Thursday, January 09, 2003

What is your Erdös number?

Well before the Kevin Bacon craze, mathematicians and theoretical computer scientists measured their worth by their distance from the great combinatorialist Paul Erdös. Your Erdös Number is defined inductively as follows
  • Paul Erdös has an Erdös number of 0.
  • If your Erdös number is not ≤ i and you have one or more co-authors with Erdös number i than your Erdös number is i+1.
My Erdös number is 2 as I have three co-authors who have written papers with Paul Erdös: Laszlo Babai, Mario Szegedy and Noga Alon. As Paul Erdös passed away in 1996, it is quite unlikely that it will decrease.

Jerry Grossman maintains a web page devoted to the Erdös number project.

Here is a conversation I once had with a colleague Carl Smith.
Carl: I think my Erdös number is 4.
Me: My Erdös number is 2.
Carl: My Erdös number is 3.

So what is your Erdös number? It is probably less than you think.

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