Repercussions of Kevin Bacon

| July 15, 2009 | 1 Reply
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I was watching the one hour documentary “How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer” and thought I’d share a few thoughts. Presumably anyone reading this already knows the principle of “Six Degrees of Separation” and the game involving this actor. My thoughts have nothing to do with the actor, but rather with the field of study that actually emerged from this Urban Myth: Network Theory.

One thing that jumped out at me was that network theory appears to neatly show how organization and information growth are necessary results of random connections. In other words, organization Just Happens. This has always been observed. It was historically explained as either the result of very, very sophisticated design, or a “goal” of evolution. But now there is a mathematical model showing that systems become organized because of entropy, not in spite of it. Unfortunately, those who doubt evolution usually never get far enough in math to see this.

Another thought I had was in response to the observation that a network becomes efficient given many points (or nodes) with few and local connections, plus a few nodes with many and far-ranging connections. These widely connected nodes are the key to the usual success of the game of six degrees, or the stability of the internet, or the synchrony of crickets, or the efficiency of our nervous system, or any other network.

I asked myself, “Given a choice, would I want to be a social node of local, or widespread connections?” I’m not particularly interested in how useful I may be as a connection in a game of Six Degrees, but rather how much fuller is ones life given wider connections. More points of view lead to understanding more ideas. I talk to people in all lines of work, of any political or religious affiliation. I converse to listen. Ideas that conflict with what I “know” are interesting to investigate. (At least until I understand why they conflict, and then they are inflicted repeatedly by those who don’t understand the conflict.)

Although I am a social stick-in-the-mud, I’ve met relatives who live on 4 continents, and have visited yet another. I gravitate toward people who also collect people. This blog (for example) has authors from several continents.

I have also traveled to a few places, many shown on this “Cities I’ve Visited” vanity map:


And I am always asking questions, and making connections. I enjoyed the TV series, too.

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Category: Communication, Community, Culture, Education, Evolution, Friendships/relationships, Networking, Science

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan:

    On the mathematics of self-organization,I've enjoyed many of the writings of Stuart Kauffman of the Santa Fe Institute. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Kauffman Some really cool math-based models relating to autocataclytic systems and evolution.

    BTW – I often sit back and appreciate that the Internet has enabled so many connections that wouldn't have happened otherwise. Yes, the authors on this site come from four continents and 8 states of the U.S. Many of us have never met each other in person.

    I also appreciate that the Internet allows us to form friendships across vast spaces. Prior to the Internet, it was a common occurrence that friendships fell apart when one of the friends left town. And it was a rare occurrence, indeed, when a friendship would be formed long-distance.

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