Monday, April 4, 2016

Six Degrees of Star Trek

As I mentioned a few months ago, I spent much of last year plowing through Herman Wouk's massive two-volume WWII epic, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. So having finished it, I naturally had to rent the made-for-TV miniseries. Last night, while watching part 3, I noticed that the actor playing Congressman Lacoutre, a rather obnoxious isolationist, looked vaguely familiar... Could it be? Yes, of course it was the actor Logan Ramsey, who reached the pinnacle of his career playing Proconsul Claudius Marcus in the Star Trek episode "Bread and Circuses" (the Roman Empire episode).

Your decision, Proconsul.

This suggests an obvious game: Six Degrees of Star Trek, based on the well-known Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, in which the participants begin with an actor and try to establish a series of co-star links back to Kevin Bacon. Anyone who has appeared in Star Trek has a Star Trek number of 0, while actors who have appeared in other shows with those actors have a Star Trek Number of 1, and so on.

Let's try an example: Patty Duke, who died last week.

Patty Duke has a Star Trek number of 1. Her father on The Patty Duke Show was played by William Schallert. The high point of his career was a later appearance on Star Trek's "The Trouble with Tribbles," in which he appears as the bureaucrat Nils Barris.

Who ate all the rest of my quadrotricale?

My guess is that nearly every actor from the 1960s-70s has a Star Trek number of 2 or less. In playing this game, you are required to use only the original Star Trek series, not the watery Next Generation sequel, which was aptly described by a friend of mine as "social workers in space."

The ur-example of these small-world games is the Erdos number, named after the hyper-prolific Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos. The Erdos number tracks how far you are, via the co-authorship of scientific/mathematics papers, from Paul Erdos. There's really no equivalent to Paul Erdos among physicists, despite our tendency to be more collaborative than mathematicians. However, most physicists have low Erdos numbers -- my own is 4 -- via the physicist Sheldon Glashow, who has an Erdos number of 2.

By the way, there really is such a thing as triticale. Triticale chex. Yummy.


Kathy said...

If you include animated TV shows, there's a HUGE nexus with "The Simpsons." Leonard Nimoy appears in one episode, and the show has had a really big number of guest stars

Bobby B said...

George Clooney has a Star Trek number of at most 4: co-starred with Julianna Margulies on ER, who co-starred with John Noble on an episode (or so) of the Good Wife, who co-starred with Leonard Nimoy on Fringe.