Six Degrees of Seperation

“You know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who knows me or well anyone on the entire planet!”

True story, or at least according to the logic of the theory of the six degrees of separation.

Ever heard the saying: “Did you know you’re only six hand shakes away from anyone in the world?” The documentary ‘Six Degrees of Separation’  by Lucy Leveugle, explores the idea that maybe our world is not as unpredictable and full of coincidences as we have always thought.

So what exactly is this 6 degrees of separation theory?

Basically, it is a theory of networks that suggests that everybody in the world can be connected in just a few steps.  Nature having this hidden blue print structure that connects us all, the world much more unexpectedly connected than you ever thought.

A theory that has the potential to change the way we fight terrorism, predict pandemics and combat disease! And who would have thought that this, one of the greatest scientific insights of moder times would have been inspired by the Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon ( yes, the one from Footloose and a lot, a lot, a lot of other movies ).

The six degrees claims that everyone on the planet can be connected to everyone else in just a few steps, all due to networking. So if I know 100 people and one of them knows 100 people in two steps there is already 10000 people, in 3 steps already a million. Although, there could be overlap which makes the whole theory so difficult. We tend to know people very much like ourselves, making our social circles very clustered. A contradiction in itself! How can the world be both large and small at the same time? Solving this paradox the key to understanding the Six Degrees.

The solution?

Well the pattern suggests that the majority of people know only a small amount of people, yet there is a small amount of people with extremely large networks who have come to be known scientifically as ‘hubs’.

Marc Vidal and Steven Strogatz two scientists who began looking into networking, deciding to look into the Hollywood network to try and prove their theory. After all within Hollywood there is a huge network of connections, more than a million actors have worked on more than half a million films. During the mid 90’s college students began playing a game which linked every actor to just one star: Kevin Bacon. This later got turned into a website which would track an actor’s path and find their ‘bacon number’. Seriously try it! Type “bacon number” and then the name of any actor into google. No matter who you type, even the most little known actors they will be traced back to Kevin Bacon in approximately just two steps. Its legitimately insane!

AND is proof that the Hollywood  network supports the Six Degrees theory. It conforms precisely to the theory clustering over a million actors in just a few steps. Kevin Bacon inspring a phenomenon without even realising it, now a cult figure for the Six Degrees of Separation. Even starting his own charity SixDegrees.org, which is all about “using [the six degrees of separation] idea to accomplish something good. It’s social networking with a social conscience.” (sixdegrees.org/about)

From urban myth to math equation to a daring new approach to fighting disease, this the promise of network science a new way of seeing the world Six degrees is not just an urban myth after all. The world truly more interconnected than I could have ever imagined.

I guess it really is a small world after all!

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