Six degrees of separation is a theory that everyone is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any person in the world, so that a chain of a friend of a friend statements can connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy and popularized by a play written by John Guare. Theories on optimal design of cities, city traffic flows and demographics were a trend after WWI. This concept was expanded in 1929 by Karinthy who published a volume of stories titled Everything is Different. One of the stories was “Chains,” or “Chain-Links.” The story investigated many of the problems that would captivate generations of mathematicians, sociologists, and physicists within the field of network theory.Karinthy’s characters believed that any two individuals could be connected through at most five acquaintances. In his story, the characters create a game out of this notion. He wrote:
A game grew out of this discussion. One of us suggested performing the following experiment to prove that the population of the Earth is closer together now than they have ever been before. We select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances
The concept became a 1993 comedy movie entitled Six Degrees of Separation, starring Will Smith as David Hampton, which was inspired by real life con artist David Hampton. Hampton gained infamy in the 1980s after milking a group of wealthy Manhattan people out of thousands of dollars by telling them he was Sidney Poitier’s son. But yesterday researchers announced the theory was right – nearly. By studying billions of electronic messages, they configured that any two strangers are distanced by precisely 6.6 degrees of separation. So you are linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances to Madonna, the Dalai Lama and the Queen. The news will come as no surprise to film buffs who for years have been playing the parlour game for years, particularly known as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.This concept is to link Bacon in six films or fewer to other actors. In fashion and gossip magazines, several celebrities have been linked in fewer than six degrees to one another by way of romantic attachments.
Being a Marilyn Monroe fan I recently built a blog entitled Marilyn Forever. While researching Elizabeth Short for this blog, I came across several articles suggesting she may have known Monroe, or at least have been an acquaintance. I doubt that personally however there was an intriguing link between the two: John Gilmore, who is the author of Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia. He himself was an actor and producer. He knew Marilyn Monroe when he was studying with the Strasbergs at the Actors Studio in New York. Thus, Monroe and Gilmore were separated only by the Strasbergs (two degrees of separation), and Short and Monroe only by two degrees of separation, being Gilmore. This implies 4 degrees of separation, rather than 6. In that sense, Short and Monroe were indeed acquaintances, two degrees removed. Now that connection I can believe.