2269: Phylogenetic Tree

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Phylogenetic Tree
And I was kicked out of my March Madness pool because I wouldn't shut up about the evidence for NBA/ABA endosymbiosis.
Title text: And I was kicked out of my March Madness pool because I wouldn't shut up about the evidence for NBA/ABA endosymbiosis.


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Because of timezones this comic was released on Sunday in some areas 07:21, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

Well, it's always either that or Tuesday in some areas, right? However, yes, this again was up quite early. But the exact upload times seem to fluctuate heavily all the time. --Lupo (talk) 07:40, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

I don't know much about basketball (only heard about march Madness here/xkcd and on HIMYM before), but where is Gonzaga coming from? shouldn't it be either UVA, Kansas or FSU? or is it a different name for one of those 3 teams? Also: Do we need a march madness category? maybe as a subcategory of bracket tournaments? It seems to be quite reocurring. --Lupo (talk) 07:43, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

Gonzaga is on here as a joke. In 2019, late night host Jimmy Kimmel humorously refused to believe that they were a real college from the start of the tournament. They lost in their division finals. 16:01, 17 February 2020 (UTC)
While you are correct, I think the question is how they show up in the tree without being shown on any of the lower branches. Since this tree is about genetics, my guess is it's supposed to be a mutation that just appears out of nowhere. Gonzaga has had a few good years in the past, most notably this detail from Wikipedia: "Gonzaga advanced to the Elite 8 of the 2015 NCAA tournament, losing to eventual national champion and No. 1 ranked Duke." I suspect it's no coincidence that they lose to Duke in this tree! Ianrbibtitlht (talk) 16:25, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

Could someone explain what a "March Madness Bracket" is? It appears to be something to do with American college basketball, but why does it have the same structure as a phylogenetic tree? What does the word 'Bracket' mean here? (talk) 07:48, 17 February 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bracket_(tournament) 07:51, 17 February 2020 (UTC)
Seconded. The explanation as it stands assumes that the reader is from the USA and understands American sports. Neither of these is true for me. Can we please have concise one-line explanations of:
  • what sport?
  • what teams?
  • what a bracket is?
  • what tournament this refers to?

I was a biologist; the science part is clear to me. It needs an explanation akin to that about phylogeny, for non-sports-followers and non-US-sports followers. Lproven (talk) 09:02, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

Getting better! Terms now undefined: "NCAA", "ABA", "NBA", "Division 1", "single elimination", "bracket pool", "college basketball". Lproven (talk) 11:05, 17 February 2020 (UTC)
NCAA = National Collegiate Athletic Association, but it doesn't cover all colleges -- just the bigger ones. NBA national Basketball Association, the (main?) pro basketball grouping of mens' teams (as opposed to the WNBA). ABA is _probably_ the American Basketball Association, of which I know nothing (but guessing by analogy with NBC/ABC television networks; National/American Broadcasting Company. And college basketball is, well, basketball played by college teams. For the rest of it, I'm out of my league. (talk) 06:41, 17 February 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
From what I understand, the NCAA categorize teams into divisions, with Division 1 being the highest. "Single elimination" is a type of tournament bracket where once you lose a match, you're done. A bracket pool is where people get together and each makes a prediction of the bracket. Whoever is closest to what actually happened wins. The ABA is the American Basketball Association. (talk) 09:02, 17 February 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Well, to be fair, "bracket" is a rather generic sports concept, it isn't American, it should be worldwide, I believe it's used in Olympics and anywhere else teams or athletes must face each other two at a time where there's more than 2 trying to win the top spot. Team sports and combative sports mostly, sports like tennis too. In such 1-on-1 sports, if there are for example 8 competitors (whether they be full teams or single athletes), #1 will play #2, 3 against 4, 5 & 6, 7 & 8. Let's say all the lowest / odd numbers win, that means all the even numbers are eliminated from the competition, and in the next round (4 left means it's the semifinals), 1 faces 3 and 5 faces 6. Then the winners of these two matches/whatever will face each other in the finals, to try to win the entire competition. In an Olympic event, perhaps USA faces Canada and England faces France, then Canada and England win their matches and as such proceed to face each other for the gold (the loser of that match getting silver, and a separate sub-bracket would determine bronze, in this case I guess a match between USA and France).
This bracket is a little muddled (who did Louisville play? Where did Gonzaga come from?), but presuming Louisville won, they'd move on to face Duke, who won THAT, who then won against Gonzaga to win the whole thing. A bracket like this is just the visual representation of the tournament structure, to clearly see how the tournament progresses. It's funny, I'm not a sports guy, so I'm more suited to the science angle, but actually as an Olympic wrestling official, the guy in charge of filling out said brackets, in this case I understand the bracket stuff better, LOL! If you look up one of the comics with a completed bracket, you can better see how it plays out. You can probably just Google "xkcd bracket", LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:12, 22 February 2020 (UTC)
"Well, to be fair, "bracket" is a rather generic sports concept, it isn't American" - I think it isn't (or wasn't) a common term here in the Leftpondian Anglosphere. The term "elimination ..." or "knockout stages" are more common, though may apply also to pre-'bracket' intra-group games where (e.g. in football World Cup) four teams per group play six all-against-all-exactly-once games to pre-rank where to enter the tree-like elimination round at what these days is called the "round of sixteen", to then progress to each next lower round-of-(2ⁿ), although they already have the established name of ("quarter-"|"semi-"|"")final, which semantically become a superset over mere 'elimination' - and isn't even technically true where the non-finalists that emerge from the semis also get back to play off for (nominal) 3rd/4th places. In the FA Cup (competition for English+Welsh footbll clubs, it is described in terms of "Rounds" with Qualifying and Preliminary rounds (numbered) to whittle down the lower-tier clubs prior to inserting various intermediate and higher league teams (pre-qualified by dint of their league placement) into the First and Second Rounds (randomised pairings, from those inserted or earning their places) until the Third Round where all the top clubs given a bye until now (and all that survived earlier culling, including bottom-rung clubs that are potential "giant killers") contend in randomised pairings to reach the Fourth Round, Fifth Round, then Quarter-/Semi-/... Finals. Though maybe (re)imported sports (base/basketball, icehockey e.g.) could have brung us 'bracket' as terms, even if they were never really used in more homely equivalents (e.g. in rounders, netball, field-hockey), so far as I know. 16:38, 24 February 2020 (UTC)
Ah, there we go. I figure the basic concept must exist if not the terminology. Yes, "Elimination" is used here too (well, I'm Canadian, but we share such concepts). Used here is a Single Elimination Bracket, meaning that losing once puts the team/athlete out of the tournament. In wrestling we use a Double Elimination Bracket, once somebody loses they enter a secondary bracket to fight for 3rd, a second loss kicks them out of the tournament. "Bracket" is mostly referring to the visual representation of such a tournament structure. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:50, 14 March 2020 (UTC)

The three prominent "Duke"s in the center of the chart, made me look for the logical continuation "of Earl." I didn't see it... :( (talk) 06:41, 17 February 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

That would be a reference to the 60's song Duke of Earl. It has a refrain "duke, duke, duke of earl..." SDSpivey (talk) 17:09, 17 February 2020 (UTC)
As a kid I thought it was "Ducca Girl", LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:12, 22 February 2020 (UTC)
Likewise. Also, duck fuke. (talk) 07:52, 17 February 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

SO is the displayed bracket last seasons? a prediction for this season? completely random? Are they even real universities? Or is Randall embedding more jokes? What is Basketball? why do universities play it? why do we care? It is only February - why are we discussing March? Mind you May Week is in June and the Octoberfest in September so March Madness could be in February for all I know? Arachrah (talk) 16:59, 17 February 2020 (UTC)

I'm operating under the presumption that the teams are random, being unfamiliar with the sport myself (random except that Duke is nice and short and easy to fit, LOL!). Except that the explanation mentions one team as being there as an inside joke. And as far as I know, March Madness IS in March, what's in February is probably the lead up, the games that determine who will be playing in March Madness, as well as fans filling out prediction brackets to predict (and bet on) how it will turn out. NiceGuy1 (talk) 03:50, 14 March 2020 (UTC)

And what is with the colours?

  • All the universities mentioned (at least, those whose names are legible) are real universities: Duke University, Gonzaga University, University of Louisville, University of Dayton, University of Virginia ("UVA"), University of Kansas, Florida State University ("FSU"). Most of them are ranked highly in the current basketball rankings (published by the Associated Press and compiled from a weekly poll of sportswriters) -- Duke #6, Gonzaga #2, Louisville #11, Dayton #5, Kansas #3, Florida State #8. (These are rankings of how well the basketball teams are playing in the current season.) Virginia isn't doing as well this season, but they did win the national championship last season. It is reasonable to predict that all seven of the universities mentioned will be selected to play in the tournament this year (about 350 schools are eligible, and 68 of them are selected). Since "March Madness" (the championship tournament) is the culmination of the entire season, basketball fans start caring about March Madness before the month of March starts. (This year the tournament begins on March 17 and ends on April 6.) This tree isn't formatted properly to be comprehensible as an actual prediction of the tournament. -- 18:45, 17 February 2020 (UTC)
  • ((In response to: What is it with the colours...)) In the Biological sense, colours indicate the direct 'lineage' from the common ancestor (or an offshoot from that line) to a given end-creature (or swathes as a whole family/clade/whatever branch). In the Bracketting sense, it would show the route to the final (or as far as they got) of a competitor or a group of competitors. I'm not sure which it's 'intended' to be, but I'm sure it's a common phylogenetic tree convention, outside of this peculiar mashup.
Incidentally, I misread the comic at first as mentioning 'Duke Gonzago', as per the lines from Hamlet: "The Mousetrap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play is the image of a murder done in Vienna. Gonzago is the duke’s name, his wife Baptista. You shall see anon. 'Tis a knavish piece of work, but what o' that? Your majesty and we that have free souls, it touches us not. Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung." 18:54, 17 February 2020 (UTC)