My Erdős-Bacon Number

One’s Erdős–Bacon number is the sum of one’s Erdős number and Bacon number.

Erdős Number

One’s Erdős Number is a measure of the number of “degrees of separation” from prolific mathematician Paul Erdős.

According to Wikipedia,

Paul Erdős has an Erdős number of zero. Anybody else’s Erdős number is k + 1 where k is the lowest Erdős number of any coauthor.

Erdős wrote around 1,500 mathematical articles in his lifetime, mostly co-written. He had 511 direct collaborators;[5] these are the people with Erdős number 1. The people who have collaborated with them (but not with Erdős himself) have an Erdős number of 2 (9267 people as of 2010[9]), those who have collaborated with people who have an Erdős number of 2 (but not with Erdős or anyone with an Erdős number of 1) have an Erdős number of 3, and so forth.

In this context, “collaborated with” usually means being a coauthor on a journal article. This is the nerd’s equivalent of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which we will come to shortly.

In 2010, my colleague Philip Rodrigues discovered that all of us who collaborate on the MINOS experiment, with one exception, have an Erdős number of 4 through the following chain of papers.

4. Adamson, P et al.
“Search for Muon-Neutrino to Electron-Neutrino Transitions in MINOS”
Phys. Rev. Lett. 103, 261802 (2009)

3. Childs, Andrew M. and Patterson, Ryan B. and MacKay, David J. C.
“Exact sampling from nonattractive distributions using summary states”
Phys. Rev. E (2001) 63 3, 036113

2. McEliece, R.J., Mackay, D. J. C., and Cheng, J.-F. (1998)
“Turbo decoding as an instance of Pearl’s ‘belief propagation’ algorithm”
IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications 16 (2): 140-152

1. Erdös, Paul; McEliece, R.J.; Taylor, H. ,
“Ramsey bounds for graph products” ,
Pac. J. Math. 37, 45-46 (1971). , 05C55

Bacon Number

One’s Bacon number is a measure of the number of “degrees of separation” from prolific actor Kevin Bacon, which was made popular in the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

This may be a bit of stretch, but here’s mine:

Therefore, I have a bacon number of and my Erdős-Bacon number is 9.

The lowest theoretically possible Erdős-Bacon number is 1, which both men would have if Erdős had appeared in a movie with Bacon or Bacon had co-written a paper with Erdős. Since Erdős died in 1996, the lowest possible Erdős-Bacon number currently achievable is 2, which Kevin Bacon would have if he co-wrote a paper with a person with an Erdős number of 1 or an author with an Erdős number of 1 would have if he or she appeared in a movie with Bacon.

The lowest (jokingly) claimed Erdős-Bacon number is 3, for Hank Aaron (he and Erdős signed the same baseball). The lowest seriously claimed Erdős-Bacon number is 4.

If I were to appear in a film with Bacon and co-write a paper with with a person with an Erdős number of 1, I would have an Erdős-Bacon number of 3. That means the lowest currently possible Erdős-Bacon number for me is 3, unless…

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