Bracket Math

I love March Madness! Not only is it a chance for me to watch 4 basketball games at one time, I get to geek out with some ridiculously large numbers—the odds of producing a perfect bracket prior to the tournament. For this exercise, we will limit ourselves to the round of 64 and beyond (since the NCAA can’t trick us into pretending we care about the First Four unless our team is playing).

Basic Probability

Number of teams- 64

Number of games- 63

This is way more obvious than most people realize so you can stop counting the blanks on your bracket. If one team is eliminated in every game, it will take exactly 63 eliminations (games) to leave one team victorious.

Possible outcomes of each game- 2

One team will win, one team will lose.

Possible number of brackets- 2^63 = 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (over nine quintillion)

If you don’t understand basic probability, here is a crash course. Multiply the number of possible outcomes of an event times the number of possible outcomes of every other event. In this case…

2 (the number of possible outcomes of the first game) x 2 (the number of possible outcomes of the second game) x 2 (the number of possible outcomes of the third game)…x 2 (the number of possible outcomes of the 63rd game) = 2^63 power.

If you don’t trust that math, work it out with a simple 4 team bracket:

four team bracket possibilities

There are only four possible winners of the tournament, but there are two different ways for each team to win because there are two possible opponents for each winner in the championship game. To verify the math…

2 (the number of possible outcomes of the first game) x 2 (the number of possible outcomes of the second game) x 2 (the number of possible outcomes of the third game) = 8


Astronomical Numbers

Understanding 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets

If you printed out 1,000 brackets you would have a stack of paper 8 inches tall.

Print 1,000 brackets 999 more times you would have one million brackets.

You now have enough 8 inch stacks to cover ¼ of a basketball court.

Repeat that whole process 999 more times and you will have one billion (1,000,000,000) brackets that are now covering 250 basketball courts in 4 inches of paper.

You would need to repeat this entire process over 9 billion (9,000,000,000) more times in order to have every possible bracket.

If you printed that many brackets…

  • You would be able to cover over 76.5 billion basketball courts up to the height of the rim.
  • You would be able to make 6,261 stacks of paper that reached the sun. and still have one-tenth of a stack left over.
  • If you enlisted the help of every person on earth (all 7,000,000,000 of us) to make one unique bracket per minute with no breaks to sleep, eat, or do anything else…we would finish a few months after the tournament ended in the year 4519.
  • From the time the bracket is finalized to the time entries are locked in most contests is about 89 hours. In order to have all of the brackets printed in time, you would need to have a computer capable of printing 28,787,054 brackets every nanosecond.

But don’t bother with all of that…

I made out the perfect bracket this year and have already spent Warren Buffet’s $1,000,000,000.

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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Math, Sports


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God Doesn’t Use Ordinary People

David and GoliathWe need to stop using David and 1 Samuel 17 as an example that “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.” David wasn’t ordinary. He came from a fairly ordinary family and started in an ordinary job, but his skill set was remarkably extraordinary. Two of these skills proved to be instrumental in catapulting David into a position where he could do amazing things for God:



David was skilled with a sling. I don’t believe David would have even had the courage to face Goliath had he not had great confidence in his ability as a slinger. I’m not discounting God’s provision in allowing the stone to find its mark, but the accuracy (“it struck the Philistine on the forehead”) and speed (“The stone sank into his forehead”) with which he hurled the single projectile proved how much time he had devoted to honing this particular ability. The fact that the Bible even records his selection of ammunition—five smooth stones—is a testament to the care he took when performing his craft.

David was a talented musician. Before the encounter with Goliath, David already had his foot in the door with royalty. In the previous chapter when Saul was vexed by an evil spirit and his advisors suggested that music might help, David’s name was at the top of the list. I can’t believe that King Saul would tolerate anything less than the best harpist he could find. David had obviously practiced an incredible amount of time to ensure that he mastered the instrument before it ever proved to be valuable.

These skills were developed while David was young. He, no doubt, had practiced and trained in private for years before he ever showcased his abilities in public. They were fairly mundane and common proficiencies that anyone with a little drive and determination could have cultivated, but David recognized that he had some aptitude and grew them into very valuable skills.

So instead of telling young Christians that God can use ordinary people, I believe we should be telling them:

  1. Discover your valuable natural abilities and interests.
  2. Work tirelessly to hone those talents into extraordinary skills.
  3. Search for ways to bring glory to God using those amazing abilities.
  4. When God presents you with an opportunity to use your expertise, recognize His leading and go for it! Go play for the King! Go slay the giant!

God can use ordinary people, but if you study the Bible you’ll find that, most of the time, the ordinary people He used had already developed extraordinary skills.

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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Biblical Thought


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Love Story

I read a book recently that I thought was going to be an adventure with lots of battles and some mystery thrown in, but it turned out to be primarily a love story. It had some of those other things in it as well, but the primary focus was the love interest of one couple.

The girl and the hero of the book loved each other very much and spent every moment they could together. The two were inseparable and she just knew their love would last forever…and then the other guy showed up. He talked her into rejecting her love and the two were now apart. Maybe “on again off again” is a better description because the hero never gave up on her. He wrote letters and poems to her, he made promises regarding his commitment, he sent his friends to talk to her and build up his good qualities. Sometimes these actions made her angry and she would reject his advances. Other times she would realize her true love for him and would go back to him temporarily.

The scorned man, madly in love, finally went to see the girl who had rejected him and, at the prompting of the other guy, she murdered the hero. This tragic tale got even worse as the antagonist turned out to be a dragon in disguise and was merely using the girl to overthrow the hero who was a king!


The king came back from the dead, raised an army, defeated the dragon just as his defeat seemed sure, got the girl back…and they lived happily ever after.



Cheesy story? Maybe. But that’s how the Bible told it.

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Biblical Thought


The Medium is the Message

dislikeSerious ideas cannot be distributed through non-serious means. A less-than-ideal delivery system weakens the message, confuses the audience, and implies a complete lack of research and solemnity in the ideas. Unfortunately this means that, for most of us, our largest public platform is mostly useless as a way to distribute serious information about which we feel strongly.

I’ll dispense with the philosophical groundwork and just come out and say it:

Facebook is rarely the proper channel for serious discussion.

There are many reasons that Facebook is not generally a good venue for serious discussion/promotion of a serious topic. None of these reasons mean that Facebook is bad, evil, or even a waste of time; it’s just not conducive to many challenging ideas because…

1. Facebook is primarily used for entertainment purposes.

While browsing through social media, most of us are simply not in the right frame of mind to think seriously and deeply about anything. We are looking for pictures of our friends, funny one-liners, catching up on weird news, and generally looking for what is interesting in the world today. Occasionally an important message will jump out of the crowd, but even when it does…

2. Facebook, by its very design, generates skimming rather than absorbing information.

On social media, information is given out in bite-sized increments. Larger messages are truncated so that you must actively and intentionally read the rest. We aren’t looking for stories, just headlines. If that headline can’t tell the whole story or grab our attention then it will probably get lost in the clutter. This desire by each of us to find new ways to cut through the static and make our stories seem even more interesting has produced an online environment demanding that…

3. Facebook is one big advertisement.

This is not just true of the actual advertisements. Almost every post is a plea to “Look at my picture”, “Like my joke!”, “Comment on my opinion!”, “Appreciate my situation!”, “Notice me!” We are all competing for attention among the triviality of social media. Every one of us thinks our posts, pictures, and commentary is worth being seen by others. Because we all think that our information is important enough to be seen…

4. On Facebook, all posts are equal.

Because Facebook was designed to create discussion and let people be heard, well-prepared statements, one-liners, rants, personal attacks, and wild defenses by offended parties are all given equal credence. Don’t post well-thought out and articulated ideas and opinions to Facebook without expecting a barrage of unprepared and hastily prepared responses. Your hours of research culminating with a heartfelt plea for a cause about which you care deeply can be dismissed with a “To each his own, I guess” or a “Maybe instead of calling other people out you should…” or a “Can’t we all just get along?” or even “I don’t see it that way at all, I think…”

Once again, the problem lies in the fact that most of us have a greater number of people who listen to us on Facebook than we do in the face to face world, so we use that platform to share what we feel passionately about. Go ahead! There’s nothing wrong with that! Just don’t be surprised when it isn’t met with the enthusiastic agreement of your friends.

Maybe all of this just proves that reach and influence are not synonymous.

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Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


What did you learn from Frozen?

Disney’s latest animated feature was great! My kids, wife, and I have been referencing jokes and songs from Frozen ever since we saw it a few weeks ago. Besides having lovable characters, a good plot, great music, and some witty humor sprinkled in, Frozen has gotten rave reviews for its more “progressive” elements. It is definitely Disney for the 21st century and has redefined what we can expect in future “princess tales.”

Before you read on, please understand that this piece is not intended to be in the same genre as the “Harry Potter is the devil” rants of the early 2000s but simply an exercise in critical thinking.

To understand my purpose, you must understand these two guiding principles:
1. All entertainment is trying to teach something.
Rachel Donahue did a tremendous job outlining this point is her discussion of The Hunger Games a few years ago. The main idea is that every work is based on a specific viewpoint—a belief system and idea of what is bad, good, and best—that will be presented in the work. We should diligently search for the author’s ideals so that we are not absorbing them unaware.
2. World view matters.
As Gordon Clark said, “World view is more than a mental sentry, it is the essential interpreter of life’s meaning.” Christians should not simply reject or accept ideas and behaviors, we should look at them the way God does. I want to look at Frozen’s implied messages from a biblical viewpoint.

Olaf PuddleIn a recent article, Gina Lutrell outlined seven proofs that Frozen is a shift toward 21st century ideals for Disney. If you’ve made it this far I’m assuming that you don’t mind reading a little to stay informed, so I hope you will read her article carefully and completely. I believe she is correct in her assumption that Disney is intentionally embracing the thoughts and values of 21st century America. In italics is my summary of her seven points (once again, read her article to completely grasp each point) along with my reaction to these shifts in ideology:

1. Elsa and Anna’s parents were abusive by repressing Elsa’s abilities. “Disney takes a much-needed step forward by portraying realistic parental abuse that affects many children today.”

Disney obviously portrays that Elsa’s parents were acting out of love and protection for their daughter but still implies that their repressive actions were wrong. I couldn’t disagree with the implications more. When a child’s natural inclination is harmful to herself and others around her, that nature should be repressed. Fortunately, no parents will ever have to make the choice between overreacting to their child’s ability to freeze things with her hands and keeping her from accidentally killing her sister.

In the non-animated world this topic of parental suppression isn’t about magical powers but often about morality. The Bible clearly teaches these two principles of childhood development: A) all humans are naturally sinful (Isaiah 53:6, Proverbs 22:15, James 1:14-15) and B) Parents should train their children while allowing them to thrive in their natural interests…that’s what “in the way they should go” means (Proverbs 22:2). It isn’t a leap to say that the biblical model of parenting is to subdue interests that are morally harmful and nurture abilities/interests that are not. It seems that some are inferring from Frozen that parents should not suppress any interests of their children and, therefore, not impress their own morality upon the next generation. I definitely see that as a main emphasis in modern entertainment.

2. Elsa found true happiness when she was free to be herself. Her self-empowerment, self-reliance, and self-confidence were her greatest virtues…even if they meant isolation.

While confidence and self-reliance are extremely valuable, the modern mentality of self-esteem and self-worth is blatantly anti-Christ. While I want my children to be strong, I do not want them to be self-empowered without the realization that their strength comes from God. While I want them to know their capabilities and have assurance in them, I do not want them to rely on their abilities while failing to rely on God’s ability to use them. (Proverbs 3:5)

3. Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and honesty were not cause for shame and did not need to be changed in order to make her a better person.

I like this one. Physical imperfections are a part of life. Too often we dwell on our short-comings and are unable to truly trust a God Who perfectly designed us as an imperfect creature (Psalm 139:14). It’s okay, learn to laugh at yourself.

4. Kristoff was a strong male leader alongside strong female characters. At times he supported Anna and on other occasions disagreed with her while valuing her as an equal. He “partners with the women in his life. He is not a competitor, a doormat or a fool. He is an equal.”

Once again, I think this is a great portrayal of a man around strong females. They were in leadership positions and he had no problem following them, respecting them, and still standing up to them when they were wrong. In fact, I believe that Kristoff is a great example of how we should treat all human authority in our lives (Titus 3:1-3).

5. Oaken, the trading post owner, was a gay man with a family. He motions to the sauna and says “Hey family!” to an adult male and four children inside.

There is some debate about whether this was the intended meaning of the very short shot of the sauna. If it is, does it surprise you that Disney included a homosexual character in a movie? It’s Disney. I would expect more in the future.

6. The kingdom unquestioningly accepted their queen. The characters had no problem with a woman, unaided by a male, as their sole ruler.

Accepting a rightful government leader is a very biblical principle (Romans 13:1-4, 1 Peter2:13-17). The fact that it is a woman does not change the command. The United States will have a female President in my lifetime. I plan to respect and honor her with the same respect and honor that I have given the five male Presidents in my lifetime. I hope that I teach my son to do the same.

7. Everyone reacted negatively to Anna’s foolish engagement. The quick engagement has long been a staple of Disney films, but it was clearly frowned upon by Elsa and Kristoff.

While it has been refreshing to see the “love at first sight” ideas kicked to the curb in modern fairy tales, I can’t help but wonder if the idea of commitment for life has been sent away with it. I can’t prove that it is intentional and I certainly won’t argue that Disney has become anti-marriage, but it is interesting that the heroines of two recent Disney movies, Brave and Frozen, have been rewarded for eschewing marriage for singleness. It is no secret that marriage rates have dropped substantially in the past two decades. I wonder if singleness as an ideal is starting to gain some traction in mainstream thinking.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of a long and scattered post! I’ll try to sum up my thoughts:

  • Disney movies are definitely different in their ideology than they were even a generation ago.
  • I am not anti-Disney. I watched Frozen with my kids and would do so again, provided I recognize that…
  • As a Christian, I must examine my entertainment to identify the world view of the authors and allow myself to think critically rather than just absorb and react.
  • As a parent, I must ensure that my children are bathed in a godly worldview because even clean and wholesome entertainment often presents a humanistic mindset that God is unnecessary if you are self-able.

Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Biblical Thought


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Risk Management and the Weather

snowA meteorologist has one primary responsibility—to make sure that the general public is aware of potentially dangerous situations. The worst thing that could possibly happen in a meteorologist’s career is that a major storm hits an area and he/she predicted a less dangerous situation than what actually occurs. Think about it:


A storm is coming and a meteorologist claims it will be horrible and people should be prepared…


A)     The storm will be as bad as predicted and everyone will have been forewarned.
B)      The storm will not be as bad as predicted and the meteorologist will have been wrong, but it didn’t hurt anyone to be aware of the possible dangers and prepared.


A storm is coming and a meteorologist claims that it is no cause for alarm…


A)     The storm is as mild as predicted and the meteorologist was correct.
B)      The storm is worse than predicted and, because of a lack of preparation, property and lives are lost. The meteorologist will be blamed for the casualties and his/her reputation and career will be in jeopardy.

Because of these possible scenarios, I believe that most forecasters choose to publicize the most dangerous of the likely outcomes. I understand that reasoning and do not find fault with it…I would do the same thing in that position.

The problem is that I find myself treating them like Chicken Little or the Boy Who Cried “Wolf.” I under-prepare for their predictions and will probably find myself on the wrong end of a snowstorm or nor’easter someday.

I’m not sure what the point of this is, so I would like to know your opinion:

  • Do you think that weather forecasters choose to err toward safety?
  • Do you prepare for storms as if meteorologists are exaggerating or do you take precautions based on their recommendations?
  • Do you feel that their warnings would be heeded more if they didn’t predict that every storm will be so bad?
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in Society in General


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Perception is Reality

When we rant on social media about how others have mistreated us, it sounds like this in our own heads:


It sounds like this to everyone else:


Any questions?

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized


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