4.74 degrees of separation

top-movies-of-kevin-baconRemember back in the 90’s when the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” was all the rage? If you don’t remember (what rock were you rotting under?) it went like this: You had to list six or less relational threads tying someone to Kevin Bacon. Most of the time, it worked.

Apparently, the game had its roots in some real sociological research that showed there were on average six degrees of separation between most people. A guy named Stanley Milgram published the results of a study he did on this back in 1967 (and smart Peter Gabriel fans will recognize him as the subject of Gabriel’s 1986 song “We Do What We’re Told”). But the six degrees thing actually goes back further than that – to a short story published in 1929 called “Chains.”

Modern scientists in conjunction with some folks from Yahoo and Facebook began wondering if those six degrees still hold true in today’s super-connected socially networked world, so they started some new research in August 2011. What they’ve found so far? That the world is shrinking – it’s not just six degrees separating us from each other, now it’s more like 4.74!

But “4.74 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” just doesn’t sound as cool.

Damn doors

It’s happened to all of us, more than we care to admit. We’re sitting in the living room, ass flat on the couch. We get up, go to the kitchen, and then stand there… having forgotten what we came into the kitchen for.

DoorwayBlame the doorway.

Yep, that’s right. Some new scientific research is showing that because of the way our brains work, walking through a barrier like a doorway can make us forget what we walked through it for. Because our brains often compartmentalize thoughts and plans, the act of leaving one room and entering another also “compartmentalizes” what we were planning to do, and the brain pushes it aside.

Brains can be so stupid.

Here’s an article at Scientific American that explains it in more detail. Fortunately, I didn’t walk into another room to write that down.

So when you’re standing there like an idiot, unable to remember what you’re there for, blame the doorway. That, or you’re drinking too much again. Oh hey, wait a minute, THAT’S what I came in here for. To get vodka. Okay, what were we talking about?

Windows 95, the musical

Brian Eno is a musician and producer who’s been in the music biz longer than many of us have been alive. He’s done all kinds of music, but he’s most popular for “ambient music,” and well, if I’ve got to describe it, that’ll ruin it for you.

Microsoft knew what a cool guy he was, so when they were looking for some cool new sound to set their new Windows 95 apart (What? They had computers back then?), Brian was the guy they went to.

Windows95So Eno composed the little musical cue many of us came to forever associate with the booting up of our Windows 95 machines – hopeful, a new day dawning, a sun coming up somewhere over a hilly field of green grass with a gorgeous blue sky overhead and some fluffy white clouds that… Hey, wait a minute… that was the generic Windows XP desktop, wasn’t it?

Actually, Eno came up with 83 pieces of music, and Microsoft picked the one they liked the best. The four adjectives Microsoft gave him when they commissioned him was “inspirational, sexy, driving, provocative and nostalgic.” Imagine having to work all four of those things into just a few notes.

It’s not saying too much that Eno’s little musical cue is responsible for a big part of the Windows 95 experience, but it might surprise you to know that Eno isn’t a PC guy… Nope, he’s Mac, all the way. He says he composed the little piece of Windows music on a Mac, and he’s never used a PC in his life, nor does he ever intend to.

But that wasn’t enough to stop Microsoft from using his instantly recognizable little “theme” for Windows 95.

Harmony

Occasionally, every once in a great while, you harmonize with someone. And when it happens, it feels so right, so natural, like it’s the way we were made to be. But then you realize, if we were made to harmonize this way, why does it happen so rarely, and for some not at all?

Going home

“For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess I’m suddenly having a hard time leaving it. Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. Maybe I’m not leaving. Maybe I’m going home.”