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<   No. 1448   2007-01-13   >

Comic #1448

1 Me: So, Kevin Bacon, what do you think of this whole "Bacon number" phenomenon?
2 Kevin Bacon: I think it's a healthy exploration of theoretical mathematical concepts, in particular algebraic graph theory, in a social setting, so I'm all in favour.
3 Me: And that would include endorsing people who digitally composite your image into webcomics in an attempt to achieve a Bacon number of 1?
4 Kevin Bacon: Why yes, I approve wholeheartedly. Say, can I have your autograph?

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Kevin Bacon is a good friend of mine, and has been bugging me for ages to appear in the comic, so I wrote this to humour him.

We're referring to the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and its definition of the so-called Bacon number. For anyone who may not have heard of these, the idea is that you pick any actor in history, and then find links to Kevin Bacon via other people and films that they have mutually appeared in. The length of the shortest such chain of links gives you the actor's Bacon number.

For example:

  1. George Lucas appeared (as an uncredited cameo) in Hook, with Dustin Hoffman.
  2. Dustin Hoffman appeared in Sleepers, with Kevin Bacon.
Therefore my other good friend George Lucas has a Bacon number of 2.

Kevin himself has a Bacon number of 0, and it's not possible for anyone else to attain this ultimate achievement*, so the best anyone else can claim is a Bacon number of 1. Working out Bacon numbers by yourself can be tricky work, but thankfully the Oracle of Bacon has made the job much easier.

* Short of some mad science involving cloning and DNA manipulation and possibly mind transfer. Hmmm... I wonder if Andy Weir is busy...


2016-09-05 Rerun commentary: Since this comic was first published, I actually obtained a genuine non-cheating Bacon number! It's because I took part in the Star Wars fan production Star Wars: Uncut, contributing this scene to the film. (I'm playing Han Solo.) Several clips from the film were used in The People vs. George Lucas, including that one. That film also featured Karen Allen, who starred in Animal House, with Kevin Bacon.

I do like to think that Kevin Bacon not only enjoys the Bacon number phenomenon, but enjoys it because of its interesting theoretical mathematics.

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