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.

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8 Responses to Erdős-Bacon

  1. DS says:

    It looks like they are allowing “Symphony of Science”-esque sampling as an acceptable link in the Sabbath chain. For example, Carl Sagan’s Sabbath number of 3 is due to the fact that both he and Stephen Hawking have been sampled for SoS.

    So, assuming you’ve been in SoS, I think you’re in! (And if you haven’t been in SoS yet, what are they thinking?)

  2. Sean Carroll says:

    I haven’t been, as far as I know. (But that’s a pretty expansive view of musical collaboration…)

  3. Steve Flammia says:

    Why are we using the 1 norm? If we use the infinity norm then we can keep adding components and get dimension-independent comparisons.

  4. Brett says:

    Erdős-Bacon-Sabbath :: (>6?) – 3 – 2

    Does hanging out or advisement count as collaboration? If yes, then I can reduce my Bacon # and hopefully increase my chances of acceptance to grad school.

  5. Michael K Murray says:

    Who cares about Erdos and Bacon ? Your Murray number is 4. That’s the real mark of distinction 🙂

  6. Qu Quine says:

    Yes, but what is your number to Francis Bacon? That would be the linage for modern science.

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  8. My Erdős number is also (at most) 4. By the criteria above, I have a finite Sabbath number. Fans of Dave Pegg have the similar concept of the Pegg number (almost certainly invented independently of Erdős and Bacon), but with stricter criteria: an album or a tour with Peggy; standing on the same stage at a one-off event strumming an acoustic guitar doesn’t count, much less SoS or some sort of collaboration after one has died!.