French data scientist Kirell Benzi likes looking at relationships. He also really, really likes "Star Wars."
"I have this nice poster of Darth Vader in my office, just giving me strength for work," he said.
So, he decided to apply his research as a PhD student at the Swiss Institute of Technology...to the "Star Wars" universe. He created a computer program that crawls the Wookiepedia (the Wikipedia for people who really, really like Star Wars) and maps the relationships between the different characters.
"The two most connected characters are Anakin Skywalker, or Darth Vader, and Palpatine, the Chancellor," said Benzi. "Anakin Skywalker has more than 1500 connections." Benzi found over 20,000 characters in the universe all together, spanning a period of 36,000 years.
The networking program could also be used for things besides mapping relationships in an imaginary universe. Benzi says it could be used to identify potential terrorists by looking at their Facebook friendship, for examples.
"In the case of a terrorist network, say we only know some of the members, and we would like to infer and predict other members of the network. We’d like to characterize the relationships between the nodes of this network," he said.
Benzi isn't done with "Star Wars" yet, though. He's planning to map the buzz that resulted as a release of his map — yes, a network of people talking about the network.
“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VABEFORE YOU GO