Numbers and Links

I forget what I was looking up, but I recently found out about the Erdős number. Paul Erdős was in himself a fascinating figure: a mathematician who was prolific as he was eccentric. He never had a fixed residence and would travel from one colleague’s home to another, write a paper (or several) with them and then move on. Because of his enormous output and the collaborative aspect of his work, there is a large group of mathematicians and scientists who have worked with him. Hence the origin of the Erdős number.

Those who collaborated directly with Erdős are assigned the number 1. If one collaborated with someone who directly collaborated with Erdős, they get the number 2. The Erdős number counts how many steps away one is from collaboration with Paul Erdős.

The Kevin Bacon number follows the same principle, only for show biz. The Erdős number is older, but due to its geekiness is less well known.
Given that this blog is where high geekiness meets low geekiness, we are mostly concerned with a synthesis of these two. Namely, the Bacon-Erdős number.

Danica McKellar:

         – coauthored a science paper with professor as undergraduate; graduated summa cum laude from UCLA; went on to write three math books for kids of various ages (one of which was a New York Times bestseller); Erdős number is 4.

– started as a child star on the Wonder Years; still works in movies and TV, including eight episodes of West Wing; Bacon number is 2.
Erdős-Bacon number is 6.

Daniel Kleitman:
         – physicist and mathematician; got his PhD in physics, then met Erdős who asked him “Why are you only a physicist?”; coauthored at least six papers with Erdős; teaches applied mathematics at MIT. Erdős number is 1.

– math advisor and extra in Good Will Hunting; Bacon number is 2.
Erdős-Bacon number (lowest such) is 3.


More people with Erdős-Bacon numbers here. (Thanks to Cait for this.)


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