The Person At The Center Of The Universe
Did you hear the dramatic drums in the title above? It wasn’t easy getting those kettle drums in the TimeBlimp server room… We have reached the end of our journey, the Galactic Core, the exact spot where the Big Bang started, the Center of the Universe. Only three people to date (so far) stands on this spot, people who can be linked directly to the great mathematician Paul Erdos, to the ubiquitous (and sharp-nosed) actor Kevin Bacon, and to the founders of heavy metal Black Sabbath.
And the current leader in the clubhouse, the person with the lowest known Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath number is…
Of course. I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you who he is, so let me just point out that he might be the one physicist who could party as hard as Richard Feynman. I dimly remember a biography of Dr. Hawking that showed a photo from his college days, where he’s holding up a bottle of liquor in the universal “PARTAAAY!!!” pose. I would do serious, klondike-bar level stuff to get a copy of that photo.
For determining Dr. Hawking has an Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath number, I must send tremendous amounts of gratitude to Suze, who first posted her discovery over on this post at qi.com. In case that post disappears, let me confirm that to my knowledge she’s the first to figure out Dr. Hawking’s EBS number. Ross, who should get a Nobel dipped in chocolate by this point, was able to lower Hawking’s number by finding a shorter path to Bacon. (Also big thanks to James, @JamesMoosh on twitter, for bringing Suze’s derivation to my attention.) So what is that number, you ask?
Bacon Numbers: Thanks to his multiple guest spots on the Simpsons, he’s got a Bacon Number of three. The Oracle of Bacon says its 2, but you have to use the British Comedy Awards (2004). Let’s stick with the Simpsons and call it three.
Erdos Number: A respectable four. Though that’s only one less than mine. Interesting.
Sabbath Number: Suze has mapped Dr. Hawking to music through his guest appearance on Pink Floyd’s album The Division Bell, on which he contributed vocals to Keep Talking. (Incidentally, is anyone’s copy of that album still blinking?) Let’s quote Suze to finish the story:
Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd played guitar on a cover of Smoke on the Water which appears on the Rock Aid Armenia album. That version of the song also featured Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, which means that Gilmour’s Sabbath number is one and hence Professor Hawking’s is two.
Accordingly, Professor Hawking’s B-E-S number is nine. This appears to be the first single digit Bacon-Erdős-Sabbath number ever identified, and I claim the credit for it.
Well done! Stephen Hawking is now the Person At The Center Of The Universe.
So, what are we to make of our discovery? Aside from devising a measure of human accomplishment that manages to include two physicists, a rock god, and Natalie Portman? Hopefully, we are also encouraging a new crop of young scientists / musicians / actors to get themselves a seat at the Center of the Universe. How hard could it be?