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BS: Six Degrees Of Separation

11 Oct 07 - 12:11 AM (#2168543)
Subject: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Azizi

Rather than emphasizing how we are different from each other, why not focus on what we have in common?

The six degrees of separation concept may be one way we can show how people are more alike than we are different.

"Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that, if a person is one "step" away from each person he or she knows and two "steps" away from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows, then everyone is no more than six "steps" away from each person on Earth. Several studies, such as Milgram's small world experiment, have been conducted to empirically measure this connectedness. While the exact number of links between people differs depending on the population measured, it is generally found to be relatively small. Hence, six degrees of separation is somewhat synonymous with the idea of the "small world" phenomenon."


It really is a small world after all. For example, by happenchance [?] I found out that another Mudcatter and I grew up in the same hometown though we didn't live there at the same time. But what are the odds that two people who don't know each other but who grew up in the same smallish city-albeit at different times-would end up posting on the same smallish [?] online discussion forum at the same time? Furthermore, what are the odds that one of these posters would would "happen" to mention her roots in that city, and the other poster would happen to read the thread in which this was mentioned?

Maybe this doesn't seem like that much of a coincidence to you.
And actually, the word "coincidence" doesn't totally convey what I'm thinking of when I consider this and other types of things that I've found out that I have in common with some folks who post on Mudcat.
I think there's some kind of divine intervention that draws folks to certain places and people and things [like particular online discussion forums]. Or at least, it sometimes seems that way to me.

Are there any "it's a small world after all" stories that you can share about the connections you were surprised to learn that you have with one or more Mudcatter?

If so, how about sharing that example or examples on this thread?

I, for one, would be interested in reading those kinds of stories.

Thanks in advance for posting on this thread!

11 Oct 07 - 12:47 AM (#2168556)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Alice

In my dad's generation, it was popularized by the saying "now you've shook the hand of a man who has shook the hand of John L. Sullivan".

I was very aware of the six degrees idea in the 1970's and 80's when I was shaking the hands of celebrities who had shook the hand of presidents who had shook the hand of world leaders. And when I was 18, I worked for our Congressional Delegation, men who had all shook the hand of...

11 Oct 07 - 12:51 AM (#2168558)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Sorcha

I find this fascinating, and have had experiences of it, but I can't recall any specifics right now.

My dad used to say, you can never go so far from home that you don't meet someone you know, or who knows someone you know. I have found this to be very true.

It might even take less than six degrees.

11 Oct 07 - 12:54 AM (#2168560)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Alice

Even when I've traveled in a foreign country, it is amazing how many close connections I've encountered.

11 Oct 07 - 12:54 AM (#2168561)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Azizi

Thanks, Alice, for not only posting to this thread but for expanding its concept.

Posting where and when else-besides on Mudcat-people have experienced "6 degrees of separation" with another person on persons or situation would also be interesting.

Bless be the ties that bind!

[Perhaps connecti is a better word than than bind but I like the spirit of that song]

11 Oct 07 - 01:07 AM (#2168565)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Azizi

Well, one of these days I'll get that HYML font thingy down pat and won't make any more mistakes using it.

Here's how I tried to write that sentence:
"Perhaps connect is a better word than bind but I like the spirit of that song."

Did that work?

Actually, come to think about it, I would like that Bless Be The Tie That Binds song much more if it were more ecumenical...

But I digress. Back to 6 degrees-or less-of separation...

Speaking of which:

Hi, Sorcha!

Thanks for joining Alice and me on this thread.

I hope other folks post to this thread. If so, hi to you too!

11 Oct 07 - 02:29 AM (#2168588)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,LTS pretending to work

In my other life, I am a member of a formal choir. One of my friends in this choir comes from Belfast, Northern Ireland - a city I have only ever driven through, and he moved to London some years ago. Whilst chatting to this friend, oddly enough in Denmark of all places, we discovered that we both knew a guy called Mike through completely different circles - him from the cycling scene and me from the folk music scene. My friend recognised my description of Mike through the violently coloured shirts and ties he used to wear.


11 Oct 07 - 02:45 AM (#2168596)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Herga Kitty

When I was corresponding with Canberra Chris about the Shiny Bums' visit to England a few months ago, he told me that his mother had been born in a house in the road in Harrow where I now live....


11 Oct 07 - 03:15 AM (#2168605)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Ruth Archer

I was working with someone about 10 years ago and she was telling me about her best friend's new fiance - after a few minutes I realised that the fiance was a friend of ours from London, with whom my husband had worked for years. It really is odd when that kind of thing happens.

Of course, in the folk world there's only ever about 2 degrees of separation...

11 Oct 07 - 04:22 AM (#2168618)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: JohnInKansas

This is an area that has had quite a number of published analyses, and one area that's received a lot of attention is the population of movie actors/actresses, with the premise being pretty well accepted that every performer has been in a movie with another performer who was in another movie with ... etc., with the result that the population of movie performers is a closed set with 6-degree of separation paths joining every pair of performers. For this particular population, some have claimed "proofs" that even 5 degrees of separation may be sufficient; but I don't believe they're considered "rigorous" proofs.

There have been numerous arguments, however, that for "really complex populations" the six-degrees may not hold. Some have argued that the current internet (i.e. every user on every server accessible from any server that's accessible from ... etc) is a higher order population, with arguments that the maximum degree of separation may reach 13 or more. (I believe that's the highest credible estimate I've seen.) Ohers claim to be able to show it's "no more than 9." There seems to be general agreement that 6 is not enough.

The greater "separation" of the internet is due largely to many "sequestered" servers that connect to the net as a whole only via extremely narrow paths, and the analysis is complicated by how one treats members of the population who can receive but not send (i.e. "half-links") or vice-versa.

If one person in the general population is six-degrees removed from at least one other person, then the hermit/survivalist in the wilds of Idaho (a random pick) who is known only to the first person is seven-degrees removed from at least one other person - hence it's easy to see how the separation could be rapidly expanded, although the expansion past 6 would apply only if rather extreme "misfits" are included in the population.


11 Oct 07 - 06:01 AM (#2168660)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Emma B

While on a walking holiday I stayed overnight in a small village in rural Spain and was talking to the only other British couple for miles around.
During conversation I discovered that I had helped his brother move into his new home on a small Irish island (where I was staying with a friend) after he had broken his arm just the year before.

11 Oct 07 - 07:21 AM (#2168692)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Mooh

Last summer my neice was telling me about a friend in her industry who she thought had a lot in common with me, and it ends up the guy was my best friend in high school. As we all live and work in very different places, and there's been a lot of water under the bridge, it was a small world experience.

As for degrees of separation, a lifelong friend did a semester (and chummed with) with Englsh royalty, so that represents a large circle of hands shaken. This is not to pretend to have met or to know any of those folks, of course.

But, as a musician, the ones I like are the ones that start with, "Hey, didn't you used to play with...?". They always lead to more of the same, and lots of fun stories.

I also like the "what are YOU doing here" encounters. They sometimes lead to "Really? I know him." revelations.

Peace, Mooh.

11 Oct 07 - 08:02 AM (#2168708)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Mr Red

I am amazed that no-one has mentions the game of Kevin Bacon. Film buffs and Hollywood play it.

Connect Kevin Bacon to any actor in 6 moves.

Why Mr Bacon? - probably he has appeared in plenty of films making it easier. It is important in web search engines and why having loads of links on your site improves search engine ratings. Such sites are portals. There is a related genre - the travelling salesman problem, best route from A to B calling at all waystations. Very important in GPS routing, courier delivery, internet traffic and information storage technologies.

11 Oct 07 - 08:43 AM (#2168738)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,Jonny Sunshine

Some while ago, I took part in an experiment where the idea was to pass on an email message to reach a randomly selected person (I think my "target" was a Russian university student). The only drawback I can see with this kind of experiment is you'd need to get everyone you know to pass on the message to everyone they know, to be sure you weren't missing a potential link in the chain.

Maybe there should be a folk version of the Kevin Bacon game...

11 Oct 07 - 08:49 AM (#2168745)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,LTS Pretending to work

That would be Martin Carthy then... start with him and connect him to someone like... say.... me.


11 Oct 07 - 09:16 AM (#2168763)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Rumncoke

Many years ago I recorded a snatch of a song on the last few inches of a cassette tape in my radio/cassette player. I did not get the introduction and did not know who sang it. I just put it on record when I realised it was something good and left it to listen to later, not realising I had put the tape in the wrong way round...

This year I went to a talk at Sidmouth and recognised the voice of the man sitting behind me as the one on the tape. It was Martin Carthy - so when the talk was over I sang him the few lines of the song, and he gave me the title.

It is Clyde Water, and he told me it is on the cd Skin and Bone - but I don't actually listen to recordings of folk music these days - though I supose I should stock up for when I get too decrepit to go to folk festivals.

11 Oct 07 - 10:01 AM (#2168792)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Mickey191

Whilst sitting on a bench at Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia I began conversing with a lovely lady. We were waiting for an artist to pack up our purchases. Turns out she & I are from Dover Plains, NY. She formerly lived in Brewster, NY & knew my cousin & her family.

11 Oct 07 - 10:10 AM (#2168800)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Amos

I saw this happening one night in an Irish pub here in San Diego. These two blokes are conversing, and one of them remarks the other sounds Irish, which he admits. The first one allows that he too is Irish and they warm up to the topic. Where in Ireland? Well, from Dublin, of course. No! Really? I'm from Dublin too!! Really?? Amazing!! Then they proceed to discover they are from the same neighborhood in Dublin. To their astonishment, as they narrow it down, it turns out they both were raised on the sme STREET!! And, as it turns out, they had both lived in the same house. Amazing!! They threw their arms around each other and staggered out, friends for ever.

I commented to the bartender it was a pretty wonderful coincidence that two men should discover such close links all the way across to San Diego from Dublin. Such serendipity!   "Aw, hell," he replied. "That's just the Murphy twins, drunk again."


11 Oct 07 - 10:24 AM (#2168809)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation

Ducked out of the rain onto a cafe porch in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland last October. Only other people there were speaking with a distinctly familiar accent. Turns out they grew up in the town in the USA where I now live, and the husband used to work for my father-in-law's fruit company there.

Not earth-shakingly weird, but fun.

11 Oct 07 - 10:32 AM (#2168816)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,Wordless Woman

I once called Lands End to place an order. When I gave my address (I live on the East coast) the woman I was speaking with in Wisconsin told me she spent her vacation in my town, visiting her son at his new house. She loved the town and went walking every day. Turns out her son lived a few blocks from me and she knew not only my street but, because of its distinct paint job, my house as well. What are the odds?

11 Oct 07 - 11:37 AM (#2168868)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Alice

The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game is so popular it shows up in movie and tv show plots. Kevin Bacon decided to do something positive with it, so he started a web site to promote charities. I didn't mention it earlier because I thought it would be the obvious thing people would think of.


11 Oct 07 - 11:44 AM (#2168872)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,petr

or composers,
Josef Suk was the ANtonin Dvoraks son in law,
Dvorak was friends with Brahms, Brahms knew Liszt,
Liszt knew Wagner, Wagner - Beethoven,
the young Beethoven played once for Mozart and so on..

11 Oct 07 - 11:48 AM (#2168875)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: EBarnacle

Much to my surprise and horror, when I joined a small energy company in '01, I found I was only 1 degree from our unpopularly elected VP, Cheney.

11 Oct 07 - 12:11 PM (#2168880)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: M.Ted

This can be a somewhat creepy excercise--I have a friend who studied dance, as a child, in Germany with a choreographer who was favored by Adolph Hitler. Another friend made a documentary with Ezra Pound, who knew Mussolini.

11 Oct 07 - 12:45 PM (#2168912)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Bill D needs to define the rules pretty carefully. Do we mean KNOW some who KNOWS someone who...etc...or just "I once MET X who met Y"..etc...

I have met & chatted with a number of well traveled and famous folkies...and with Allan Ginsberg, the beat poet...and with six term Congressman from Kansas, Dan Glickman. And I once shook hands with Marion Barry, the infamous mayor of Wash DC, but having met these folks is a pretty tenuous claim to being only 3 degrees from the queen.
So, it is unlikely that some Bushman in Africa & I can easily claim to be only 6 'significant' degrees apart.


The real value of the concept is for those whose business or lifestyle needs contacts and the ability to get information and help.
   The former Postmaster General of the US, James A. Farley, made semi-famous the idea of a Farley File, by which he USED notes on people he met, and thus achieved political ends and personal admiration. "What? You mean you remember me from 9 years ago?"

Not a bad if I could go back 45 years and apply it!

11 Oct 07 - 01:46 PM (#2168966)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: M.Ted

Actually, I used to live in Philadelphia, and it seems to me that Kevin Bacon's brother, Michael, was a toll taker at an exit on the turnpike that I took all the time. Which puts me two degrees and $1.35 away from all the actors in Hollywood.

11 Oct 07 - 02:25 PM (#2168985)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: John Hardly

I once started a "game" wherein you would post two artists and a recording they did together.

The next in line would link one of the two with another performer and a recording they had done together.

Within pop, jazz, blues, bluegrass, folk and rock, the game could link just about everyone in music.

11 Oct 07 - 03:25 PM (#2169023)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: jeffp

All of my relatives in Kansas have a copy of a photograph of an old man seated at a table saying grace over a loaf of bread. Family legend holds that it is my great-grandfather, who was recruited in a bus station to pose for the picture. When I married my second wife, she brought along with her a copy of the same picture. The photographer was the photographer who shot her mother's hight school graduation picture.

It is indeed a small world.

I am also five degrees from Saddam Hussein.

11 Oct 07 - 04:14 PM (#2169036)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: RangerSteve

When I was in the Navy, my shipped docked in St. Croix. My friend and I went out to Buck Island Reef, and while on the boat, I ran into my eighth grade science teacher. His wife and my friend were from the same town in Ohio.

11 Oct 07 - 04:48 PM (#2169068)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Fossil

Well, I live in NZ, where six degrees is far too many for the natives - everyone seems to know everyone else. But my story is:

Quite a few years ago, back in the 'seventies, I was heavily involved in the UK hang-gliding and ultralight aviation scene. I was the editor of the magazine "Wings!" for a while, Chair of the Southern Hang-Gliding Club, and so on.

Well, time went by, I moved off to Belgium, got into sailing, lost most of my contacts with the flying scene. And one year, my wife and I went to Cornwall for a winter holiday. Rather bad weather, but it cleared in the afternoon and I went out for a long walk on the beach - between Gwithian and Cambourne, on the North Coast. This is a huge beach, five miles or so long, by about half a mile wide, golden sands, very scenic. And the surf was pounding, spray was flying and in a Force 8 wind, it was rough and cold, but exhilarating. I had the beach pretty much to myself and was relishing the loneliness.

Away in the distance, I saw a small figure also walking in the opposite direction along the waterline, amongst the flying spray and sand. We gradually approached each other, It took ages, 15 minutes or so to close the gap. Eventually the other figure got close enough. Instead of the "Afternoon..." I'd expected, the first thing this stranger said to me was "You're Tony Fuell aren't you?"

Turned out he was from the North of England and we had spent one afternoon sitting in line together on a hill at a hang-gliding competition.

Hmm. Coincidence, of course, but the surroundings and the circumstances made it special.

Good thread this!

11 Oct 07 - 04:49 PM (#2169069)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Amos

One time on an overnight train from Copenhagen to Paris, my passport was stolen. I had only a few days to get to a business meeting in Lisbon, but I oculdn't leave town without a passport; the embassy said they needed a birth certificate or the testimony of an American citizen. Completely out of options I called the only people I knew in Paris, a French family who had once lived in our home town, and they were kind enough to offer me a place to stay while I waited for a birth certificate to be dug up and forwarded.

When I walked into the apartment who should I find but a little silver-haired lady who had once been our town's school principal when I was in second grade; she was traveling around the world by herself nad had just stopped by to visit the same family, by coincidence. She was more than happy to come to the embassy with me and testify as to my identity, and I was on my way with a passport the next day.

I hadn't seen her since second grade, or thought of her in fifteen years.


11 Oct 07 - 08:17 PM (#2169234)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Uncle_DaveO

When I first heard the 6 degree hypothesis, I pooh-poohed it, big time!

Then I recalled that, while I was raised in a working class family in a small city in Minnesota, with (as far as I could see) no particular connections, there was more there than met the eye.

My mother (connection 1) was for years the secretary of the county Democrat-Farmer-Labor party. During the 1948 presidential campaign Truman's train ran through our city, and as a local functionary my mother (1) rode with Truman (2) to the next stop. Truman, of course, had a long political career, climaxing as President of the U.S. Can you imagine how far the third step would take you?   Mind-boggling! My mother was also slightly acquainted with Hubert Humphrey (2), and there again, a wide, wide connection spread, although overlapping with that of Truman. Remember the overlap. It soon gets in the way.

Even with that staggering connection spread in just three levels and the greater spread implicit in the next three, however, there's a bug in the 6 level argument. That is the overlap factor you can see exemplified in the Humphrey-Truman spreads referred to above.

If the idea is that six levels, starting back then, would reach from me to everyone on the planet today, remember there have been several generations born and raised in the meantime. Yes, generations of descent can carry the levels wider, but they also use up the remaining level count. And remember that here again we get connection-spread overlap.

Six levels surely would result in my having connections pretty much world-wide, but every last inhabitant of the Earth, today? No way.
Primitive tribe members in remote places, generations down from my original connection to my mother, will be untouched within the mere six levels.

Dave Oesterreich

11 Oct 07 - 09:09 PM (#2169256)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Bill D

There seems to be a bit of confusion between examples of "six degrees" and interesting stories of coincidental meetings.
   *I* once met a guy I knew slightly from Iowa in a store in Juneau, Alaska....but it has little relevance to the six degrees idea. I enjoy the stories, but they are a bit of thread drift...(what! thread drift? here at Mudcat? )

I repeat...those who claim 6 degrees need to specify how well one needs to know anyone in the next link.

11 Oct 07 - 09:19 PM (#2169261)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Azizi

Thanks for sharing such interesting stories nnd comments!

Here's one from me:

When I was a sophomore in college, I went on my first train ride to Lincoln University for their homecoming. About half way to my destination, this African American woman about my age got on the train and we struck up a conversation. I mentioned to this woman that I lived on a college campus in East Orange, New Jersey and she told me that she was thinking of relocating to that area. When I reached my destination, we exchanged phone numbers. About three months after that, at the start of a new semester, I decided to move off campus. Since I was young and not very street smart, I decided it would probably be better for me to find a furnished room in the some family's residence. I had to find a room quick, fast, and in a hurry or remain in the dorms. But after a hectic, difficult search, I found this really nice room in this really nice home in this really nice neighborhhood. And the woman who owned the house was really quite nice. However, I didn't take that room because this nice woman had a REALLY big, REALLY fat cat.

And I'm not that fond of cats.

When she showed me the room, the woman casually said to me "Don't worry if you wake up at night and see Fluffy {or some such name} sleeping in the bed with you. This is her bed. She's used to sleeping in here. Then that really nice woman told me that when I came there to live I could NEVER close my bedroom door because then Fluffy wouldn't be able to come in and out of the room whenever she wanted to.

Did I mention that I'm not that fond of cats?

So it was back to the college dorm for me.

About 3 months after this experience, I got a phone call from the woman I had met on the train. She said she had moved to East Orange, New Jersey and she had found a really nice room in a really nice home in a really nice neighborhood. The only problem she had with the room was that some nights she would wake up and find this REALLY big REALLY fat cat sleeping in the bed with her.

You guessed it. That woman moved into the exact same room I didn't take.

What are the odds of that happening?

11 Oct 07 - 09:29 PM (#2169272)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Azizi

Actually when I started this thread, I used the phrase "six degrees of separation" as a way of referring to the seemingly unexplainable connections a "stranger" may find out that she or he has with another "stranger".

These coincidence stories are what I was hoping to read in this thread, even though they may not be what "six degrees of separation" actually means.


Some folks will disagree, but I believe that one reason why these experiences happen to people is so that they would know that there's more to life than what meets the eye.

11 Oct 07 - 09:39 PM (#2169278)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Peace

This reminds me of a neat thing. Has to do with license plates. When ya got nothing to do and time to do it, note the next 20 cars/licensed vehicles that drive by and note the last two digits, regardless of where on the plate those two digits fall. For example, if the plate reads T6RVN42L, the last two digits are 42. If the plate reads RTV2TGRM5, the number is 25. I propose that most of the time you will find two numbers the same. For example, you may have two 91s or two 37s. Given that there is a total of 100 two digit numbers between 00 and 99, well, what's the odds? Just try it a few times. lemme know how you make out.

11 Oct 07 - 10:08 PM (#2169299)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Neil D

When I was in college I made friends with a couple from a town about 40 miles away. A town of about 25,000 people. They were the only two people from that town I ever met. Years later I met the lady that would become my wife, the beautiful Christina, and even though she was 7 years younger than me and my college friends, her brother had been very good friends with them in high school. My theory is that in any town or city with only one high school there are never more than 2 degrees of separation between any 2 people in that town.

11 Oct 07 - 11:12 PM (#2169327)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: EBarnacle

Peace, When I first took statistics, the prof told us [and demonstrated] that if you put 30 people in a room, it is statistically more than 50% that at least 2 of them will have the same birthday.

11 Oct 07 - 11:28 PM (#2169329)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Peace

The place I got that from was a book by Desmond Bagley. Loved the book, and have tried that a bunch of times with plates and also phone books. It ends up happening 5/6 times.

I don't know a thing about math or statistics, but I have seen the birthday thing happen. It is neat.

12 Oct 07 - 12:07 AM (#2169341)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Metchosin

My eldest daughter was across the pond visiting friends in Edinburgh for awhile. One morning she nipped out to get a few groceries and when she was coming out of the shop, met her elementary school friend, a former next door neighbour, from the west coast of Canada, coming in.

Recently, we considered buying a very light weight pop-up camper for our truck, from a small manufacturer in California. I had spoken to the salesman in the US and said I would really like to have a look at one of the units in the flesh, before making up my mind. He said that they had sold a couple of units to Canadians and as luck would have it, one recently to someone, who also lived in Victoria. The salesman said he would put him in contact with me and maybe we could work out a viewing.

A few days later I recieved a phone call from the gentleman and I explained that we actually lived some distance out of Victoria. Turns out so did he...five houses down the road from us.

12 Oct 07 - 12:21 AM (#2169344)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Stilly River Sage

I also participate in a film forum, and we play that game by connecting actors who have worked together on stage or in film back to other actors or occasionally to ourselves. In this game the links have to be documented in someplace like IMDb.


02 Aug 08 - 04:42 PM (#2403865)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: JohnInKansas

Study confirms 'Kevin Bacon' theory

Survey of instant-messagers finds any two people just 6.6 degrees apart1
By Peter Whoriskey
The Washington Post
updated 12:00 p.m. CT, Sat., Aug. 2, 2008

WASHINGTON - Turns out, it is a small world.

The "small world theory," embodied in the old saw that there are just "six degrees of separation" between any two strangers on Earth, has been largely corroborated by a massive study of electronic communication.

With records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people from around the world, researchers have concluded that any two people on average are distanced by just 6.6 degrees of separation, meaning that they could be linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances.

The database covered all of the Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging network in June 2006, or roughly half the world's instant-messaging traffic at that time, researchers said.


For the purposes of their experiment, two people were considered to be acquaintances if they had sent one another a text message. The researchers looked at the minimum chain lengths it would take to connect 180 billion different pairs of users in the database. They found that the average length was 6.6 steps and that 78 percent of the pairs could be connected in seven hops or less.

Some pairs, however, were separated by as many as 29 hops2.


1 ...any two people just 6.6 degrees apart??? The study actually showed that the average separation for a selected sub-population was 6.6, and that 78% of those in that sub-population were "7 or less." This leaves more than a fifth of the people even in this rather restricted fraction of the world more than seven degrees apart.

2 Having never sent or received an IM, I guess maybe I'm about 3,476,292 degrees "separated" from Microsoft's higly selected "real people" subgroup; but I'll just have to live with it, I guess.

[I feel so isolated ...]


02 Aug 08 - 05:37 PM (#2403906)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Alice

but you've posted on mudcat to many people who use IM. (I don't use it either.)

02 Aug 08 - 06:05 PM (#2403928)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: JohnInKansas

Yes, Alice, but it only counts (according to Microsoft) if they can contact you by IM. Otherwise you're not part of the world - according to that report.

Maybe we don't even have a "degree of separation." As non-instanters we probably don't even really exist.


03 Aug 08 - 12:53 AM (#2404142)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Amos

My wife and I made friends with a very warm, intelligent couple and visited with them frequently over a period eight years. Although she was from the Lousiana coastal zone, and my wife was born in Minnesota, it turned out hat, being both born to military families, they had both traveled around quite a bit--in fact they had both lived in New Jersey, although not in the same town.

One day, one of them was talking about her childhood accordion lessons, and l o, it turned out they had both played accordion when in grade school.

At a later visit, one of them said, "My accordion teacher was a strange man."

"So was mine".

"Mine disappeared suddenly without a trace."

"So did mine!!!!!"

It turns out they had both been taking accordion lessons from the same man, as one of them lived at the southernmost town in his territory and the other in the northernmost; and that he had left both of them (and all his other students) in the lurch when he vanished suddenly one day back in the late 50's.

And we met thousands of miles and adventures distant in San Diego, and were friends for years before they discovered this common experience.

Small world, ain't it?


03 Aug 08 - 10:43 AM (#2404263)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Alice

The connection to a stranger on Mudcat for me is that another Mudcatter in New England, it turns out, is the father of my doctor here in Montana.

03 Aug 08 - 12:26 PM (#2404304)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: bankley

I met Murdoch on Mudcat after not hearing from him for 30 yrs. The result was a new CD.
I was reluctant to shake his hand, however, because I didn't know where it had been
.....or what it had 'shook'...

03 Aug 08 - 01:03 PM (#2404323)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Nigel Parsons

How much does the online '6 degrees' rely on the fact that millions of us have recieved messages from the same 'spam' providers?

Also despite the 'coincidences' mentioned above, no-one ever takes notice of the fact that the majority of their dealings are with people with whom they've never had cause to say "what a small world"

07 May 09 - 09:42 AM (#2626216)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Mr Happy

It occurred to me that the 6 degrees is greatly enhanced by the network[s] I'm already in, namely the main one being the folk world - it being astinishing how many folk I've got to know who know each other or know someone who knows of them either directly or through mutual acquaintances.

Especially since being online, Mudcatting in particular, I now know both in reality & virtually piles of folkies all over the world - innit fab?!?!!

07 May 09 - 09:51 AM (#2626218)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Donuel

2 degrees of seperation from Warren Buffet. My friend CT has his music subsidized by Warren Buffet.

There are people who serve as gate keepers however. In this case an Executive from Taiwan Airlines would qualify as a gate keeper.

07 May 09 - 01:43 PM (#2626435)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Jim Dixon

1. This happened while I was a college student, home for my summer vacation, in St. Louis, Mo. A friend and I decided to go explore Gaslight Square, a jazz nightclub district that was popular then but is now defunct. It was the only time in my life I ever went there, despite growing up in St. Louis. While there, I ran into two friends from college. (We went to college in St. Paul, MN, 500+ miles away.) One lived in St. Louis, though I had never encountered him in St. Louis before, and the other was visiting him from, I think, North Dakota. This was their first (and probably only) visit to Gaslight Square also. This was my first experience of bizarre coincidence, so it impressed me far more than it would today.

2. My wife and I were visiting Grand Teton National Park, and walking up a trail, a couple of miles off the main road. We encountered another couple walking the other way. Suddenly my wife and the other woman burst out laughing. They knew each other from high school. My wife comes from a town so small that her high school graduating class had ten students. (The school has now been closed and the district merged with another one.) We and they live about 875 miles from the park.

3. I was attending a business conference in Maine. It was the only time I've ever been to Maine. One day at lunch, I met someone from St. Louis. (That didn't surprise me; people were attending from all over the US.) The topic at the table turned to very odd restaurants and bars. I described the Venice Café, a place I had visited ONCE in St. Louis, which had a very quirky décor and ambiance. The other guy from St. Louis knew the place too. (That didn't surprise me either.) I explained that I had a special connection to the Venice Café, in that my best friend in St. Louis, who was a stained-glass artist and dealer, was a friend of the owner of the café, and had sold him the glass that he had then used to make a mosaic on the basement wall. My new St. Louis acquaintance then asked, "Is your friend named Hank?" He was. It turns out my new acquaintance's wife had taken a class in stained-glass from my friend Hank. (By the way, the topic of the business conference had nothing to do with art, or stained glass, or restaurants, or interior design, or anything even remotely connected to this conversation.)

4. While attending a different business conference in Chicago (same business, different conference) I lost my wallet, and I suspected I had been the victim of a pickpocket. (As it turns out, this was not the case.) Losing your wallet, along with all your money, credit cards, and identification, while alone in a strange city, is a very stressful and disconcerting experience. I had to cancel my credit cards, figure an alternate way of paying my hotel bill, etc. After dealing with all this, at the end of the day, I was walking back to my hotel. (I was staying in a different hotel from the one where the conference was being held, a couple of blocks away.) I overheard the conversation of two men who were walking behind me. Something they said attracted my attention, so I turned around and looked at them. I didn't know them, but I could see by their ID cards, which they were still wearing, that they were attending the same conference, and that they worked for another business in my home town, 400 miles away. (So far, not too surprising.) I introduced myself. Naturally they asked, "How are things going?" I answered, "Terrible! I lost my wallet today."

It turns out one of them knew where my wallet was! Earlier in the day, he and I had attended the same workshop. (Out of maybe 500 people at the conference, only about 30 attended this particular workshop.) This man had stayed late beyond the end of the presentation, to ask questions of the presenter. He and the presenter were the only two people left in the room when one of them looked down and saw my wallet on the floor. The presenter picked it up, and was at that point still holding it. Because of what I had just learned, I was able to contact him before he got around to contacting me, and I got my wallet, money, etc. back the next day. (Too late to undo the cancellation of my credit cards, however—but that's another story.)

I have a couple more tales like this, but I'm tired of writing.

07 May 09 - 03:17 PM (#2626490)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,Slag

Opps! Sorry! I thought this was a thread about Zsa Zsa Gabor! Uh, that would be six seperations by decree.

07 May 09 - 07:41 PM (#2626720)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Bee-dubya-ell

Sometimes, when I'm really bored, I'll play "Six Degrees of Wikipedia". Go to Wikipedia and click the "Random Article" button. Then open a new tab or window, and do the same thing again. The idea is to get from one article to the other by doing nothing but clicking imbedded links, and by clicking as few links as possible.

For example, if the first random article happened to be "Mickey Mantle" and the second was "Henry Hudson" you'd probably find a "New York City" link in "Henry Hudson", a "New York Yankees" link in "New York City", and a "Mickey Mantle" link in "New York Yankees". That's an easy example.

07 May 09 - 08:12 PM (#2626737)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Bill D

It's beginning to sound like "Google-whacking" sorta

07 May 09 - 08:43 PM (#2626765)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,seth in Olympia

I was hitching across the U.S. in 1969. While in Wyoming, I got a ride with a guy about my age in a very old VW van that would only go about 35-40 mph. This meant that we couldn't use any freeways as he made his way from Oregon to North Carolina. So we rolled along through the lovely June weather across the heartland. Somewhere in eastern Nebraska, the ancient van began to have issues, the engine compartment caught fire, and his money and mine began to disappear. Next day, we were in Iowa, both of us broke,and our plan was to drive as far as we could before we ran out of gas, ( I can't remember the rest of the plan), About six a.m.,my partner starts yelling. He saw his dad driving in the opposite direction. His dad saw him. Dad is going from North Carolina to North Dakota on the same piece of two lane highway. They stop, get out, exchange hugs, money. Twenty minutes and we are on our way.
Now, six degrees would be that someone else heard this story from him or me and puts in their take on it.

07 May 09 - 09:57 PM (#2626809)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: GUEST,Slag

Gee Seth, that sounds like 180 degrees to me!

07 May 09 - 10:38 PM (#2626820)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Bee-dubya-ell

If you know a couple of professional musicians, you're probably only two or three degrees of separation from almost anyone else in the music world. For example, I know the guitarist for The Jerry Douglas Band quite well. Jerry's played and recorded with damned near EVERYBODY in music.

Same thing with actors. My daughter's father-in-law's sister is actor Grace Zabriskie. Grace is not all that well-known, but she has worked with David Lynch on a number of projects and David Lynch knows EVERYBODY in Hollywood.

07 May 09 - 11:57 PM (#2626851)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: meself

Yes - in the music world those degrees-of-separation are pretty tight. It once occurred to me that I am only three or four degrees of separation from Robert Johnson, depending which line I follow. I played for a couple of years with a guy who had toured with James Cotton, who had been a protegee of Sonny Boy Williamson, who had been with Robert Johnson on the night he was poisoned.* Following another line, I used to jam with a piano-player who had been in SBW's band for awhile.

And, come to think, another guy I used to have an act with told some years later that he had had another band with a son of Brownie McGhee - so now I'll have to look up everyone Brownie McGhee ever met ...

And when I was a kid, there was a girl I knew who herself knew Smokey Robinson.

I'd better stop, because more and more of these connections are coming into my head, and I'll be here all night ...

* Of course, if you assembled everyone who claimed to have been there the night RJ was poisoned, it would look like that finale in the second Blues Brothers movie, with everyone from James Brown to Charlie Musselwhite jivin' along ...

08 May 09 - 04:09 AM (#2626917)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Liz the Squeak

I've just got back from New Zealand, where I was visiting my mother who lives in a town in South Auckland, called Papakura (go on, try finding it on a map!). Whilst in Hastings, UK, at the Jack in the Green Festival last weekend, I was talking to a lady whom I've known (through JITG) for about 10 years. She spotted my NZ bone necklace and asked where I got it, as she was a Kiwi by birth, a fact I had been unaware of as she has little or no accent. When I said I'd just got back from visiting Papakura, she told me that's where her father lives!


08 May 09 - 04:35 AM (#2626928)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: mouldy

When I was in NZ (that place again!), just over a month ago, I took a ride out to Masterton... just because I fancied a trip out, and the train went there from Wellington.

I mooched into a Save the Children charity shop, to look at toys for my granddaughter, and, as is quite usual in NZ, got into conversation with the lady behind the counter. She was an ex-pat herself, and had been over 30 years in NZ. She asked about my stay and I told her I had been able to tie up my visit with that of my old best friend from school, whose son now lived in Wellington with his Kiwi wife. She asked where - I told her. She asked where he worked - I told her. Then she asked his name. I said "Rob Clark". She grinned and said, "My husband is Rob's wife Cara's mother's brother!" (A very convoluted way of saying uncle). Then she added, "You must have been meeting Margo" (I was) "We met her when we came over to the UK for the wedding!"

A propos of nothing - Shortly after I got back, I got an email from a woman I didn't know in NZ, but whom it seems I am distantly related to, as my great grandfather is the younger brother of hers, who went there in the 19th century from Ireland.


08 May 09 - 07:55 AM (#2626999)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Black belt caterpillar wrestler

Is this a feature of modern life?
Would the same rule apply in the 1800s or earlier?

I know that I have connections to some historic figures, one ancestor was a bosun on the Victory and another comanded the escort that took Napoleon into exile.

08 May 09 - 04:08 PM (#2627290)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Slag

An uncle of mine lived in Victorville CA. Just over the hill was Apple Valley and Roy Rogers' ranch. He and Roy were good friends and had a joint gardening venture going. This, however, was not really a big deal as Roy and Dale were very public people and easily accessible by just about every one in the area. You'd often see them downtown or bowling or in one of the restaurants, out and about like anyone else. They were seldom pestered by fans or admirers and theirs was a condition that many celebrities only dream about.

My aunt and uncle, Roy and Dale, are long gone now and the small town(s) those desert communities were are now huge by comparison. I don't know if it's just because this is California but I have met many folks in the entertainment industries and if name dropping is your thing we could open another thread for that purpose alone. I think that might be interesting albeit I am sure there are many of you celeb types right here on the 'cat.

08 May 09 - 05:49 PM (#2627336)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Stringsinger


I think what you have said about the six degrees is important. I look at the intersection of
people as a Venn diagram. Throughout the various ideologies and experiences that people
have, there is an intersection among most of them that agrees.

It might be that there are Six Degrees of Inclusion. I like to think in these terms.


11 May 09 - 09:39 AM (#2628972)
Subject: RE: BS: Six Degrees Of Separation
From: Mr Happy