Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/03/21/better_darts/

Lager-swilling boffins crack secret of darts

Gaussian probability distribution points to better 'arrers'

By Lester Haines

Posted in Science, 21st March 2007 10:03 GMT

Anyone wishing to give Eric "The Crafty Cockney" Bristow a run for his money at the oche has been offered a mathematical helping hand by a crack team from Aberdeen University, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The group, from the Department of Plant and Soil Science, has demonstrated that while the optimum aiming point for skilled players is the treble-20, less fortunate "arrers" aficionados should try and hit the treble-19, with those even more cack-handed better off going for the bullseye.

The end result is that "if a player's aiming skill is not as good as a professional's, then aiming at the other parts of the dartboard would ensure the mean score will be higher over time".

First up, the team created "a computer digital dartboard, along with virtual players [and] carried out endless simulations of a range of skill levels to figure out the spread of dart impacts". They worked on the assumption that "the dart would land randomly within...a Gaussian probability distribution - or a bell-shaped curve".

For the aforementioned Crafty Cockney, the bell is "tall and thin, reflecting how the darts would cluster around a narrow spot". For mere mortals, the bells flattens as the player's skill decreases, indicating increasingly widespread impact points.

Naturally, the Aberdeen Uni researchers then needed to prove their theory with some solid time at the coalface, viz: their local boozer the St Machar Bar.

Dr Matthew Aitkenhead, who studies the effects of climate change on soil when not swilling lager in a nylon shirt, explained: "We pinned paper on a darts board and threw darts at it, measuring the distribution."

Aitkenhead confirmed: "As the player's performance is decreased there was a slight movement of the optimal target location upwards from the treble-20, followed by a large jump towards treble-19. From here, the optimal target location moves upwards and slightly left, before curving round towards the bull."

The findings make a good deal of sense, we reckon, given that missing the 20 by a narrow, but critical, margin offers the possibility of hitting a one or a five, while bunched around the 19 are three and seven. Less accurate players should then shift their aiming point left from the 19 where (going in a clockwise direction), the 7, 16, 8, 11 and 14 can be found (average 11.2). To the right, are 3, 17, 2, 15 and 10 (average 9.4). And if you're completely inept, aiming at the bull increases your chances of actually hitting the board at all.* ®


*That's our analysis, anyway. We're quite happy to stand corrected on this.