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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  
at publishing?

*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
http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu




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