“The Snitch is loose! Brooms up!” So yelled second-year student Patrick Treacy (centre, in red), as opposing teams rushed at each other on the Trinity College backfield recently in a game that’s sweeping university campuses: Quidditch.
Quidditch is a wizard’s sport, and Harry Potter its most famous player. But Muggles have gotten into the game, and altered it to accommodate their inability to fly. In a regulation match, seven players on each team try to outscore their opponents by throwing a ball through one of three hoops. At the same time, team members called “seekers” try to capture the Golden Snitch, a tennis ball held by a speedy runner who can go anywhere, even off the field. The game is over when the Snitch is caught. Players must keep a broom between their legs at all times; no mops or other substitutes allowed.
U of T’s 18-member squad – they call themselves the Nifflers in honour of the magical creature from the J.K. Rowling books who sniffs out gold – practises outside Trinity College. This fall, the team was preparing for the world championships, which was expected to draw more than 50 teams to New York in November. Treacy, fresh from a recent win against Ryerson, is confident about U of T’s chances. “We’ve started planning our strategy. I think we will do quite well.”
By bringing artificial intelligence into chemistry, Prof. Aspuru-Guzik aims to vastly shrink the time it takes to develop new drugs – and almost everything else