Six Degrees

In 1967, Stanley Milgram sent packages to random addresses in the Midwest. He asked the recipient to pass them along to the person most likely to reach a target address in the Boston area. On average, it took about six people for the package to reach its destination. Thus the idea that we are all separated by six degrees of separation was born.

While fascinating, the experiment has been difficult to duplicate–especially worldwide. Columbia University is giving it a shot with their Smallworld program. Using email only, they hope to get thousands of participants to target a few final addressees. Because of the prevalence of spam and chain mail, it’s difficult to get the emails forwarded.

Let that be a lesson to everyone who has ever forwarded chain mail. It really does damage trust in the medium!

In any case, you can participate by accepting an email or by being a target. Just sign up at the site. We’ll see how many degrees there really are. After all, it is a small world.

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