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Erdős Number 1?


A hat tip to Arnold Zwicky at Language Log for pointing me to the recent xkcd cartoon above, in which mathematicians the world over are given hope that they might yet be able to acquire an Erdős number of 1.

I described Erdős number in a post last Christmas Eve, explaining that it is how mathematicians measure “their level of connectedness to the late, prolific Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős. Erdős has an Erdős number of 0. If you wrote a joint paper with Erdős, your Erdős number is 1. If you didn’t, but you wrote a joint paper with someone who wrote a paper with Erdős, your Erdős number is 2. And so on.” (See here for more information.) I also noted the more familiar but essentially identical method of measuring an actor’s degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. The purpose of the post was to measure my Erdős-like distance from mathematician and Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi.

A week later I had a post on my Duke Ellington number. At the time, I did some research for a post on my Ty Cobb number, but I never wrote it. Perhaps I’ll do so soon. (I have several two-step connections to baseball players. Fairly serious connections, not just that I saw them at a game. Rather, I know someone well who is a friend or relative of a major league baseball player.)

My own Erdős number is 4. I hadn’t expected it to get any lower, but the cartoon gives me hope.

Categories: Cartoons, Math
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