Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Frank Ryan : From Paschal to Pascal

So far, I've talked about Blanda Numbers. I've also talked about Erdos Numbers. (I recently read a little bit of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers* and found out that Erdos is pronounced something like "air dish", FWIW.) For those who don't know (most of the Earth's population) a “Blanda Number” is assigned to a football player based on the fewest team-season links necessary to connect them with quarterback-kicker George Blanda; holder of the NFL record for most seasons played. An “Erdos Number” is given to academics based on the fewest auctorial links necessary to connect them with the prolific Paul Erdos.

Thanks to Craig Burley and Sean Forman, I have found someone who has both a Blanda Number and an Erdos Number. He is retired quarterback, Paschal HS (Fort Worth, TX) alum, and mathematics professor Frank Ryan. Rather than recap Ryan's life, I'll direct the readers to the Wikipedia article on him. (Wikipedia is one of the handful of websites that I visit almost every day.) Anyways, Craig tells me that Ryan'sBlanda Number is 2 - Ryan played with Zeke Bratkowski on the '61 Rams and Bratkowski played with Blanda on the '54, '57 and '58 Bears. Professor Forman has access to the American Mathematical Society database and he told me that Ryan's Erdos Number is 3:Frank B. Ryan coauthored with Andrew M. Bruckner, Andrew M. Bruckner coauthored with Roy O. Davies, and Roy O. Davies coauthored with Paul Erdös.

Simon Singh has introduced the concept of Erdos-Bacon Numbers, which combine Bacon numbers with Erdos numbers. Well, I'd like to unveil the Erdos-Blanda Number. If you add Ryan's Blanda and Erdos Numbers together, you get an Erdos-Blanda number of 5. As far as I know, Ryan is the only person that has a finite Erdos-Blanda Number.

Incidentally, although Ryan is retired, he is teach a course on Einstein, Relativity, and Scientific Belief at the Institute of Lifelong Education at Dartmouth this fall.

* I have a bad habit of picking up a bunch of books from the library and starting most of them, but finishing only relatively few.

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