Six Degrees of Separation
Most people know of the "six degrees of separation" concept because of the popularity of the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. On average, any two actors in the world can be connected through a chain of movies in which actors have co-starred.
More broadly, network science tells us that any two people in the world can be connected through social connections by no more than six jumps. Here are a few examples of my own:
- I am one degree from the deceased actor Vincent Price -- I once shook his hand at a college event. Anyone he knows, or starred in a movie with, is only two degrees from me. (Admittedly the social connection was not a remarkable one. LOL)
- I have met two Nobel Prize winners, which places me one degree away from each of them, and two degrees from the King of Sweden, who hands the prizes to each winner.
- I have a relative who was a campaign manager for Senator Bob Dole years ago, which places me two steps from Dole and three steps from everyone Dole knew in Congress and Washington, DC.
- Thanks to my father, who got Project Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra's autograph in 1964, I am three degrees from just about everyone in NASA's early space program.
- Sadly, I am one degree from at least three people who took their own lives, and only two degrees from a political assassination in Venezuela.
Discovery and knowledge
To take this one step further, consider an example network I created that connects certain authors, books, musicians, genres, and influences on musicians. The example network, shown at the bottom of this post, is something I developed using the yEd and yEd Live network drawing software, both of which are free software products from the software company yWorks. (An interactive version of this network, which includes hyperlinks, can be accessed via this link.)
At the top of the diagram are three authors, including J. R. R. Tolkien, Alex Bledsoe, and Sharyn McCrumb. (For more on Sharyn McCrumb, see this recent post of mine.) Beneath each author is an icon showing something that author has written. The Lord of the Rings is fantasy, of course, as are Bledsoe's "Tufa" stories, set in a modern-day part of the mountains of Tennessee. Many of Sharyn McCrumb's novels are set in the Appalachians.
Below that part of the diagram is the musician Dave Brons. Brons, who composes and performs progressive rock with a "Celtic symphonic twist", found inspiration in The Lord of the Rings. Bledsoe's "Tufa" novels inspired a group of musicians known as Tuatha Dea, also shown on the diagram, who compose and perform what they call "Appalachian Rock." Both Brons and Tuatha Dea have been influenced by Celtic culture. (And, Tuatha Dea has also been influenced by "steampunk.")
The diagram I created is a small example of a knowledge map. It captures a set of connections I thought were interesting, that I can share with others, and that may lead others to consider artists or authors or works they might not realize were connected. As a knowledge map, it can be extended to include as many connections as I would like.
Knowledge map created using the free tools, yEd and yEd Live. See text for link.
Copyright Mark E. Lacy, 2021.