Bacon number

From Academic Kids

Kevin Bacon is well known actor and has inspired a college movie trivia game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which is intended to find the Bacon number of an arbitrary actor or actress. The Bacon number of an actor or actress is determined as follows:

  • Kevin Bacon himself has a Bacon number of zero.
  • The Bacon number of actor or actress A is defined to be the minimum of the Bacon numbers of all the actors or actresses with whom A appeared in a movie produced by a major studio, plus one. The most common source used to determine whether or not a film is valid is whether or not it is present on the Internet Movie Database.

By this definition, there is at least one IMDb actor with an infinite Bacon number, Fred Ott. He acted in only two films and is the only actor in each of them, disproving the Theory of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon that everyone who has ever appeared in any movie has a finite Bacon number. (Thomas Edison would be another example, if you count his appearance in a film).

However, the majority of actors do have a Bacon number of 2 or 3. The higher the Bacon number of an actor, the less connected they are to other actors. Using one of the actors with the highest known finite Bacon number (8), William Rufus Shafter as the centre of the acting universe instead of Bacon, we can find two actors with a Rufus Shafter number of 15.

The Bacon number is an application of the same idea as the Erdős number in Mathematics to the movie industry. Paul Erdős was himself believed to have a Bacon number of 4, due to his appearance as himself in the 1993 film N Is a Number, but this is now believed to be in error due to a conflation of similarly named persons.

Notably, Bacon is not the most linkable actor. That honour (as of December 30, 2004) goes to Rod Steiger, with an average Steiger number of 2.679. By contrast, the average Bacon number is 2.955.

Actors with record largest finite Bacon number by year

Year Record
1996 7
1997 7
1998 all 7s
1999 8
2000 all 8s
Dec 2000 9, 10
Jul 2003 all 8s

But note: according to the Oracle of Bacon at Virginia,

"About 12% of all actors cannot be linked to the rest of the movie universe, either because they have appeared only in TV features or straight-to-video releases that the Oracle doesn't count, or because they have not appeared in any features with actors from the Hollywood mainstream."

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