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Child custody: There's an algorithm for that

Andres Gomberoff, concededly the brainy type, did what any similarly enterprising guy would do when seeking a solution to a thorny child custody problem: He applied spin-glass mathematical analysis to it.

Gomberoff is logically the type of person who might be expected to think a bit outside the box and link esoteric concepts to real social challenges. He is a physicist at a university in Chile who specializes in the study of black holes.

So, why not child custody?

Gomberoff’s brain might customarily be employed grappling with cosmic problems, but he is also a divorced dad with kids, which also necessitates his focus on parenting plans and amicable arrangements for seeing his children.

And doing that in a truly amicable way is a bit difficult for Gomberoff, given that he has children with two ex-wives and also lives with a girlfriend who has children of her own.

The challenge facing Gomberoff: Could he use scientific principles to come up with a custody arrangement that would make all involved persons happy?

Uh, as it turns out, no. It might have seemed entirely logical to Gomberoff and some of his professional colleagues that a solution achieved through applying an algorithm from condensed-matter physics would enable all adults to interactively and amicably work out scheduling arrangements in a way optimal for all.

Alas, though, the human element was a bit like a rock in a vial of glass. In other words, not everybody could be happy all the time, even with a proposed solution supplied by bright minds employing extremely complex mathematical processes.

As Gomberoff freely admits, it’s easier in his case to simply sit down with his former spouses and talk through schedules with a calendar and pen in hand.

He holds out hope, though, that his algorithm might turn out to be useful for future generations.

Source: Scientific American, "Physics can solve child-custody arrangements," Clara Moskowitz, March 7, 2014

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