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The bracket!

That’s right, we’re getting ready for the battle to choose the ultimate seminar speaker. Paul Davidson, who sent in the image below, writes:

Knocked together in Excel. I’m European, so I may not have respected the North American system for brackets i.e. I split each category into seeded pools and randomly drew from them. The French Intellectuals get a bit of a rough draw in this regard with a lot of early matchups.

I take back all the bad things I ever said about Excel, as this image looks pretty good. Sure, the font is pretty unreadable, but other than that it looks cool.


I just feel bad for Plato, having to go up against Henny Youngman in the very first round, followed by a probable Mark Twain if he can get past Henny. The philosopher-king has a tough road to the Final Four.

The pairings will start on 3 Feb, so get your witticisms ready now!


  1. Andrew says:

    Hey, I just noticed that Tolstoy is up against Jesus in the first round. Tough pairing, Leo!

  2. I was hoping Jesus would be paired with “The guy who did Piss Christ.” Which reminds me that when I was a graduate student, we would wonder who would win if various pairs of faculty were to (physically) fight one another, and which would be the closest matches. We never made up a bracket for this, though…

    • Keith O'Rourke says:

      On that note, “faculty were to (physically) fight one another”, how many would have bet on RA Fisher in his scuffle with a Cambridge University staff member, who was a professional prise fighter, that Fisher would have won by a knock out?

      I once talked to Fisher’s son and tried without much success to discovered what training his father had in boxing – the only thing that he could recall was his father insisting that his mother regularly throw a medicine ball at him (often a part of a boxer’s training.)

      OK, maybe only Phil will find this interesting.

  3. Rahul says:

    Yeah but to get that right must have been a lot of work in Excel. All manual tinkering n moving about lines & connectors I suppose?

    • Paulie D says:

      It wasn’t too bad time-wise. I can say it was definitely <25 mins as that's all the time I had, whether completed or not:

      1) Cut-and-paste the candidates off the website into column C
      2) Fill column A as A-H eight times and column B as Rand()
      3) Sort by A&B to get seeded pots
      4) Re-number column A as 1-64, and delete column B
      5) Fill out pairs as 1v64, 2v63 etc. then draw the bracket-tree with outline borders. I used to get the pairings quickly.
      6) Use a vlookup to match the candidates to the draw
      7) Tidy up the bracket by removing unnecessary box-borders and picking a font that is unreadable when converted to a picture (Segoe UI for the curious)
      8) Email it across, forgetting to sign it.

      All steps are <2 minutes, except step 5, which probably took about 10 mins. Time constraint meant I couldn't search how US brackets would be done, so I assumed tennis format would apply. Unintended consequence is that unseeded teams got ranked 5-8 too, so all of the wild-cards (I'm guessing) ended up facing #1 seeds. If I was to draw again, I'd do a 2-step random sorting; one for the seeds as above, and then a second for the non-seeds, pooling them by field. But as it's a straight knock-out, I hope it's an alright assumption to have made.

  4. Chris G says:

    How the hell did Thomas Kincade make the bracket? He’s the equivalent of a 6-19 team that somehow manages to win their conference championship and thereby get an automatic tournament berth. That stated, there are a lot of good pairings there.

    (Related reading –

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