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.