This interview with Stephen Strogatz reminded me that I am frequently (well, maybe it happened once) asked what my Erdős-Bacon number is. The Erdős number, of course, is the number of degrees of separation between you and famous mathematician Paul Erdős, as judged by collaborations on research papers. Erdős has an Erdős number of zero; all of his collaborators (and there were many) have Erdős numbers of 1; their collaborators have Erdős numbers of 2, and so on. Bacon numbers work similarly, except that you’re looking at degrees of separation between you and Kevin Bacon, using appearances in movies or TV instead of papers.
Since you’re dying to know: my Erdős-Bacon number is six (at least using the relaxed standards typical in this game, according to which TV documentaries and appearances as “self” are counted). My Erdős number is four: I collaborated with Jim Bryan, who collaborated with Jason Fulman, who collaborated with Persi Diaconis, who collaborated with Paul Erdős. My Bacon number is two: I appeared in a NOVA special narrated by Jay Sanders, who appeared in Starting Over with Kevin Bacon. By the tricky mathematical operation known as “addition,” we end up with six.
That’s pretty typical for people who have finite EB numbers at all. Not as good as Strogatz himself, who has an EB number of four. And while I am tied with Stephen Hawking, I haven’t (as far as I know) appeared on any musical recordings, so I don’t have a finite Erdős-Bacon-Sabbath number. Always something left to shoot for.