The science and art of making cocktails?

Shenanigans in Bucharest

Caught Wired’s piece about Shea Campbell setting his sights on mixology (cocktail making).

When Shea Campbell started creating his own drinks, he naturally relied on classic recipes. However, his background, both in engineering (he has a Masters in subsea engineering with specific interest in chemical erosion and interaction in Arctic sub-zero temperatures) and as a chef (you can taste his food from January at Noma, Copenhagen), helped him to think differently about how the bar industry approaches mixology.

I certainly think this is a good thing, because there is so much more than could be done with cocktails. Its a seriously under explored field and like  chocolate there is a category of artisan cocktails.

This is why I like to go new places and sample there changes to standard cocktails. Certainly can’t beat standing at a bar talking to a bartender who knows there stuff.

I’m still playing around now and then with my cocktail making kit, trying to make different takes on cosmopolitans. Been trying to make it with pomegranate juice (instead of cranberry) and raspberry liquor (instead of triple sec). Others include coffee sour, new chocolate & bourbon fashioned, etc. I won’t talk about the failed experiment adding triple sec to vodka martini! I have other experiments but I’ll save them for the new years eve party. The problem is I can do stuff which works for me but others, less so…

“My hope is that through education and interaction we can change the language of how we speak about drinks,” he says. “Rather than teaching classic recipes, it would be better to explain the effects of ingredients, so that alternate items can be chopped and changed. What we do right now is like teaching someone how to spell words without first giving them the knowledge to understand the alphabet.”

Now this would be great and very much needed. Almost a 101 for effects. All that knowledge is locked in the grey matter of bartenders up and down the world right now. Something closer to alchemy rather than chemistry.

 

The Year after we were meant to be making love

Psychologists Emma and Tomas talk about how science is important when it comes to matchmaking and we see how the couples were matched for the Year of Making Love.

Right its over… 6 episodes of BBC Three TV episodes. It couldn’t have gone so well because on the 4th episode, it got shifted around in the schedule and in the end I had to find it on iPlayer to finish off the series.

The last episode does have a look back and goes considers the science a little more but frankly lets talk maths (bear in mind I never studied it beyond GCSEs)…

Originally it was meant to be 1000 single people matched to 500 couples. That didn’t happen so it was roughly 300 couples matched on the big day and then who knows how many couples were matched afterwards to make up the original 500 couples. However! we don’t know that for sure because there’s never been any data released about it. So lets say 500 couples matched over a few months…

Out of the 500 couples which were matched, about 20+ of them made it to the screen. Most ended after the first date or soon after. Only 3 made it through a year  and are still together now? Funny enough out of the 3 which did make it. 2 of them are from the later matches not the original match day. Tweak to the algorithm?

So frankly 500 to 3 is a terrible result! I mean would you sign up to a dating site where 166 people need to get in touch before you find one worth following (would you?). 1/166.666 is pretty bad odds! And we don’t know if they changed the questionnaire or changed the formula half way through? I certainly didn’t fill in 100’s of questions. You can’t claim scientific if its certainly not…

I’m sure (heard) there are others who are still together but we never saw them. It could be because they weren’t attractive enough to be on TV? or maybe there were no one else? Another question for the programme commissioners.

To be frank, the odds are maybe better if you go down your local deansgates lock, big market, etc and try pulling people. Heck a lot less people would be hurt or have there hopes raised

I’ve dated a lot but I guarantee you if I was to date 166 people on OKCupid I would be in a serious relationship now. I do understand what Emma and Tomas are saying about the one but unforgivably the programme didn’t back up there thoughts. Even Emma shouts at one point, how people are too busy considering the looks not the person. The thing they hadn’t considered or calculated in to the theory was Chemistry. Chemistry is important… and no ones quite got that part figured out, no matter what anyone says

Someone should really do a proper scientific trial… and give up some data about how it went. Maybe I’ll ask around to see if there’s any anonymous data we can get from the year of making love?

Continue reading “The Year after we were meant to be making love”

Is online dating all its cracked up to be?

Black Mirror series 2

Off the back of my blog post about online dating… Imran added a little more context by pointing at some more related stuff by Dan.

There was quite a few things I wanted to talk about when reading “A Million First Dates” by that guy again

The positive aspects of online dating are clear: the Internet makes it easier for single people to meet other single people with whom they might be compatible, raising the bar for what they consider a good relationship. But what if online dating makes it too easy to meet someone new? What if it raises the bar for a good relationship too high? What if the prospect of finding an ever-more-compatible mate with the click of a mouse means a future of relationship instability, in which we keep chasing the elusive rabbit around the dating track?

And therefore, cue the obvious paradox of choice point

The Paradox of Choice, the psychologist Barry Schwartz indicts a society that “sanctifies freedom of choice so profoundly that the benefits of infinite options seem self-evident.” On the contrary, he argues, “a large array of options may diminish the attractiveness of what people actually choose, the reason being that thinking about the attractions of some of the unchosen options detracts from the pleasure derived from the chosen one.”

Although I’m a massive fan of choice and I have problems with Schwartz’s conclusions in the book, I can see what Dan is getting at. Theres a feeling that if it doesn’t work out you can try again easily enough. I wouldn’t go as far as to say this amount of choice has made me less likely to make things

At the selection stage, researchers have seen that as the range of options grows larger, mate-seekers are liable to become “cognitively overwhelmed,” and deal with the overload by adopting lazy comparison strategies and examining fewer cues. As a result, they are more likely to make careless decisions than they would be if they had fewer options, and this potentially leads to less compatible matches. Moreover, the mere fact of having chosen someone from such a large set of options can lead to doubts about whether the choice was the “right” one. No studies in the romantic sphere have looked at precisely how the range of choices affects overall satisfaction. But research elsewhere has found that people are less satisfied when choosing from a larger group: in one study, for example, subjects who selected a chocolate from an array of six options believed it tasted better than those who selected the same chocolate from an array of 30.

I think the comparison of chocolate and dating is a weird one. I guess if your treating dating like picking chocolates, then somethings wrong? There is a aspect of the grass is greener on the other side but I think its a maturity thing…

As online dating becomes increasingly pervasive, the old costs of a short-term mating strategy will give way to new ones. Jacob, for instance, notices he’s seeing his friends less often. Their wives get tired of befriending his latest girlfriend only to see her go when he moves on to someone else.

I don’t know if this is true but I certainly felt my parents shifting about on the other end of the phone when I talk about the last date I went on. When I would mention a woman’s name from week to week, they would sometimes say “oh you’ve mentioned her a few times.” and if I mentioned her name more than a few times “oh she sounds pretty serious?”

Also, Jacob has noticed that, over time, he feels less excitement before each new date. “Is that about getting older,” he muses, “or about dating online?” How much of the enchantment associated with romantic love has to do with scarcity (this person is exclusively for me), and how will that enchantment hold up in a marketplace of abundance (this person could be exclusively for me, but so could the other two people I’m meeting this week)?

This one is very interesting… I have to admit date after date you do loose a certain amount of excitement. The weird thing is depending on how things came about would change my level of excitement. For example meeting women through plenty of fish was not that interesting, mainly because I found them quite young and sexually motivated. OKCupid was a little more mixed but I’d admit it wasn’t like the first few months.

But its not just online dating… A lot of my other dates have been through speed dating and likewise the excitement has died down.

And its funny that I met Laura under totally different circumstances…  Also funny I met Sarah in a non-dating situation. Both I met through the medium of the internet but not via online dating… Could there be something about online dating which is slightly self destructive, for some of us? (I do know people who met and are very happy now)

If things didn’t work out with the lovely Laura, I would go back to online dating but I’ll be honest and say I was kind of fed up of it. I have met some good and very bad woman. Some of them I’m still friends with, but there is no way I feel compelled to go back to that. The notion I personally wouldn’t be as committed isn’t true in my own case. There is nothing pulling me back to that lifestyle.

It could all make a great episode of Black Mirror, endless searching and never being contented. But in reality life isn’t that complex/simple. Thoughts of love overwhelm the brain and we soon forget what it use to be like being single…

Is it possible to match people with science?

This has got to be one the eternal questions? Maths or science has solved so many of our questions but can it be used for working out compatibility of humans?

That was one of the things which really intrigued me about a year of making love. I assume you’ve seen how it turned in on its self since the production team totally screwed up the process and kept us all in the dark about it. And if you want further evidence do check out the tweets for #yearofmakinglove and #yoml

However because of the total screwup most people are saying its a total failure (maybe very true) but also science or rather maths was never going to work… I can’t disagree specially after the experience we all had yesterday. However basing any judgments off the back of yesterdays experience would be a mistake.

So do I personally think maths/science can match humans? Maybe… (yes what a cope out) but to be honest no one knows for sure. And thats the point of the experiment.

At the very start of the day (ordeal) we were introduced to the professor who devised the test/questions and the matching algorithm. I remember tweeting this

As Michael replied a far…

And he’s right…

In my own experience to date, the matching algorithm over at OkCupid.com has been pretty darn good (not perfect!) (OKCupid’s OK Trends are legendary – check out the biggest lies people tell each other on dating sites and How race effects the messages you get). But I had to train it to be good. I’ve to date answered about 700+ questions and there not just questions. There detailed, so you have to answer it, then specify how important this is to you and what answer your ideal match would pick. This makes for much more dimensions in the answer criteria and ultimately the algorithm. Aka the algorithm is only as good as the dataset its working on.

You got to put in the data/time, if you want it to be good… Otherwise your going to get crappy results.

This makes the 50 questions answered for the year of making love look like a pop quiz (hotshot), to be honest.

So back to the original question slightly modified, can a algorithm match people in the interest of love? I think so to a certain extent. But its not the complete picture. Chemistry is a big deal which is very difficult to understand. Its not found by answering questions but watching the interaction between people. Its a different type of algorithm… Situation can cause chemistry, aka the reason why everyone came together on the coaches home (or to the wrong city as some of them seemed to do) is because there was a social situation which we could all share/talk about. (cue talk about social objects/places) Chemistry was in full effect?

I hope people don’t give up on science as a way to find their ideal partner just because of the terrible experience they had at The year of making love… is I guess what I’m saying…