Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Erdös numbers & other geekery

RPM over at Evolgen has recently posted on the (perhaps facetious) need for a version of an Erdös number in biology. If you don't know what an Erdös number is, it basically is the geekier version of "six degrees of Kevin Bacon". Paul Erdös (1913-1996) was a prolific mathematician who had many co-authors. If you co-authored a paper with Erdös, you have an Erdös number of 1, if you didn't collaborate with Erdös himself but instead with one of his collaborators, you have an Erdös number of 2, and so forth. It's a point of pride among mathematicians to have a low Erdös number.

Well, shouldn't biologists join in on the fun? RPM has suggested that Richard Gibbs should be our Erdös. Of course, he's honest enough to mention that he has a Gibbs number of one, but Gibbs isn't actually a bad choice, at least in genomics. I suggested Craig Venter or Claire Fraser (as I have a both a Venter and a Fraser number of 1), but RPM suggested that I wasn't really getting into the spirit of things. Still, (as you'll see), these connections still help me.

So first of all, having done a postdoc in a Computer Science department, I'd just like to state that I have a respectable Erdös number of 4. (Paul Erdös -> Charles Colbourn -> Derek Corneil -> Paul Kearney -> me).

My Gibbs number isn't so bad either, at 2. (Richard Gibbs -> Craig Venter -> me)

Someone on evolgen suggested Eric Lander. My Lander number is 3 (Eric Lander -> Michael Eisen -> Steven Salzberg -> me).


RPM said...

I may have suggested that you weren't really getting into the spirit of things, but I also realized the problem in my suggestion. We've gotta find someone who is both famous and highly mobile. This is of utmost importance. Let me rephrase that: THIS IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE!!!

And it would be really cool if it were someone applicable for biologists outside the field of genomics.

Jonathan Eisen said...

My suggestions

1. Sydney Brenner

2. David Botstein (so much better than Lander)

3. Carl Woese

michael said...

Well, Lander has an Erdos number of 2... (or Erdos has a Lander number of 2)