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Erdős Number

Paul Erdős (1913-1996) was a mathematician probably most famous for being nothing but a mathematician, eccentric and brilliant even by the standards of that breed. He published over 1500 papers during his life, while for years he lived without any permanent address. He would crash with mathematician friends of his while collaborating, fueled by a diet of coffee and amphetamines, and occasionally collecting cash prizes for solving outstanding problems in math.

Because he was so prolific and published so widely, as a tribute, his friends created the “Erdős number“, a kind of nerd version of the Kevin Bacon game. Erdős has a number of 0. People he co-authored papers with have a 1. People who co-authored papers with them have a 2, and so on. My Erdős Number, as near as I can determine, is 5.

That’s right, ladies: five.

  1. Paul Erdös, F Harary and Maria Klawe. 1980. Residually complete graphs. Combinatorial mathematics, optimal designs and their applications, Proceedings of a Symposium on Combinatorial Mathematics and Optimal Design; Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, 1978, Annals of Discrete Mathematics 6, 1980:117-123
  2. K Inkpen, Kellogg S Booth, S D Gribble and Maria Klawe. 1995. Give and take: Children collaborating on one computer. CHI’95 Conference Companion, (Denver, Colorado).
  3. A Csinger, Kellogg S Booth and David Poole. 1994. AI Meets Authoring: User models for untelligent multimedia. Artificial Intelligence Review. Springer Netherlands. 8(5-6):447-468.
  4. P Carbonetto, J Kisynski, Nando de Freitas and David Poole. 2005. Nonparametric Bayesian Logic. Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence 2005.
  5. Eric Brochu, Nando de Freitas and Kejie Bao. 2003. The Sound of an Album Cover: Probabilistic Multimedia and AI. AI-STATS 2003.

Actually, having a number of 5 isn’t particularly noteworthy, even for a student. What I think is interesting is the way that the connections spread not just through authors, but through fields. The first paper is a math paper. The second is about human-computer interaction (HCI): research on the way people use computers. The third is on user-modelling, which combines HCI and AI. The fourth paper is a stats-oriented AI paper, as is the fifth one (mine), though my focus is not theoretical, but applied. By this point we’re a very long way from the pure math of Paul Erdős. I kind of like the idea of different branches of research being so tightly networked together.