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September 20, 2012

What’s your Bacon number? Google codes six degrees of Kevin Bacon into search engine

6 degrees of Kevin Bacon tech edition by

Ahh, Google – good for finding out so very many obscure things.

In the 90’s and the first days of Google, I remember hearing that there was a search ticker in their office that showed each search term as people wanted to find out the price of eggs in Alaska, for example. Or porn. I bet they saw that word come up a lot.

Now, Google takes all the missteps out of calculating the six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon. Thank goodness! No more mistakes, but it does kind of take the fun out of it somewhat. Then again, I’m not a walking database so who am I to complain? Thanks, Google.

If you’re not familiar with the original game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a variation on the theory of six degrees of separation, which basically states that at any two people on our planet are only ever six acquaintances apart. The trick is to find the path that joins who knows who.

The ‘bacon number’ shows Kevin Bacon’s connection to a popular Hollywood actor in six or less steps, based on the movies they appeared in.

Here’s how it works: type ‘bacon number johnny depp’ into Google, for example. Et voila! The score is 2, and their mutual acquaintance is Helena Bonham Carter who worked with Depp in Dark Shadows, and Bacon in Novocaine. It’s kind of like LinkedIn, but cooler.

To be fair, Google weren’t the first kids on the block to come up with this. The Oracle of Bacon  has been around for a while (1996 to be exact), and uses the internet movie database IMDb  to connect actors to Bacon. Google, on the other hand, uses their semantic-search-based Knowledge Graph launched in May 2012. Google’s Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon search results also include non-actors – try Anne Frank, for example. She has a score of 3, going right back to Kevin’s cutesie days in Footloose.

Of course, Google’s results are skewed. Because they don’t use IMDb, the newest Hollywood stars just don’t get a mention. The older and more obscure usually only reach a score of 4, let alone 6. Yet The Oracle of Bacon shows that it is possible to get a score of 7 or even 8 – 27 people hold that particular honour.

There are of course better connected actors in Hollywood than Bacon like Sean Connery for example, who with a longer career could actually challenge Bacon to a face-off.

And just in case you’re wondering, Jesus Christ does not have a Bacon Number. Adolf Hitler does, though. His Bacon score is 2.


About the Author

Evon Koprowski
Brand storyteller, creative strategist, content marketer and all round bon vivant at Red Fortune Media where I growth hack projects for the arts, culture, tourism, technology and social sectors. I'm freelance - if I can help you, get in touch.

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