[Ads-l] patient zero

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 11 20:07:31 UTC 2014

Is it just me, or does the concept of "patient zero" make little sense when
the numbering is a time sequence?

The only 'think-around' I see is that, in the sequencing of victims who
connected to one central source, the central source is considered previous
to the time sequence, hence the zero.

I myself would have favored a "patient X".


On Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 5:28 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: patient zero
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Dan Goncharoff
> > I have always thought about it a 'degrees of separation' from the source.
> > The source itself has zero degrees of separation.
> Dan: Originally, the explanation you suggest was the one I thought likely.
> If you are familiar with Erdos numbers or Bacon numbers then it is
> natural to hypothesize that "Patient zero" has the number zero for the
> same reason that Kevin Bacon has a Bacon number of zero. A graph is
> constructed with links corresponding to "contact" of some kind. For
> example, the graph to calculate the Bacon number has a direct link
> between two actors iff they have appeared together in a movie. The
> graph for the Erdos number has a direct link between two persons iff
> they have co-authored a paper together. (Complications ensue when
> individuals have co-written a book and not a paper, etcetera.)
> The origin node (Erdos or Bacon) is assigned the number zero, and the
> other nodes in the graph are labeled with the minimum distance from
> the origin node measured by link traversals. Here is an article
> stating that Kevin Bacon has a Bacon number 0.
> Title: The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
> Author: Stephanie Blanda
> Date: November 22, 2013
> http://blogs.ams.org/mathgradblog/2013/11/22/degrees-kevin-bacon/
> [Begin excerpt]
> While there is only one person with Bacon number 0 (Kevin Bacon
> himself), most individuals involved in the Hollywood film industry
> have a Bacon number of 6 or less.
> [End excerpt]
> Does this explain why "patient zero" was assigned the number zero?
> Perhaps not. Look at this Wikipedia article that apparently shows the
> scientific paper with the graph for "patient zero". The numbers do not
> correspond to distance or link traversals:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Index_case
> Garson
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