Star Wars And Quantum Physics Make March Madness Fun

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

The words “March Madness” can bring instant jubilance to the most hardcore college basketball fans, instant fandom to the most lackadaisical basketball fan, and instant ennui to most other people who think sports on TV should be relegated to pool halls and prison cells. Somehow, the world keeps spinning, and athletes keep making more money than I do.

If anyone’s distaste comes from a lack of understanding the NCAA playoff system, then the comedy group Satire‘s Star Wars-centric method of explanation may win you over. Watch as artist Steve Minor’s time-lapsed drawings illustrate Rob Whitehead’s referential comparisons between the early tournament rounds and the larger film battles, limiting the scope as it gets down to the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four. I’m a happy guy any time I see such an on-point comparison to the much-maligned Duke University — I won’t ruin the reference, but you can probably imagine. Check it out below, and keep in mind that Boba Fett is the unofficial March Madness champion every year.

So, now that you know how the process works, you can go about filling out your brackets. With 64 teams involved, the chances of a perfect bracket are rather astronomical, at approximately one in 128 billion. But a team of physicists from the University of Maryland are using quantum mechanics to make their predictions, based on the positive outcome of the previous year’s picks from grad student David Hucul. While it didn’t win, it’s still more impressive than spraining your thumb with all those coin flips.

Hucul and fellow post-doctoral researcher Susan Clark use ions of the element ytterbium in a process called superposition, which assumes that the ions theoretically exist in all states but can only be observed in one. So Clark and Hucul can prepare for the ions they tested to be in either State A or State B as stand-ins for the teams, and truly random predictions can occur, unlike the ones that coin flips produce. Incidentally, ytterbium chose the No. 8 seed, the University of Pittsburgh, to take it all.

And if you still say science and science fiction have no place in sports, you probably don’t remember Mutant Football League for Sega.

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