ME and Ophelia

Saturday, October 23, 2004

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How useful is this information?

Have you been away in a foreign land and got talking to someone who turns out to know someone you know? "What a small world!" is the usual response. Maybe the explanation for this is the six degrees of separation.

I'm not sure that I understand the concept exactly. For instance, if I in England publish a post about the Sudan in my blog - and Jim in Boston uses the post at his blog - that gets by someone in an Indian oil company in Sudan who sees a link to my blog in Jim's post and posts a comment at my post. Is that what is meant by three or four degrees of separation? Or would I need to have known the person in India beforehand?

I've googled* for info on the six degrees of separation. Seems everyone on Earth is separated from anyone else by no more than six degrees of separation, or six friends of friends of friends. Is that still the case in the global village of the Internet? An online experiment asked people to help find out the answer. Here's the results so far:

"...We started the experiment on 15-Apr-1999. Since then, 6971 messages have been sent as part of 5943 different message chains. Of those, 28 have reached our friend. And the average number of steps it took to get to the friend is 1.0! The percentage of successful chains is 0.0%. And the average number of steps it took to get to our friend is 1.0, so it seems that in the virtual world, we are separated by 1.0 degrees. ..."

Sorry, I can't grasp the meaning or the results. If any readers can explain the results or usefulness of the concept, I'm hoping they might share in a post or comment here.

* NYT reports today: At Google, Earnings Soar, and Share Price Follows - Google's already soaring stock price rocketed even higher after reporting strong growth in its first quarter as a public company.
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Everyone is connected to everyone else in the world by six sets of acquaintances?

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, six degrees of separation is a phrase deriving from the small world experiment referring to the concept that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world by only six degrees of separation, or six sets of acquaintances.

The term Six Degrees of Separation is often distored (sic) to indicate that six generations is the maximum extent to which everyone in the world is related. This has been disproved in numerous genealogy circles since six generations translates roughly to 250 years. It has been calculated, more accurately, that the maximum relationship a person living in the modern age can be to someone else, anywhere in the world, is 30-32 generations removed which is roughly 1200 years of ancestory.

Wikipedia: Six degrees of Wikipedia

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 10/23/2004
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