Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Six Degrees of Separation

Did you know that everyone in this world is separated by a chain of just six acquaintances. True enough. I stumbled upon this link today via Gmail Clip bar:
In 1967, psychologist Stanley Milgram tried to test the theory by sending several letters to random people in the Midwest. The letter featured the name, address, and occupation of a single person on the East Coast; participants were asked to forward the letters to the people who they thought were most likely to know the person. It took an average of five intermediaries to reach the target.
The last time I had heard the term was for an advanced programming assignment (my first truly torturous CS course) - where we were required to efficiently figure out the six degrees between two actors (we were working in the movie domain) and well I had hated it back then. I never thought of it beyond that assignment. But now I am intrigued. Why does it hold true? Apparently there is still no mathematical proof - only the one carried out by Stanely Milgram. So why does it hold? I suck with Math - can any Math cheetah hazard a guess?