Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath Numbers: The People at the Center of the Universe

Years ago, I invented a little game called Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath numbers, which is probably, oh, halfway down the list of nerdiest things I’ve ever done.  In a nutshell, it combines Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (which you’ve probably heard of) with Erdos Numbers (which maybe rings a bell, if you’re a mathematician) and Sabbath Numbers (same deal, with the band Black Sabbath).  If you’ve been in a movie you probably have a Bacon Number, if you’ve coauthored a research publication you likely have an Erdos number, and if you’ve gigged as a professional musician you might have a Sabbath Number.  If you have all three, you are a CERTIFIED BADASS, and are on the highly exclusive list of people with an Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath number!

I invented the Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath Number concept back in 1906 in my spare time, but the idea didn’t really take off until the birth of Kevin Bacon in 1958.   More recently, Ross Churchley (a badass PhD mathematician himself), came across my EBS mission statement and promptly went to work finding the first few people with provable Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath numbers.  Within the last few weeks, his work on EBS numbers have attracted the acclaim of some famous folks on the list, including Dr. Brian Cox, Phil Plait (the Bad Astronomer), and Richard Vranch.

For several decades, Ross maintained an official roster of Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath holders and their derivations.  For various reasons, Ross and I have both decided to no longer maintain a central list, but we hope some other fellow nerds got some fun from it and might take inspiration to continue in even more nerdy directions.  I’m leaving this site as a monument to our many nights poring through academic coauthorships — enjoy a few profiles of some of the more interesting EBS holders (with my typical smartassery).

So what is an Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath number?  And who’s Erdos?  Once you hear about Paul Erdos, one of the most famous and prolific mathematicians of the 20th century, you’ll know why this particular game just made sense.  He is said to have published more sheer pages of mathematics than anyone besides Euler.  His fame reached so far and wide that coauthorships with him are cherished badges of honor in the mathematical world.  At some point, someone started keeping track of how coauthor paths that connected researchers back to Erdos, and thus the famed Erdos Number was born.

>> Read more about Paul Erdos, the Kevin Bacon of Math

Of course a similar game has sprung up around Kevin Bacon, whose razor-sharp nose seemed to pop up in every other movie back in the ’90s.  You’ve probably heard of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, a great game to play on long car rides in alternate universes where smartphones don’t exist.  It wasn’t long before someone checked whether there was anyone with both an Erdos number and a Bacon number…

>> Read more about Erdos Numbers and Bacon Numbers

Finally, it took a genius of my magnitude to make the gigantic deductive leap connecting Erdos and Bacon numbers with yet another similar game, the Black Sabbath Game.  Yes, there are a handful of people in the world who have all three — who have reached such heights in all three domains to be really, really jealousy-inspiring.

>>>  Read more about  Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath Numbers


While we no longer maintain an official list, researching potential EBS holders led to all kinds of serendipitous discoveries about some famous people you may already know.  The entire roster eventually reached close to 50 people.  Let’s take a tour of a few of my favorites:

Stephen Hawking

Brian May

Richard Feynman

Natalie Portman

Brian Cox

Jeff “Skunk” Baxter

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman

Lawrence Krauss

Kool Mo Dee

Several “civilians” also have verifiable EBS numbers:  Patrick Tewson and Andrew Evans, to name a few

My one regret was never quite finding how to get Dolph Lundgren on this list.  The EBS community is a truly remarkable set of people, and I hope they all enjoy this bit of whimsy dedicated to their multifaceted badassery!


10 Responses to “Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath Numbers: The People at the Center of the Universe”

  1. […] Want to know which 3 people have an Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath Number? […]

  2. […] out the Erdös number of Brian May, astrophysicist and guitarist from Queen. My travels led me to Timeblimp, who threw together three measures of professional collaboration to make a rather fun parlour game. […]


    Calculate Sabbath Numbers for any musician.

  4. … [Trackback]…

    […] Read More: […]…

  5. You should add the Shusaku number to your calculations – though it will be much harder to find people for which the EBS number will be different from the EBSS number.

  6. […] out the Erdös number of Brian May, astrophysicist and guitarist from Queen. My travels led me to Timeblimp, who threw together three measures of professional collaboration to make a rather fun parlour game. […]

  7. […] kid you not. People track the combined Erdős-Bacon-Sabbath number. No, seriously. Stephen Hawking owns the lowest known Erdős Bacon Sabbath number – […]

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