M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Friday, August 01, 2003  

Dolphins! Science! Jazz!

CorpKitten sent me an interesting article the other day, and the e-mail had that subject line. I’m going to talk about the article. What the hell, it won’t kill me to act like a blogger once in a while.

Here, go read it. I’m posting a short entry today anyway, so you have time.

I like the way the article uses jazz musicians and bottlenose dolphins to support the “small world” theory. However, it seems like they could have gone even further with the idea, and and found out how many jazz-playing dolphins know each other. I think the results of that study would be staggering.

I’ve always been kind of interested in the “six degrees of separation” theory, ever since I first heard about it. It makes sense to me, and the best part of it is that it can never be proved false. Part of that is because of the indefinability of what constitutes a “connection.” For instance, I’m connected to the Pope by only two degrees if you consider Chao connected to him. In Chao’s case, that connection constitutes snapping a photo of the pontiff gliding unexpectedly past him on his indoor Popemobile. Obviously if one requires Chao’s connections to the Holy Father and myself to be symmetrical, my connection to the Pope breaks down. But one doesn’t, because a) few connections are symmetrical anyway, and b) I don’t own a Popemobile.

On the other extreme, of course, there’s the hypothetical person in the Andes or the Sahara or the Arctic or a South Pacific island who has only ever met six people in his or her life. Any researcher who wants to use this person as a counterexample is going to have to find and contact and interview him or her, and whoops! Now that person is two degrees from everyone the researcher has ever met. Which, given this particular researcher’s field, is likely to be quite a few people.

It seems like the Internet would be the ideal tool for not only testing the hypothesis, but making it self-fulfilling. That doesn’t seem to be the case as much as one might think. I'm not even talking about the Blogosphere. A few years ago I signed up at the Six Degrees website. I looked at it a few times, but I haven’t been back in years. I remember it primarily as a highly reliable tool for crashing my computer, actually, and once the novelty of that wore off I didn’t see a reason to continue. I didn’t even check it before I linked it so it might be pr0n now for all I know. It’s Friday, okay? I’m on cruise control.

Hey, you too? Wow, small world.

* * *

There was someone in the office today who was dressed exactly like somebody’s WeatherPixie. Freaked me out a little. Do you think she was doing it on purpose?

* * *

Today’s best search phrase: “cream the rabbit and chao cheese pictures.” At first I had no idea what this person was looking for; I only knew I didn’t have it. Further research reveals that these are characters in a video game that also features Sonic the Hedgehog, one of the ever-growing category of topics that make me realize the world isn’t so small after all, and there are many, many things in it about which I know nothing. Then I wondered, having used those words, why I don’t get more hits for them. And then I realized it was because I wasn’t also using the words “Sonic the Hedgehog.”

Well, problem solved.

posted by M. Giant 3:34 PM 0 comments


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