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The Science of Love

The notion of “love at first sight” has a lot of basis in fact. That's what I learned in research for my novel. The big premise of Love At Absolute Zero is that a 32-year-old physicist, in tune with his inner salmon, can find his soul mate in three days using the Scientific Method. What folly, you might be thinking. That's what makes it fun and funny.

Yet there is science there. Psychologists have shown it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you fancy someone. Research has shown this has little to do with what is said, rather

  • 55% is through body language
  • 38% is the tone and speed of the other person's voice
  • Only 7% is through what they say

Best as we can tell, we’re the only species trying to believe there’s love as well as logic to it. After all, we’re not cockroaches. We’re human beings. Still, to see how our species evolved psychologically, evolutionary psychologists have focused on this very issue.

One of the basic things is that women have a finite number of eggs with so many years of ovulation, and women’s DNA is yearning to mate with the best genetic material possible. It’s why tribal chiefs, CEOs, and rock stars attract women. It’s why Bill Clinton drew in Monica Lewinsky. Yet, because it takes 13 to 18 years to raise a baby to adulthood (24 years in California), women consciously or unconsciously also seek someone dependable who will help them with this task. Their offspring need to survive. Thus, Match.com.

Men, on the other hand, have up to 300 million sperm per coupling. The population of earth could easily be started by one man, if only there were enough women—which evolutionary psychologists say is why men can so easily have multiple sexual partners and think nothing of it. Their mission is to populate. Anyone who pays child support, however, doesn’t relish the idea of populating the world and have it garnished from their paycheck. Thus, online porn.

This is also where the intellect comes into play. Men are perfectly capable of understanding that their life partner has feelings, and momentary desires do not have to be acted upon. Still, someone is acting on desires. Consider that at the time of Christ, there were around 350 million people on earth. In 1800, it was one billion. People were living longer then — and enjoying lovemaking more, too — thanks to the discovery that using soap helped.

In another hundred years, we were at 1.9 billion people, not quite double in 100 years. In 1950, we were at 2.5 billion. From there, it took only forty years to double the population. Now we’re at around 7 billion. There simply are not enough iPhones for everyone.

The power of love is enormous. “People compose poetry, novels, sitcoms for love," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and tops in the research of romance. “They live for love, die for love, kill for love. It can be stronger than the drive to stay alive.” It's not farfetched that my protagonist, Gunnar, needs love so yearningly.

“Every living human is a descendant of a long line of successful maters,” says David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. “We've adapted to pick certain types of mates and to fulfill the desires of the opposite sex.”

In my novel, Gunnar and his two research partners learn some of the finer points of attraction. For instance, a man’s swagger actually attracts. Walking swaggerless with thoughts of graphs or spreadsheets repels.

I found a few other wonderfully odd points. Science has shown that men on the make should wear blue, and women should wear red. Men should also have the subtle scent of licorice.

Gunnar’s sister says, with no science behind her, that the best place to meet women is in the cheese aisle of the grocery store. At one point, Gunnar, without logic, meets somebody special and his life gets far more complicated from there. Ah, romance.

For a brief video, here’s two minutes and 42 seconds of Helen Fisher and the History Channel covering the topic: Click here.

As you see, there’s a lot to know about love. Love At Absolute Zero might help you.