Six degrees

I recently watched the most fascinating documentary called How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer. (you can actually watch it if you click that link and have an hour to spare)

You know that game – six degrees of Kevin Bacon? It started out as a drinking game. You name an actor, any actor, then through connections in movie casts you need to jump to Kevin Bacon in six steps. It is a silly game.

The incredible thing occurred when mathematicians decided to plot out the mathematical theories behind the game. They found an equation which they then applied to other networks – electrical networks, airline networks, telephone networks, brain neuron networks. Remarkably they found that the equation applied to every sort of network. This developed a new field of science – network science.

The next breakthrough occurred in studying the internet, with the realisation that within every network there are hubs. Major players with lots and lots of links. Again a mathematical representation was formed and it was found to apply to all networks.

Then another leap occurred. Network science was applied to DNA mapping. Scientist and mathematicians joined together to represent diseases as a network. To show how one genetic condition can link to another. They found that some diseases are key hubs – cure those and you might just wipe out many networked diseases.

Thus Kevin Bacon helped to cure cancer.

I am in awe of the human brain- our ability to think, reason, to be creative in all endeavours. It gives me a lot of faith in our humanity.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Six degrees

  1. Cancer has cut a huge swathe through my acquaintance this year, I hope this networking stuff can help.

    (I’ve got 3 degrees from KB, I was in a play with a guy who later appeared as the barman in the Secret Life Of Us, and one of his cast-mates in that show was in a movie with KB)

  2. Miss Caroline – you just get cooler by the minute!

  3. My wee brain will need some visuals to get this! But sounds very interesting especially the diseases links.

    I know someone called Kevin and I like Bacon – ????

  4. Kevin Bacon cured cancer? And all these years I’ve just thought of him as the lead actor in my all-time favourite movie…Footloose.

  5. That was absolutely fascinating!

  6. Isn’t the human brain wondrous?!

    I just finished reading a whack of essays, many of which lament the situation of human rights throughout the world. My next task, which started yesterday, starts with the idea of hope. It has merely been 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the UN. Sixty years is a mere blimp in humankind time.

    Progress is being made in so many areas albeit there’s a long way to go. Creativity, time and determination makes all the difference.

  7. Well. I’m betting Kevin Bacon feels pretty darn special!

  8. It’s amazing that while some of us are playing silly games so we can have a drink, others are out there being sensible and curing stuff.

    Makes me feel, well, kind of thirsty, really! 🙂

  9. Kevin was impressed Molly. So much so that he started a charitable foundation to raise money to support the work that the scientists are doing. I knew he was a good guy from the moment I saw him in Footloose!

  10. Lest anyone think that mathematics is a useless study which will not be of interest once one leaves school …

    But, yes. There are wonderful things going on all around us, aren’t there?

  11. I saw the end of that Kevin Bacon thing. Oh 6-degrees is funny. (isn’t it known that it only takes 6 people to be in lineof who knows Kevin Bacon?) You should do the 6 degrees on Facebook – scary stuff. SOmeone you know will in doubt know someone who you didn’t know they knew. DOes that make sense? Probably not. It is because I am frozen and my brain won’t think with out tropical heat.

  12. Human inspiration amazes me. How people get ideas, act on them, move us forward. Indeed it is fascinating.

  13. Fascinating post. Just goes to prove my theory that the answer to life is a Persian Rug.

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