Monday, July 30, 2007

What is your Cope-Marsh number?

Ho man. Just in case you care about where this crap comes from, here goes. I was over at TetZoo and saw a link on the sidebar to an Aetiology post on Danica McKellar's "Math Doesn't Suck". The third comment down states, "Danica McKellar has a Bacon-Erdos number of 6. Same as Feynmann." That embedded link (included above) takes you to the Wikipedia page on the Bacon-Erdos number.

What is the Bacon-Erdos number? From the Wikipedia article:
An individual's Erdős–Bacon number is the sum of one's Erdős number—which measures the "collaborative distance" in authoring mathematical papers between that individual and Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős—and one's Bacon number—which represents the number of links, through roles in films, by which the individual is separated from actor Kevin Bacon.
Much like the Bristol Stool Scale, it's stuff like this that makes me proud to be a scientist.

As the title says, I wish we had something like this in paleo. Only maybe not tied to movies. It would be interesting to know who had the lowest Cope-Marsh number, which is the sum of one's collaborative distance from Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. It would be tough because although both Cope and Marsh published a buttload of papers (more than 1200 for Cope), they hardly ever collaborated and they hated each other's guts. So the immediate links to each would be few and probably distant from each other in collaboration space. Maybe their posthumous stuff would be a good place to start.

Can somebody get to work on this?

(Somebody else, I mean.)

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Anonymous Jerry D. Harris said...

I dunno about a Cope-Marsh number, but those of us that came out of Penn under Peter Dodson enjoyed knowing that we could trace our (paleoeducational) lineage directly back through the earliest stages of U.S. science. Joseph Leidy, typically viewed as the Father of American Paleontology (professional, that is -- of course there were non-scientists employed elsewhere doing paleo even before him!) taught Cope; Cope taught Osborn; Osborn taught W.K. Gregory; Gregory taught Romer; Romer taught Colbert; Colbert taught Ostrom; Ostrom taught Dodson; Dodson taught us. I guess this gives me a Cope number of 6...?

'Course, I know that this isn't quite what you meant by a "number" -- you're looking more through citations. That is indeed a problem with Cope and Marsh, since neither of them published many papers with co-authors, so it's hard to pinpoint collaborators to trace through! Also, since both Cope and Marsh lived longer ago (than Erdos, that is), a "Cope-Marsh" number would necessarily be higher than an Erdos number (or a Bacon number or any combination thereof). Maybe a Romer-Simpson number...?

8:54 AM  
Anonymous David Hone said...

Good call dude! We have got to set that up.

And by 'we' I mena someone else with our names on! ;-)

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. said...

Jerry beat me to the educational-lineage post. Like Dodson, as an ostromid I have a Cope number of 5.

And you can also trace the educational lineage of Osborn to R.S. Lull to G.G. Simpson to Ostrom.

By the way, Osborn (and H.G. Wells!) was also a student of T.H. Huxley!!

A useful site along these lines is John Alroy's Lefalophodon:

6:16 PM  
Blogger Mike Taylor said...

Ah, but how many of you can, like me, lay proud claim to a Naish Number of just 1?

7:56 AM  
Blogger TheBrummell said...

Not a paleo-person, so I don't know where to start with calculating my Cope-Marsh score, but I can trace back to T. Dobzhansky by only 3, which provides a teeny-tiny bragging right for me among my fellow evolutionary biologists.

Or something.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Robert Bakker has a Bacon number of 2, via Cameron Diaz and Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. said...

Any of us who were in the US version of Walking with Dinosaurs have a Bacon number of 3 (talking heads -> Avery Brooks,
Avery Brooks (I) was in 15 Minutes (2001) with David Alan Grier
David Alan Grier was in Woodsman, The (2004) with Kevin Bacon).

Similarly, any of us in the When Dinosaurs Roamed series have a Bacon number of 3 that way as well:
(talking heads -> Jeff Goldblum;
Jeff Goldblum was in Man of the Year (2006) with Audrey Dwyer
Audrey Dwyer was in Where the Truth Lies (2005) with Kevin Bacon)

5:38 AM  
Anonymous David Marjanović said...

Romer taught Colbert; Colbert taught Ostrom; Ostrom taught Dodson; Dodson taught us.

Romer taught Carroll, Carroll taught Reisz, Reisz taught Laurin, and Laurin is teaching me! Hooray! A Romer Number of 4 (possibly, though improbably, less), that way a Simpson Number of 5 (can hardly be less), makes a Romer-Simpson Number of 9. And probably a Cope Number of 7, assuming Cope ever coauthored with anyone.

I guess this gives me a Cope number of 6...?

No, 7. Osborn has 1 (if he ever coauthored with Cope), Gregory has 2 (most likely), Romer has 3, Colbert has 4, Ostrom has 5, Dodson has 6, and you have 7.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous David Marjanović said...

Sorry! You do have 6, by way of Osborn-Lull-Simpson-Ostrom instead of Osborn-Gregory-Romer-Colbert-Ostrom.

Someone should plot all this as a humongous tree, complete with hybridization and lineage fusion and all :-)

Or maybe as a Bible-style genealogy: "And Alfred Sherwood was XX years old and taught Robert Lynn; and was YY years old and taught Edwin S.; and published another ZZ papers; and was AA years old and died, and then published his last paper, which is influential to this day. And Robert Lynn was BB years old and..."

7:51 AM  
Blogger Dr. Vector said...

As long as we're bringing out educational genealogies, all of my paths lead back to Cope and T.H. Huxley by way of Osborn.

I did my Master's work under Rich Cifelli, whose lineage includes Malcolm McKenna -> Don Savage -> R.A. Stirton -> W.D. Matthew -> H.F. Osborn -> E.D. Cope.

For the Ph.D. I was co-advised by Kevin Padian and Bill Clemens. Like Malcolm McKenna, Bill was a student of Don Savage, so my lineage through him is the same as my lineage through Rich, only one link shorter. Which means, oddly enough, that Rich Cifelli is both my academic 'father' and 'cousin', since we share a 'grandfather' in Don Savage.

Kevin Padian was actually advised by Keith Stewart Thomson but Ostrom had a huge impact on him and it is not too much to say that he was a student of Ostrom -> Colbert -> W.K. Gregory -> H.F. Osborn -> E.D. Cope.

So through Cifelli I am 7 links from Cope; through Clemens, 6; and through Padian, 6.

Cope studied under Joseph Leidy and Spencer Fullerton Baird; Baird worked under Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian.

If all these begats are making your eyes glaze over, read about how Joseph Leidy became the first person to use a microcope to solve a murder mystery.

2:09 PM  

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