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  #1  
Old 28 January 2008, 10:44 PM
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Teacher Scientists Debunk 'Six Degrees of Separation'

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The well known "six degrees of separation" idea traces back to a 1967 experiment by Stanley Milgram, who tried to determine how many acquaintances it would take to pass a letter between two randomly selected people.

The result that entered the public imagination was that, in general, it took six steps or fewer to bridge the gap between any two people. But is that result accurate?

Judith Kleinfeld, a professor of psychology at the University of Alaska, researched Milgram's original experiment in the hopes of updating it for the digital world.

"Milgram's startling conclusion turns out to rest on scanty evidence," she says. "The idea of 'six degrees of separation' may, in fact, be plain wrong the academic equivalent of an urban myth."
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...oryId=18417083
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Old 29 January 2008, 12:46 AM
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Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Whalephant

It would be impossible for the actual number to be known; to arrive at it, you would need a linked-list system that contains the name of every person in the world (or country, or city, or whatever your domain is) along with the names of everybody that person knows.

You could only arrive at it in an artificial environment.

The experiment only gives an approximation. It works by our intelligently attempting to deliver the message we are given. i.e., suppose I want to hand a letter to President Bush. Well, as it happens I know someone who knows the U.S. Secretary of State. Me > my friend > Sec. State > President. That's three steps. But there are a lot of people who are that close to me that I don't know are that close to me. I have no idea, for instance, how to go about getting a similar letter to the Governor of Alaska. I couldn't possibly tell you how many steps of separation there are.

But...what can be established, and fairly easily, is: how many people does the typical person know? How many friends do you have? How many contacts, whom you could use to deliver a letter? Most of us, here on snopes, are happily integrated into the information economy. So, what, we know maybe 2,000 people each? (My Outlook database goes to 850, and I know it's far from complete.) Maybe 3,000. Call it 2,500 for ease of computation.

What's the log of 7 billion to the base 2,500? Around 2.9. So, if everyone's networks had no overlaps and were smoothly blended (like a good pipe tobacco) the entire world's population could be spanned by only three separations.

The world's population is, however, clumped. There are overlaps. (But...not all that many. In all of snopes, I only know two members that I had met before joining. One, I recruited; the other found his own way here.) The estimate of 2,500 doesn't really have to be reduced much.

Isolation of groups is the big killer. I don't know anyone in Darfur, or Tibet. But the "information age" is a huge counteractant: having a friend in the U.S. foreign service opens a lot of opportunities. (And...everyone in snopes knows someone who knows such a diplomat!)

Six steps of separation "feels right." I can't see it requiring much more, on the average, because the most isolated of people are also quite rare.

(There might be a few thousand souls whom no one knows: people who live in caves or tents or behind locked doors. Maybe. I don't think that their "degree of separation" should be calculated as "infinite," as that would explode the average to infinity.)

Silas
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Old 29 January 2008, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
There might be a few thousand souls whom no one knows: people who live in caves or tents or behind locked doors.
And eventually, they're all going to send us the "Tourist Guy" photo ...

- snopes
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  #4  
Old 30 January 2008, 05:11 PM
KirkMcD KirkMcD is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
The experiment only gives an approximation. It works by our intelligently attempting to deliver the message we are given. i.e., suppose I want to hand a letter to President Bush. Well, as it happens I know someone who knows the U.S. Secretary of State. Me > my friend > Sec. State > President. That's three steps. But there are a lot of people who are that close to me that I don't know are that close to me. I have no idea, for instance, how to go about getting a similar letter to the Governor of Alaska. I couldn't possibly tell you how many steps of separation there are.
What do you mean you don't know how to get a letter to the Governor of Alaska? The answer is staring you right in the face. Either the Sec of State or the President surely have a link to him. Whether they would do it for you or not is another story.
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Old 03 August 2008, 04:13 AM
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Ponder Instant-Messagers Really Are About Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon

The "small world theory," embodied in the old saw that there are just "six degrees of separation" between any two strangers on Earth, has been largely corroborated by a massive study of electronic communication.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...080103718.html
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  #6  
Old 03 August 2008, 04:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
I have no idea, for instance, how to go about getting a similar letter to the Governor of Alaska. I couldn't possibly tell you how many steps of separation there are.
I'll be in the San Diego area soon. Give it to me, I'll give it to Arnold, he can hand it off at the next Western Gov's Association meeting.

At the same time, I'll give you something for W.
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Old 03 August 2008, 04:22 AM
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ganzfeld ganzfeld is offline
 
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Quote:
The "small world theory," embodied in the old saw that there are just "six degrees of separation" between any two strangers on Earth, has been largely corroborated by a massive study of electronic communication.
Which is a little like saying, "The theory of gravity, embodied in the old saw that 'what goes up must come down', has been corroborated by studies of the planetary motion..." "Six degrees of separation" never really had much to do with the actual science. (Note that the distance 6.6 given in the article is an "average", a totally different measure and, most probably, just coincidentally similar to the "six degrees".)
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