Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Malaysian Bacon-nection

The Malaysian Bacon-nection

"Six degrees of separation" is a widely used phrase today on the Internet. It refers to the rather surprising fact that any two individual in the world today can be connected through a chain of intermediate acquaintances, averaging not more than six people.

We all have, one time or another, experienced the it's-a-small-world conversation when we meet a stranger who happens to share a mutual acquaintance with us. The fact that it takes on the average six hops between you and the President of the United States--probably even less--explains the ease and speed by which viruses and rumours spread over the Internet and demonstrates the immense power of interconnected networks. We are interconnected to everyone else more intimately than we ever realized.

Since it was first proposed by social psychologist Stanley Milgram in the sixties who derived his conclusion from experiments using postal packages, this six degrees of separation theory has been the subject of a lot of research. The Small World Project attempted to use the Internet to verify his findings. Volunteers of the program were asked to forward e-mail messages to certain chosen target recipients worldwide through their immediate acquaintances. Results have indicated this six degrees of separation to be true, more or less.

An interesting offshoot of this theory is the so-called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Game. Kevin Bacon who first achieved some measure of fame in the 1984 movie Footloose has in his Hollywood career co-starred with many other actors and actresses. The object of the game is for participants to find the shortest possible connection between a given actor or actress to Kevin Bacon.

Take Elisabeth Shue. That's easy: She starred directly with Kevin Bacon in the movie The Hollow Man. So she has a so-called "Bacon number" of 1. But what about Keanu Reaves? Keanu Reeves never acted in any movie together with Kevin Bacon. But Keanu was with Laurence Fishburne in the Matrix trilogy and Fishburne happens to have starred together with Kevin Bacon in the recent award winning movie Mystic River. So Keanu Reeves has a Bacon number of 2.

The surprising thing is that, given any arbitrary actor or actress, it is very likely that his or her Bacon number will be less than 8. Most would score a 2 or 3. It is found out that the average is 2.941. The smaller the number, the closer he or she is to the "center of Hollywood"--Kevin Bacon. (Kevin Bacon himself would have the unique Bacon number of 0).

The Oracle of Bacon is a popular website that allows you to key in an actor's name to find the corresponding Bacon number. The information is derived from data taken from the Internet Movie database.

There's another surprise there: Though no Malaysian actor or actress (as far as I know) has starred together with Kevin Bacon in any movie before, there are a few of them who actually has a Bacon number of 2. Who? OK, Michelle Yeoh seems the most likely candidate. She was the Bond girl together with Teri Hatcher in Tomorrow Never Dies; and Teri was in the 1989 movie The Big Picture with Kevin Bacon. So Michelle joins the Bacon number 2 club.

Some of the other unexpected Bacon number 2 club members from Malaysia include Deanna Yusoff, Ramona Rahman, Jacinta Lee and even Malek Noor! In the case of Deanna Yusoff, she was in Return to Paradise with Todd Stockman who acted in Diner with Kevin Bacon. Go figure out the rest!

And for your information, even an actor of a bygone era such as the legendary P. Ramlee garners a reasonably small Bacon number of 4 (Same with Ziana Zain). And how in the world did someone like Salleh Ben Joned get a Bacon number of 3??

As the song goes: "It's a small world after all".

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