TITLE: My Erdos Number
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: March 31, 2011 8:06 PM
Back in the early days of my blog, I wrote about
as a measure of a researcher's contribution to
the scientific community. In that article, the
mathematician Paul Erdos makes a guest appearance
in a quoted discussion about the trade-off between
a small number of highly influential articles and
a large number of articles having smaller effect.
Erdos is perhaps the best example of the former.
By most accounts, he published more papers than
any other mathematician in history, usually
detailing what he called "little theorems". He
is also widely know for the number of different
coauthors with whom he published, so much so that
is a badge of honor among mathematicians and
computer scientists. The shorter the path between
a researcher and Erdos in the collaboration graph
of authors and co-authors, the more impressive.
recently pointed me in the direction of Microsoft's
VisualExplorer, which finds the shortest paths
between any author and Erdos. Now I know that
my Erdos number is 3.
To be honest, I was surprised to find that my
number was so small. There are many paths of
lengths four and five connecting me to Erdos,
courtesy of several of my good buddies and
co-authors who started their professional lives
in mathematics. (Hey to
But thanks to
I have a path of length 3 to Erdos. I have
worked with Dave at OOPSLA and
on a new vision for computer science, software
development, and university education. Like me,
Dave has not published a huge number of papers,
but he has an eclectic set of interests and
collaborators. One of his co-authors published
with Erdos. 1-2-3!
In the world of agile software development, we
have our own graph-theoretic badge of honor, the
Ward number. If you have pair-programmed with
Ward Cunningham, your Ward number is 1... and so
on. My Ward number is 2, via the same Joe in my
Erdos network, Bergin.
Back in even earlier days of my blog, I wrote an
entry connected to Erdos, via his idea of
Proofs from THE BOOK.
Erdos was a colorful character!
Yes, computer scientists and mathematicians like
to have fun, even if their fun involves graphs
and path-finding algorithms.