Monday, October 16, 2006, 12:40:59 AM, Phil wrote:
> Does everyone in your profession have a "Papal Number", talk about it
> sometimes over beer, and sometimes put it in resumes?
Does the Erdos number matter to any sorts of decisions
in mathematics? That is, is a mathematician defined by his Erdos
number in any way? Nobody is disputing that [[Erdos number]] should
exist... just whether it's a useful way to classify mathematicians in
If you know someone's Erdos number, you know exactly his Erdos number.
Nobody goes looking in categories after people with "Erdos number 3",
so there's no point in having a category.
There's no real corelation between the Erdos number and the notability
or influence of a person. People who have published papers with many
collaborators and people who work in the same fields as Erdos have
more chances of having a lower number, but that's all.
There are thousands of non-notable mathematicians having
numbers 1 and 2, while Alan Turing (one of the greatest mathematicians
of the century) has Erdos number 5 and Paul Dirac has number 4.
Mathematicians seem to like this piece of trivia because it makes them
feel like they belong in a community. And since the CfD is a
"popularity contest", not a debate, the categories were kept, despite
all the arguments brought.