It's not what you know but who you know [1]

[ Tue. Jan. 30. 2007 ]

A method that can precisely measure how well people are connected to one another has been successfully tested for the first time at the nation's most prestigious science party. Most people have encountered the "small world" phenomenon - that striking coincidence that emerges while chatting to a stranger when you discover you have a mutual friend. Scientists believe that almost any two people from anywhere in the world, may well be linked by a chain of half a dozen or so people. The Royal Society, the nation's academy of science, marked a fitting venue for a new test of this idea. At a Daily Telegraph party held there last night, sponsored by Novartis, Prof Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, carried out a novel experiment using four "experimenters" and four "target" guests. Each randomly selected a guest and asked to be directed to a target. In all, they approached 64 guests, and managed to complete 37 chains. Related Articles * Bungling burglars of 2010 31 Jan 2007 * The 40-something ski bum: meeting the ninja ski instructor 31 Jan 2007 * What to do with your unwanted Christmas presents? 31 Jan 2007 * One in four men is obese ? and it looks like I'm the one 31 Jan 2007 * Matthew Norman: let's pack England's phoney Barmy Army off from Ashes series in Australia to Helmand 31 Jan 2007 * Mother and children found dead in north Wales home 31 Jan 2007 "Sixty per cent of the 500 or so people were linked by only two or three degrees of separation. They are twice as well connected, on average, as other people," said Prof Wiseman. The experiment was inspired by a study carried out in the 1960s by American psychologist Stanley Milgram. "Amazingly, the average chain length was just three people fewer than in Milgram's experiment," said Prof Wiseman. "The longest chain was six people, and about 15 per cent of the chains were completed in one step. We would expect this group of scientists and popularisers to be well connected but, for the first time, we have been able to measure just how well connected," said Prof Wiseman. The party was attended by a remarkable cross section of people, among them: Subhanu Saxena, CEO of Novartis, Will Lewis, editor of the Telegraph, Fay Weldon, the author, Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal, Richard Fortey, President of the Geological Society, the naturalist Sir David Attenborough, Phil Campbell, editor of Nature, the television presenters Joan Bakewell, Floella Benjamin, Adam Hart-Davis and Robert Winston, Nobel laureate Sir Tim Hunt, Christmas lecturer Prof Marcus do Sautoy, agent John Brockman and director of the Royal Institution, Baroness Greenfield.