People are separated by just six degrees: study

August 4th, 2008 - 10:14 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Barack Obama

London, Aug 4 (IANS) Do you know that you are just six introductions away from famous people such as the Dalai Lama or Barack Obama? Though it sounds strange, we are all linked by chains of acquaintance, a new study has found. Researchers at Microsoft, who analysed the emails of some 180 million people around the globe, backed the long-standing theory that everyone is connected every other person on the planet by six degrees of separation, the Sunday Telegraph has reported.

After studying the links between 30 billion separate emails, the researchers said any two strangers in the world of 6.6 billion people are distanced by precisely 6.6 degrees of separation, the report said.

“To me, it was pretty shocking. What we’re seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity. People have had this suspicion that we are really close,” said lead researcher Eric Horvitz.

“But we are showing on a very large scale that this idea goes beyond folklore.”

Horvitz and his fellow researcher Jure Leskovec used a database that covered all the Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging network for their study, taking nearly half of the world’s instant-messaging traffic, according to the report.

The pair looked at the minimum chain lengths it would take to connect 180 billion different pairs of users in the database. They found that the average length was 6.6 hops, and that 78 percent of the pairs could be connected in seven steps or fewer.

The six degrees of separation theory became popular in 1994 following the invention of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon by some Albright College students in Pennsylvania.

The idea was to connect every film actor to Bacon in six cast lists or fewer.

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