Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Six Degrees of Uncertainty" by Josh Gewolb. Science, 26 October, 2001, page 777.

This short article in Random Samples describes an investigation by Judith Kleinfeld into a 1967 experiment by psychologist Stanley Milgram that resulted in the claim that the average number of degrees of separation between people in the U.S. is five. Kleinfeld's investigation is published in Society. Mathematician Steven Strogatz of Cornell is quoted saying that mathematical models do show connections that people may not be aware of. So Milgram's conclusion may be true even though his study was flawed. (Strogatz was also interviewed on the idea of degrees of separation, with regard to connections between people and victims of the September 11th attack, in the 29 September Washington Post.)

--- Mike Breen