The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kevin Bacon Number - or degrees of separation in Hollywood.

The Kevin Bacon number has become a famous way to measure the linkage between actors and other performers, in Hollywood. It is based on the idea that there are "six degrees of separation" between any two people on Earth. This label actually arose in a play title by John Guare, and not, as commonly supposed, in an academic thesis.

The notion that we are closely interconnected in a social network, only separated by a few individuals, was popularized by the social experiments of Stanley Milgram. He was not, however, the original conceiver of this understanding, though he is often credited with it. Michael Gurevich and Manfred Kochen, both did pioneering work in this area, prior to Stanley Milgram.

The "six degrees of separation" refer to the idea that everyone is connected through the people they know, to anyone they don't know, through their friends' friends. Thus if someone is your friend, that is one degree of separation; if they are the friend of a friend, that is two degrees of separation; the friend of a friend of a friend, would be three degrees of separation and so on.

Around 1994, an idea, "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon" began to float around. The concept was simple: how many degrees of separation were there between Kevin Bacon and any other actor? It became a party trick for its inventors Craig Fass , Brian Turtle and Mike Ginelli who were all students at Albright College at the time. They would challenge people to throw the names of actors at them, then they would connect them to Kevin Bacon.

The Kevin Bacon number is a very simple way to measure the connectedness of an actor, in Hollywood. For instance, Tom Cruise has a Kevin Bacon number of 1. (This is because they both worked together in A Few Good Men in 1992); Rachel Weisz, who is successful, but not so successful as Tom Cruise, has a Kevin Bacon number of 2. (This is because she appeared in Confidence in 2003 with Andy Garcia, who then appeared in The Air I Breathe (2007) with Kevin Bacon). Incidentally, Laurence Olivier, the famed stage actor, who also worked in film, also has a Kevin Bacon number of 2. (This is because he appeared in Dracula (1979) with Frank Langella who went on to appear in Frost/Nixon with Kevin Bacon in 2008).

Now what really surprised me is to learn that both Ainan Celeste Cawley and myself have a Kevin Bacon number of 3. This is only in the expanded version of the Kevin Bacon number that includes documentaries and TV shows as well as films. If only films were allowed, Ainan would have a Bacon number of infinity because he has never been in a feature film. Ainan (and my) Kevin Bacon number of 3 arises because we were both in a documentary called The World's Cleverest Child and Me on Channel 4 with Mark Dolan, the presenter. Mark Dolan did a show called The 50 Greatest Comedy Films in 2006 in which Tony Curtis appeared. Tony Curtis then went on to appear in the Graham Norton Show 2007 with Kevin Bacon.

So there you are. The Kevin Bacon number just goes to show how small the worlds of tv and film are. Furthermore, even though neither myself nor my son have ever met Kevin Bacon, we are pretty close in the film world, being only three steps away. How odd.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: Thanks.

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:21 PM 


Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your (unposted) comment. I think it wouldn't be appropriate to let my children read it for a reason which should be obvious.

I should explain that my discovery of our Bacon number was accidental and not the result of a deliberate search for it. I had been reading a writer's website when he mentioned that he had recently completed work on a tv show. One of his other readers commented that he probably has a Bacon number, now and suggested he check it on the Oracle of Bacon. So, having recently been in a tv show ourselves, I duly went to the Oracle of Bacon and entered Ainan's name. At first it said his Bacon number was infinity (no appearance in a feature film)...but then asked if I wanted to include tv shows and documentaries in the calculation. I clicked the appropriate boxes - and it recalculated that Ainan's Bacon number was three. Since I was in the same show, mine would also be three (if the database had been updated to include me).

Another point. I did not upload the video of my son on Youtube. I think the production company probably did. Nor have I linked to it. If I was motivated in the way you suggest, I would have linked to it long ago.

Furthermore, a recitation of pi does show one attribute of some gifted children: extended memory function. So, showing it does improve understanding of what some gifted children are like. It is, however, only one attribute among many but TV is a very restrictive medium: you have to show something clear and simple for the audience to grasp it. A memory demonstration is easy to understand and that is why it was done - otherwise, how do you show mentality on tv? It is very difficult to do so...but we were able to demonstrate the single aspect of memory, in this way.

I posted my discovery about Bacon numbers because I was surprised to learn that we have one. It was in the spirit of sharing a discovery/surprise...nothing more.

Thank you for your comment.

Kind regards

11:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape