Does 6 Degrees Of Separation Work? Veritasium Dives Into The Science Of The Phenomenon — VIDEO
We're all familiar with the idea of theoretically being connected with every person on the planet through a maximum of six "degrees" — but does six degrees of separation actually work? That's what the YouTube channel Veritasium tackles in their latest video, and it turns out that the science behind the six degrees theory is all kinds of fascinating. It's a long video, but it's definitely worth a watch — because of course we all want to know if everyone is connected to Kevin Bacon in some way, shape, or form, right?
Veritasium deals with all sorts of neat-o STEM topics by examining them through experiments, conducting interviews with experts, and more. Want to know the truth about the way toilets flush in the southern hemisphere? Veritasium has you covered. Curious about how the pyramids were built? Yep, that's covered, too. The beauty of the channel is that whether we're dealing with big picture concepts or weird little quirks and idiosyncrasies, the videos explain things in terms that easy for laypeople to understand.
The six degrees of separation video is no different, so of course it's absoutely riveting. It walks us through not only the theory itself, but also its history, the research looking into it, and more. Scroll down to watch the full video, and check out more cool stuff over at Veritasium's YouTube channel. Are you ready for this? Here we go:
1. What's the Theory?
Let's say you have 44 friends. Let's also say that each one of those friends also has 44 friends who are not already your friends. Each of those friends has 44 friends, and so do each of those friends, and those ones, and those ones. Those six steps connects you by 44 to the sixth power people — that is, 7.26 billion people. Given that the world population is currently at 7.3 billion people… well, that means that you're connected in some capacity to pretty much everyone in the world.
2. But Where Did It Come From?
In 1929, Hungarian author and poet Frigyes Karinthy wrote a short story called “Chains,” which you can read in its entirety here. One of the characters in the story challenges his buddies to find one person on the planet to whom he is unable to connect himself within five “intermediaries” — that is, degrees. As far as we know, this is the first time the theory was posited.
3. Has It Been Proven?
Sort of. In 1967, Stanley Milgram — who you might remember from the research colloquially known as the Milgram experiment — published the results of his “small-world experiment” in Psychology Today. Milgram mailed out 300 packages to people living in Boston and Nebraska, asking them to get those packages back to a target person in Boston. The catch? They couldn't just mail the packages to the target person — they had to use their connections to get it to him. 64 of the packages made it to their destination in an average of 5.2 connections. As Medical Daily points out, though, it's worth noting that Milgram's experiment was flawed; a lot of the people who were instructed to pass the package along lived in the same city or had the same occupation as the target.
4. So How Does Kevin Bacon Fit Into It?
After Kevin Bacon commented in a January 1994 interview that he had either worked with everyone in Hollywood or someone who has worked with them, three friends at Albright College in Pennsylvania came up with the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” concept. It's a game that challenges players to connect any actor to Kevin Bacon through a maximum of six steps.
Later, a bunch of sociologists looking at a vast database of actors eventually found that, yeah, it's actually pretty accurate. The clustering, however, was kind of unusual. Ultimately, what they determined was this: In order for the six degrees concept to work, you need not only groupings of close friends, but also a few random acquaintances thrown in there — because the random acquaintances know people your friends probably don't.
There's a lot more to it, so watch the full video below. Do you feel a little more connected now?
Images: Veritasium/YouTube (3)