# Borrowing Geek Cred from the Mathematicians

Quick background: Paul Erdös was a prolific mathematician. If you co-authored a paper with him, you have an Erdös number of 1. If you co-author a paper with someone with an Erdös number of 1, you have an Erdös number of 2. It’s like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon if you’re a gigantic dork.

Now that one of my papers has been officially accepted, I officially have an Erdös number of no greater than 6 – which fact I discovered using this handy-dandy search engine*. Though sadly, one of the papers that links me to Erdös is an obituary, not actual research.

As far as I can tell, this is not especially impressive, but I’m sort of pleased with it anyway.

I also discovered via the Mathematics Genealogy Project that my 10th-great-grand-advisor (to whatever extent an academic stillbirth counts as having ancestry) is Simeon Poisson.

Mathematicians have gone completely Web 2.0 with their intellectual connections. Is this evidence of a disciplinary obsession with pedigree? Or just a natural result of a decent database and an understandable geeky interest in social network topology?

*Handy-dandiness may vary with subfield. I’m actually quite curious whether Erdös numbers in the geosciences line up with the perceived mathiness of various subfields.

estravenwrote:Congratulations! Of course we mathematicians did know our Erdos numbers way before internet became popular, only it was harder to compute them.

I guess we are so web 2.0 in some things to compensate our being 19th century in others. No, I don’t mean 20th century – we still give talks with white chalk on very large slate blackboards whenever we can.

Posted 30 May 2008 at 9:10 am ¶