## Zombie Math

Posted by pwl on June 20, 2009

Thanks to xkcd for this wonderful sense of humor.

Paul Erdős (occasionally spelled Erdos or Erdös; Hungarian: Erdős Pál, pronounced [ˈɛrdøːʃ ˈpaːl]; 26 March 1913 – 20 September 1996) was an immensely prolific and famously eccentric Hungarian mathematician. Erdős published more papers than any mathematician in history, working with hundreds of collaborators. He worked on problems in combinatorics, graph theory, number theory, classical analysis, approximation theory, set theory, and probability theory.

Because of his prolific output, friends created the

Erdős numberas a humorous tribute; Erdős alone was assigned the Erdős number of 0 (for being himself), while his immediate collaborators could claim an Erdős number of 1, their collaborators have Erdős number at most 2, and so on. Some have estimated that 90 percent of the world’s active mathematicians have an Erdős number smaller than 8 (not surprising in light of the small world phenomenon). It is jokingly said[25] that Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron has an Erdős number of 1 because they both autographed the same baseball when Emory University awarded them honorary degrees on the same day. Erdős numbers have also been humorously assigned to an infant, a horse, and several actors.

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