Saturday, April 14, 2012

Polygamy Polynomial

The other day I received advice on how to increase my “Happiness Quotient”. My immediate thought was: “What the heck* is a Happiness Quotient anyway?”.

I tried to simply ‘understand’ that the person dispensing the advice was trying to be nice –he was smiling- but I had this nagging feeling that something was not right.

Ever seen a vacuum salesman at work? They throw some fake dirt on a carpet and then make a big deal of vacuuming it up. I am usually left thinking: “Fake dirt?”, or: “Is my wallet still in my pocket?”. I had similar mixed feelings of skeptical concern when I heard the term “Happiness Quotient”.

I looked this term up and found out that it is a very popular term. Everyone is trying to increase their “Happiness Quotient”. So the term “Happiness Quotient” must really mean something or it is some powerfully viral bull-hockey*.

I know what a quotient is. If I divide the number 10 by the number 5 then the quotient is 2. In other words a quotient is the number of times one quantity is found in another quantity. In order to understand what a “Happiness Quotient” is I need only find out what these two quantities are.

I immediately thought that pleasant events could be one, and life could be the other. Then the “Happiness Quotient” could be the number of pleasant events in one’s life. This sounds good, but it is more of an enumeration rather than a division problem. If we divide the span of a pleasant event into the span of a life the quotient is the number of potential pleasant events, not a measure of pleasantness. Division is the wrong way of using these numbers to arrive at a measure whose increase is a good thing.

Thinking that I was going at it wrong I searched for some assistance. What quantities does one use to calculate a “Happiness Quotient”? After some searching it appears that a “Happiness Quotient” is simply rated, and subjectively rated at that. There are many studies that apparently correlate perceived happiness with some objective measure, like income. In other words – no division. I get the feeling that someone looked at happiness measures and thought: “I remember quotient is some quantity from math class and math is hard so it sounds really really really cool”, and so the “Happiness Quotient” was born.


Money is a very important part of people discussing the “Happiness Quotient”. This may be because they are being paid to write about it. I make money when people click on the ads put up automatically on the sidebar. So far I have earned in slight excess of sixty seven cents. Trying to calculate that rate of return suggests the creation of a quantity that could be called: “the starvation integral”. Luckily the upshot of what people say about “Happiness Quotient” and income is that one is not needed for the other. The use of old quotes is popular; suggesting that people have known this forever and you need to get on board or be stupid.

“Who is wealthy? The one who is happy with his portion.” -- Talmud


“Money can never buy happiness or love.” -- Ancient Chinese Saying


“A man is rich in proportion to the things he can afford to let alone.” -- Henry David Thoreau

Unfortunately, despite all this pithy ancient knowledge to the contrary, wealthy people (according to these ‘studies’) think that they are happier. I found it interesting that at least one person quantified the amount of happiness that money provided.

“Boosting the frequency of sex in a marriage from once a month to once a week brings as much happiness as an extra $50,000 a year.”


Which made me wonder: “How rich could I be if I put all my effort into it (and –y’know- ate a lot of vitamins E and C)?”. Because of the menstrual cycle of women is happiness from heterosexual sex best modeled by some trigonometric function? Shortly I began thinking –since I live in Utah- that there might be some sort of polygamy polynomial that could be used to boost one’s happiness. If one had two wives would increasing the frequency of coitus make for a happiness quadratic? Could bonding of the sister wives with each other lead to cubic happiness terms?

1 comment:

Tim F said...

Beautiful tune. More people should sample the huge variety of music that the Dead have recorded