6 Degrees of Separation

Episode three of A Further Five Numbers, the BBC radio series presented by Simon Singh.

Six is often treated as 2x3, but has many characteristics of its own. Six is also the "pivot" of its divisors (1 2 3=6=1x2x3) and also the centre of the first five even numbers: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. Six seems to have a pivoting action both mathematically and socially. How is it that everyone in the world can be linked through just six social ties? As Simon discovers, the concept of “six degrees of separation” emerged from a huge postal experiment conducted by the social psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1967. Milgram asked volunteers to send a package by mail to one of a hundred people chosen at random. But they could only send mail to people they knew on first name terms.

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