Back in 1996 when the web was young and finding inventive uses for databases was becoming the bread and butter for University IT courses everywhere along came the Oracle of Bacon.
For most of us who were just beginning to explore the web, finding out what degree of separation a celebrity was from Kevin Bacon, (ie the Bacon Number) was a quirky click-and-giggle exercise demonstrating the web’s seemingly magical ability to produce otherwise banal relational data from the murky depths of the never ending network.
According to the New York Times the “Bacon Number” has now been absorbed into the bosom of the web by Google who is using the premise of the Oracle of Bacon to promote its Knowledge Graph technology.
In the same way as you entered a performer’s name into the Oracle of Bacon, you can now do this by typing, for example, “What is Ryan Gosling’s Bacon number?” straight into Google’s search bar.
“Google has been working on the Knowledge Graph since 2010, and in May it added related facts about people, places and things on the right-hand side of search results. After Larry Page became chief executive of Google last year, he changed its mission from search to knowledge because he said he thought finding a Web page was too narrow. He wanted to help people understand the world.
Starting with Bacon numbers.”
The Oracle of Bacon is essentially an algorithm for trawling the Internet Movie Database for film credits of the submitted performer which then makes associations with other credited performers or artists who may have appeared with or worked on a film by Kevin Bacon. Depending on the number of associations which need to be made until, there is a direct credited link to Kevin Bacon determines one’s Bacon Number.
The Oracle of Bacon was designed by Brett Tjaden at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Virginia which still hosts the 1999 rebuild by Patrick Reynolds.
via calire cain miller at the new york times