Parents, judges and family law practitioners have all worked towards developing the perfect child custody agreement, but could the ideal arrangement be solved through physics?
That is the question physicist Andres Gomberoff attempted to tackle when trying to find the optimal solution that would allow him to spend the most time with his children and his current girlfriend’s children on the same weekend. Looking to find a weekend where he and his current partner could spend time with all their children at once, Gomberhoff turned to an area of expertise: Energy Minimization Physics.
As the name implies, Gomberhoff studies ways to minimize the effects of magnet interactions in complex systems. He applied the same logic to his custody arrangement in hopes of finding the optimal way to spend time with everyone in his life.
“It’s important to me to have my two kids together because I want them to grow some brotherhood,” he said. “But then I also want to have the kid of my girlfriend on the same weekend so we can have all the kids together. As you can imagine, that can be a difficult problem.”
Gomberhoff recruited some fellow physicists who specialize in mathematics and complex systems in hopes of creating the perfect solution. Despite their combined knowledge, Gomberhoff said even physics couldn’t solve everyone’s custody conundrums.
“The answer, unfortunately, is no,” Gomberoff said.
Although they couldn’t come up with a perfect solution, the physicists were able to devise an algorithm that allowed each parent to see all of their own kids on the same weekend.
Vittorio Loreto, a physicist at the Sapienza University of Rome who wasn’t involved in the project, said the beauty of physics is that it usually leads to a clear answer, but the algorithm will have to suffice.
“It is neat, mathematically very clean and elegant,” said Loreto. “Perhaps more importantly, it takes a social problem, that of the happiness of divorced people, and beautifully formalizes it in a way amenable for a scientific treatment.”
Gomberhoff concluded that it’s still easier to sit down with his exes with a calendar in hand, but perhaps his model will be useful in the future.
“The study is much more funny than practical,” Gomberhoff said. “Maybe in the future when people will live much longer and you’ll have much more divorces, maybe the algorithm can have some utility.”
Related source: Scientific American