Sunday, August 28, 2005

seven degrees of separation

There are two kinds of people in academia: those with finite Erdös numbers and those without. You have a finite Erdös number if (a) you are the mathematician Paul Erdös*, (b) you collaborated with Erdös, (c) or you collaborated with someone who collaborated with someone ... who collaborated with Erdös. I figured that I have co-authored with enough people that I had to have some route to Erdös, but I'd never taken the time to try to find one. But Eszter has an Erdös number of 3, and it's a lot less daunting to figure out the coauthor-cobblestone-hop to a fellow sociology Ph.D. than to figure out the path to a mathematician. So, turns out that my maximal Eszter number is 4, meaning that my maximal Erdös number is 7. Here's one route:

J Freese and B Powell. "Making Love out of Nothing at All?: Null Findings and the Trivers-Willard Hypothesis." 2001. American Journal of Sociology 106: 1776-1789.

MA Milkie, R W Simon and B Powell. 1997. "Through the Eyes of Children: Youths’ Perceptions and Evaluations of Maternal and Paternal Roles." Social Psychology Quarterly 60:218-37.

MA Milkie, M Mattingly, K Nomaguchi, S Bianchi, and J P Robinson 2004. "The Time Squeeze: Parental Statuses and Parents’ Feelings about Time with Children." Journal of Marriage and Family 66:739-61.

P DiMaggio, E Hargittai, JP Robinson, and WR Neuman. 2001. Social Implications of the Internet. Annual Review of Sociology. 27:307-336.

J Feigenbaum, E Hargittai, J O'Rourke. 1994. "Expanding the Pipeline, CRAW Database Aids Academic Recruiters" Computing Research News. September

P Agarwal, B Aronov, J O'Rourke, C Schevon, 1997 "Star unfolding of a polytope with applications," SIAM. J. on Computing, 26(6) 1689-1713.

B Aronov, P Erdös, W Goddard, DJ Kleitman, M Klugerman, J Pach, L J Schulman. 1994. "Crossing Families" Combinatorica, 14(2), 127-34.

* And you aren't, because he's dead and JFW is strictly forbidden in the afterlife because it would make people pine too much to be back among the bustle of the mortals.

Update, 4:30pm (Cambridge): Even though I really do know how Eszter spells her name--if for no other reason than the familiar rule "s before z, except after c"--I had misspelled it in this post. This has been fixed.


sarahliz said...

So, in terms of talent in his field, how does Paul Erdös compare to Kevin Bacon?

eszter said...

When I saw the title of this post I started wondering where you could possibly be so much on the periphery that you'd be that far from the relevant players. ;-) I guess we really do neat to pursue some co-authorship to get you a respectable number.:)

A note regarding the spelling of Erdõs's name. Although you are clearly just following online norms by putting an umlaut on the "o", it should actually be a somewhat different character. Unfortunately, the one that is needed here is not rendered in HTML, I'm quite sure. It should be two lines (or apostrophes) side-by-side. The closest this is possible in HTML is the tilde on top of the "o" like this: õ. In case you're wondering why I care, it's because ö is also an actualy letter in Hungarian, but it's not the one that was in Erdõs's name so this way it looks misspelled (and would be mispronounced given that the two letters are pronounced differently). I couldn't help but mention this. Maybe I'll write a note to the authors of the most prominent Erdõs pages for correction, although I have a feeling if I tried to edit the Wikipedia pages my changes would be reversed.

Sarah - Erdõs published unbelievable amounts. According to this page, he had 509 direct collaborators (more papers than that since he co-authored several papers with numerous people on that list).

I guess one has to give all these collaborations the benefit of the doubt that eventually his name didn't start showing up on papers simply b/c it was a big deal to have a low Erdõs number. If you read up on his life a little bit you'll see that he moved from town to town and had conversations with many many people so it sounds quite feasible that these conversations really led to so many papers.

On an additional related note, this cannot be verified (I don't think), but it may be that I'm actually related to him in real life - as in blood-relative -, which is kind of interesting.:) I'll elaborate on that some other time since this comment is already so long.

jeremy said...

Eszter: Do you know the name of the diacritic that is supposed to go in the of the o in Erdo[sic]s's name? I collect those sorts of things. Being possibly related to Erdo[sic]s would be an even more impressive number, if of a different sort.

Sarahliz: I wonder if Kevin Bacon has ever co-authored anything anywhere. It would be an interesting thing to try to figure out if he had a number. If not, there has to be someone in academia also named Kevin Bacon who has one.

eszter said...

Wikipedia to the rescue! Apparently it's called a double accute accent. That Web site does a good job of adding some info. It's a Hungarian thang for the most part, it looks like.

I found a Kevin Bacon academic at Western Illinois Univ. It would be pretty unfortunate to have that name as an academic. It would be hard to get a good ranking on search-engine results (except if people were very savvy about searching for you:).

Anonymous said...

Kevin Bacon, the actor, is the brother-in-law of Peter and Patricia Adler, the sociologists. (According to a reliable source who says she got the news from Patricia herself) Patricia is Kyra Sedgewick's sister.