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As many of you know, starting in the 1960s, mathematicians had fun at
parties (no, really) by trying to figure out their Erdős number. This
referred to their minimum collaboration distance between themselves
and the extremely prolific mathematician Paul Erdős -- Erdős has
number 0, people who coauthored a paper with him have number 1, their
coauthors have number 2, and so on.
My own Erdős number is at most 4 via at least two network paths:
me - Michael Laver - Norman Schofield - Craig Tovey - Paul Erdős
me - Bernard Grofman - Norman Schofield - Craig Tovey - Paul Erdős
Well, today I learned from my neighbors that Timothy Carr, the man
from whom I bought my current house, was leaning towards voting for
Obama until McCain announced his vice-presidential nominee (stay with
me here). But in what must have been a stunned voice, he said "I
can't vote for Obama now -- I kissed Sara Palin when I was in high
school!" (Needless to say, Carr is from Alaska)
So, astonishingly, this seems to give me a "Palin number" of at most 2
(though unless I am really drunk, I'm pretty sure it's not 0 or 1):
me - Timothy Carr - Sara Palin
I bought my house from a man who kissed Sara Palin.
Maybe even more remarkably, if we stretch the rules on what
constitutes a "collaboration", it gives Palin an Erdős number of at
most 6. Compare that with Natalie Portman whose Erdős number is at
most 5 from her Harvard psych undergrad days.
All sorts of interesting questions arise.
*In high school was Palin as prolific in "collaborating" as Erdős was
*Could this be a factor behind "the Palin bump?"
*Are there any shorter paths between Paul Erdős and Sara Palin?
*And what is *your* Palin number?
James H. Fowler
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