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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Here comes the third degree!

October 25th, 2008 (03:43 pm)
current location: AB10 6JG

Due to a bit of idle clicking around on LinkedIn, I discover that I know a dude who knows a dude who knows Barack Obama. A little further investigation shows I have the same relationship with his opponent, John McCain and, of course, Kevin Bacon. If these were acting links, I would therefore have a Bacon Number of three. Since they're not, I don't, though as it appears that some American Civil War general has a Bacon Number of seven, perhaps I do.

However, I also discover that I really definitely do have an Erdős number of three, which is the mathematical world's equivalent - I authored a paper with someone who authored a paper with someone who authored a paper with Paul Erdős. As a result, if my Bacon Number were legitimate, which it's not, I could lay claim to an Erdős-Bacon number of 6, which would be one better than Natalie Portman.

As is already well known, it's a small world. What's most obvious to me is that some people, whom I'll probably never meet or know, have sufficiently large personal networks that it's pretty easy for other people to find links to them. If you're a politician or an actor, that's probably pretty useful to you - always nice for people to feel they have a personal connection with you, even if it's almost entirely bogus.

What's new and interesting is that social or business networking sites are making these relationships just a little more visible and easy to discover.


Posted by: Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)

It's always surprising when that happens, but the odds of a distant connection to someone are actually pretty good. For example, I have a Bill Clinton number of 3 (a friend was in the same college with people who knew him), a Carlos the Jackal number of 4 (his brother attended my school a couple of years after me, and had some of the same teachers), 1 to 3 or 4 for most SF writers, and probably 2 to 4 for most people in the film industry since someone in my class at school went on to become a moderately well-known director.

Posted by: Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)

Oh, and apparently I have a Bacon number of 4 via at least two three different routes.

Edited at 2008-10-25 04:32 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC)
Vacant Podling

We tend to think how unlikely it is in terms of random selection from the world population, but really who we see as being famous is part of our own culture, a sort of pre-selection that makes it more likely we're not far removed from them in some way. Introduce more pre-selection criteria (such as your common interests with SF writers), and it becomes almost expected.

It's maybe more surprising when we think we don't have much in common (such as my connections to the US presidential candidates) but when I look at who I'm linked through, it becomes clear that their interests, not mine, are what determine the link.

Posted by: Tomm (hobbitomm)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)

Well, William Rufus Shafter only has a Bacon Number of 7 if you relax the rules a bit....


Interesting, if you expand things very slightly to include stage plays (and a very generous interpretation of appear in), I have a Bacon number of 3 (via Toyah Wilcox).

Slightly less generously, my brother (adding in tv shows) has a Bacon number of 4, via Rolf Harris...

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
Vacant Podling

Ah yes, I should have looked at IMDB before to see how William Rufus Shafter justified a link at all (even with relaxed rules).

Frankly, I'm more impressed with your link to Toyah Wilcox than Kevin Bacon :-)

I presume your brother's link was established when you were two little boys?

Posted by: Tomm (hobbitomm)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)


Yes :)

Basically, a long time ago, when I was about 19, Toyah was Kate in 'The Taming of the Shrew'. At the interval, they had people up on the stage for the wedding, to drink wine at 'the reception', and then do some country dancing. As that was at the height of my Ceilidh attending, it wasn't that much of a problem, and I've danced in a set with Toyah Wilcox, on stage, in the Taming of the Shrew ;)

My brother was made to walk the plank by a piratical Rolf Harris, during his TV show. I was a year too young to attend.

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
Unicorn Lady

That's great!

My '70s musical link is possibly too obscure and cultish. One of my schoolfriends was the younger sister of the bald chap who was the boyfriend and musical partner of Lene Lovich.

But I used to go to a lot of literary events, and have chatted to a number of major poets, and once read on the same platform as Jessie Kesson (who thought I "had panache").

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 06:12 pm (UTC)
Smiley Rosa

Simply through living where I do, I'm on passing-the-time-of-day pleasantries terms with Alasdair Gray and Alison (A L) Kennedy, if that means anything to you. And I'm in occasional correspondence with an actor whose wife was in Doctor Who, which may mean a great deal to you!

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
Vacant Podling

Plainly you live in the cultural quarter. It's interesting to hear about Alasdair Gray and A.L. Kennedy too ;-)

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: October 25th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)
Unicorn Lady

Indeed! Well, this is the West End! I'm more or less diagonally opposite the old BBC, which is currently being gutted and turned into a hotel. When it was still in use, I used to see quite a few actors and presenters on Byres Road.

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