Mathematicians calculate the true protagonist in ‘Game of Thrones’

And you thought math would be useless as an adult.

Feb 29, 2020, 9:22 am*

Internet Culture


Samantha Grasso

Turns out that analyzing terrorist networks isn’t the only practical use for crunching numbers on network science.

At Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, associate professor of mathematics Andrew J. Beveridge and student Jie Shan have used math to solve one of life’s truly puzzling mysteries: Who is the real main character in the HBO series Game of Thrones?

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In their research, appropriately titled Network of Thrones, Beveridge and Shan found that the answer lies somewhere between Tyrion Lannister, the possibly dead Jon Snow, and Sansa Stark—shocking.

Though the answer isn’t completely revolutionary, the math behind it is impressive.

Basing their literary cast off the third Game of Thrones novel A Storm of Swords, the mathematicians calculated their findings by using network science, a branch of applied graph theory that brings together traditions from many disciplines—including sociology, economics, physics, computer science, and mathematics.

Through network science, Beveridge and Shan determined each character’s clout with a series of factors including the number of connections they have, interactions between those connections, and the level of importance their connected characters have.

“This is a fanciful application of network science,” Beveridge told digital news outlet Quartz. “But it’s the kind of accessible application that shows what mathematics is all about, which is finding and explaining patterns.”

What’s next for the future of network science? Perhaps it could be determining the most powerful Kardashian family member, or even discovering the most influential parody account on Twitter.

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*First Published: Mar 31, 2016, 10:13 pm