TITLE: My Erdos Number AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 31, 2011 8:06 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Back in the early days of my blog, I wrote about the H number 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 one's Erdos number 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. Kevlin Henney 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 Owen and Joe.) But thanks to Dave West, I have a path of length 3 to Erdos. I have worked with Dave at OOPSLA and at ChiliPLoP 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. -----