DURHAM, N.C. — Why is it that the same teams seem to dominate the annual men’s collegiate basketball tournament? For that matter, why does the same small group of institutions seem to top annual best-college rankings?
According to a theory developed by a Duke University engineer, these hierarchies are not only natural, but predictable. Just as continually growing streams flow into a larger river, or smaller and smaller branches grow out from a single tree trunk, examples of these hierarchies abound in the natural world.
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