What is a Bacon number?

The Bacon Number is a concept that stems from the idea of “six degrees of separation,” which suggests that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. Specifically, the Bacon Number measures the degrees of separation between any given actor and the American actor Kevin Bacon, based on their appearances in films.

Origins of the Bacon Number

The concept was popularised by the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” which was inspired by a play on the six degrees of separation theory. In 1994, a group of college students came up with the idea after noticing Kevin Bacon’s extensive filmography. They hypothesised that any actor could be linked to Bacon through their film roles within six steps. This led to the creation of the “Bacon Number.”

Calculating the Bacon Number

To calculate an actor’s Bacon Number:

  1. Bacon Number 0: Kevin Bacon himself has a Bacon Number of 0.
  2. Bacon Number 1: Actors who have worked directly with Kevin Bacon in a film have a Bacon Number of 1.
  3. Bacon Number 2: Actors who have worked with someone who has worked with Kevin Bacon have a Bacon Number of 2.
  4. Bacon Number 3: And so on, incrementing by one for each additional step away from Kevin Bacon.

For example, if Actor A has worked with Kevin Bacon, they have a Bacon Number of 1. If Actor B has worked with Actor A but not with Kevin Bacon directly, Actor B has a Bacon Number of 2.

Importance and Uses

While the Bacon Number began as a fun trivia game, it has broader implications in network theory and the study of social networks. The Bacon Number can illustrate the interconnectedness of the film industry and help to analyse patterns of collaboration and influence among actors.

Interesting Facts

  • Kevin Bacon’s Response: Initially, Kevin Bacon was not pleased with the game, thinking it was a joke at his expense. However, he later embraced it and even started a charitable organisation called SixDegrees.org, leveraging the game’s popularity for social good.
  • Network Theory Application: The concept is a practical demonstration of Erdős numbers in mathematics and collaborative distance in other professional fields, highlighting the interconnected nature of professional networks.
  • Bacon Number Variations: The game has inspired variations in different domains. For example, the “Erdős Number” measures the collaborative distance between mathematicians and the prolific Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős.


The Bacon Number is more than a mere party game; it is an intriguing exploration of network theory and the degrees of separation between individuals in a professional context. By mapping the connections through film roles, it provides insight into the collaborative nature of the entertainment industry and beyond, illustrating the small-world phenomenon that connects us all.

Feature Image – IMAGO / ZUMA Wire