Six degrees of Bacon. Maybe.

A few weeks back I happened to mention Thunderbirds to a friend of mine.

A photo I took of the Corgi Thunderbird 2 model I've had since forever... And it's not tilt-shift. This is what happens on a focal length of 190mm at f 5.6, natural light with exposure time of 1/100.
A photo I took of the Corgi Thunderbird 2 model I’ve had since forever… And it’s not tilt-shift. This is what happens on a focal length of 190mm at f 5.6, natural light with exposure time of 1/100.

‘Oh, Gerry,’ he said. ‘I did some work for him, back when I was in the UK.’

Makes that friend of mine one degree of separation from the late director, Gerry Anderson. Small world.

The actual game is linking actors in less than six steps, via movies they’ve been in, to Kevin Bacon. Another friend suggested calling them ‘rashers’, as in bacon but also Bacon. The game works in real life, too. For instance, two of my regular readers, each independently, are two ‘rashers’ from Neil Armstrong, and I bet there are connections other readers have that I don’t know about.

In New Zealand, we’re all meant to be two degrees apart by default, and one of our phone companies calls itself ‘Two Degrees’ for that reason. Actually it’s not true, it’s more like three or four, even within miniscule communities such as the New Zealand history field or writing. Personally, I’ve got fewer ‘rashers’ to Gerry Anderson.

Neil Armstrong in the LM, tired but elated after the first moon walk, 20 July 1969. Photo: NASA
Neil Armstrong in the LM, tired but elated after the first moon walk, 20 July 1969. Photo: NASA, public domain.

In any case, it’s difficult to test empirically. I’ve seen figures such as an actual ‘degree of separation’ between any two random people on the planet (let’s call it the ‘Bacon Number’) of 6.6. However, I suspect this is true only within similar cultures. That’s because ‘degrees of Bacon’ pivot on ‘connectors’. One individual opens up a network of others.

Trouble is, knowing that I am connected to another Joe Blow by 6.6 links – someone I don’t know, will never meet, and whose life is as ordinary as mine – isn’t all that interesting – which is why the game’s usually played by figuring out your chain ‘o links to somebody famous.  ‘I danced with a woman who danced with a man who danced with a woman who danced with the Prince of Wales’. Total strangers, in other words – by definition, nobody has direct connection beyond the first link. But it shows us how human society is linked, which is pretty interesting.

And it’s kinda fun. Can you link yourself to Kevin Bacon via people you can link to (however indirectly) who’ve appeared in movies? Here’s the tool

I can do it in five ‘rashers’. An immediate family member had an actress friend who starred in an early ’70s British horror movie with Christopher Lee, who was in Airport ’77 with John Kerry, who was in Frost/Nixon with…Kevin Bacon. For me the coolest part of this link is it puts me six degrees from everybody in Apollo 13, which was one awesome film.


 Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

Coming up: More writing tips, science geekery, humour and more. Watch this space.

11 thoughts on “Six degrees of Bacon. Maybe.

  1. Completely unrelated, but I find it hilarious that a friend was explaining ‘rashers’ to me earlier today, and that I am currently eating a BLT sandwich as I read your blog post.

  2. Not a movie star, but I know several people who knows someone else who has met Nelson Mandela (but then I reckon everyone in SA can claim that!) Hey! Add to it all the movie stars who’ve met Mandela and I’m just three degrees away from a whole lot of them.😀

  3. I haven’t met any famous people, but my sister ran into Robert Wagner about five years ago and she met Billy Joel at a party before he was famous (around 1967). The one I’m most proud of is that when my grandfather was quite young he worked for Thomas Edison. I have a picture of the employees with Edison and my grandfather is in the picture.:)

    1. I like it! I’ve had the model since I was a kid. Apparently if I’d kept the original packaging and hadn’t broken one of the rocket exhausts when it fell off a shelf, it would be worth a fair amount to the right sort of collector these days. As it stands it’s got no value.. and it ain’t for sale anyway. Too cool a thing to have.

  4. I reckon most people in NZ are high on the Bacon scale as EVERYONE knows someone who was in Lord of the Rings and most of those actors are only 1 or 2 away from dear Kevin. The technician who used to service our Fujifilm machines at the photolab where I worked chucked it all in to go and be a stunt-hobbit on LOTR. A rasher choice than some would make…

    1. Rasher? LOL!:-) Yeah, working on a Peter Jackson movie is an honour few Kiwis have escaped…They had an extras casting call a while back, down here which seemed to attract half the population of Greater Wellington. I declined, though I might be tempted were Jackson to make Beard and Kenny’s ‘Bored of the Rings’.

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