes. There will be two values in each box, one of each of the participants. In this matrix, the one of the left will be for the girl, and the one on the right will be for the guy:

Ask Don’t Ask
Yes +10 | +10 -10 | -10
No 0 | -3 0 | -10

Ok, now I’ve filled out a few values, and we can see what our best strategy might be. However, any conclusions would only be as good as the values I put in, so I need to explain those first. Obviously, the best possible outcome is if you ask and she is aggreable. So I put +10 to both to represent this. The others are perhaps a little trickier.

If you ask and she is not agreeable, then I give her a zero, and you a -3. Even though it seems hard at the time, a momentary rejection is relatively easy to get over in the long run. The friendship might suffer a bump in the road, but if it’s a true friendship, it ought to last. You might argue that the girl should recieve a negative amount here as well, but that is a judgement to make in your own situation.

The next possible outcome is if you don’t ask, and she is agreeable. Then you both lose out with neither taking the risk. The final possible out come is if you don’t ask and she isn’t agreeable, then she loses nothing, but you lose as you wonder ‘what might have been.’

Ok, so there are the explanations for the values. You might change them around however you want, but I’m going to jump right into the analysis now.

If we look at the over-all picture, we can see something interesting. The best you can possibly do by Not Asking is a -10, while the worse you can do by asking is a -3. If you don’t ask, there is absolutely nothing to gain, but if you do ask, you have the possibilty of gaining quite a bit. Obviously, for you, the best strategy is to always Ask. The same is true if you look at the situation from her perspective. The best outcome for her is your asking, and the worse outcome possible from from you not asking. In the middle, she neither gains nor loses, so it’s a pretty clean cut deal.

Of course, this is probably over-simplistic, not to mention the nearly arbitrary nature of the values for the matrix, but I think it is ‘reasonable enough’ to get your gears going.

The bottom line, guys, you should always ask her out. Quit pansying around and just do it.

Why is a Music Major taking Calculus III?

It is a good question, and I’ve been asked it quite a bit this semester. The answer I usually give is that the requirements worked out for my degree such that I have to take Calculus III. This is true, but my experiences this semester in this class has led me to something else.

The class started out rocky. The actual professor wasn’t there for the first 3 or 4 weeks of class, and during that time, we had 4 seperate teachers come in to cover basic Vector Calculus. I struggled for the first time in a math class. It had been 2 years since I took Calculus II, and I had heard that Calculus III is supposed to be the hardest undergraduate class someone can take. So I was very anxious about this venture. But now, with two weeks left in the semester, I couldn’t be happier with my choice. I have fallen in love with mathematics once again.

When you really understand an equation, there is something almost spiritual that happens. Others have described it as ‘reading the mind of god,’ but I don’t like that language. It doesn’t seem descriptive enough. It’s finding out something about reality completely with your mind, something that you know is true! You are literally discovering an ultimate truth with every step of the theorem.

Call me crazy but my two favorite math class periods in high school we when they actually showed the proof to two important concepts: the irrationality of square-root of two, and the derivation of the quadratic equation (x equals negative plus or minus the square root of b-squared minus four A C, all over 2 A.). It was one things to just be told these things, but for me, the more important question was, ‘How did we know them?’

This leads to something else, something that has drawn my interest lately, especially after reading ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.’ I am a music major – how does this all fit together? Music may be the universal human language, but mathematics is the language of the Cosmos.