Before I start explaining this great site I came across the other day, let me just say that I absolutely love Wikipedia. I use it almost every day and can get lost on there for ages just linking from one topic to another.
That’s where Omnipelagos.com comes along. The site works on the same principle as the ‘Six degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game which states that any actor can be linked through their film roles to Kevin Bacon. That again is based on the theory of the small world phenomenon. Bare with me, this is getting somewhere!
The small world phenomenon theory believes that every person in this world is interlinked through a chain of aquaintances. So somehow through this chain I am interlinked to anyone on this planet. Stanley Milgram, the founder of the theory ‘The six degrees of separation’, further believes that every US citizen is connected through acquaintances and other relationships with at most six other people. He attempted proving that in an experiment he conducted in 1967.
In this experiment he sent 60 letters to citizens in Nebraska who had to pass the letter on to a stockbroker living in Sharon, Massachusetts. 50 people took up the challenge, but only 3 of the letters arrived, one of them in just 4 days though. In experiments following the initial one he changed several parameters, including letting participants believe that the parcel was more or less valuable. He had completion rates of 35% and researchers even claimed it as high as 97%.
During all of the studies Milgram conducted the average number of links to reaching a destination was 6. Close-knit communities, such as a Jewish community in Montreal, had a higher success rate than others. Several researchers have attempted recreating it in later times; the most recent one being over the internet in 2001 which again caused the average intermediaries to be 6.
Personally I think that it’s quite an exiting study, but it depends very much on the participants itself. For example people with a bigger circle of friends/acquaintances are more likely to be interlinked with more people and it is up to the participants to find the connections themselves. The world may be small, but you need to find it.
Strangely enough this site I found has something in relation to two things in this post. The site calls itself the ‘meandering search engine’ and ‘finds the shortest paths between any two things’ using the Wikipedia database. It is very useful if you want to know the connection between anything or just simply bored.
Have a look over on their site and see with what connections you come up with. The longest one I’ve seen so far was six.