Title text: I wonder if I still have time to go shoot a short film with Kevin Bacon.
According to Wikipedia, Paul Erdős (26 March 1913 – 20 September 1996) was a Hungarian mathematician who published more papers than any other mathematician in history, working with hundreds of collaborators.
There is an in-joke developed among mathematicians called the Erdős number (similar to a Bacon number for film actors, which we'll discuss in a minute). By definition, Erdős has an Erdős number of 0. Everyone who has co-written a mathematical paper with Erdős has an Erdős number of 1. Everyone who collaborated with them (but not Erdős himself) is assigned an Erdős number of 2. In general, if k is the minimal Erdős number of all the people you've written papers with, your Erdős number is k + 1. The Erdős number is the length of the shortest "chain" from you to Erdős.
Thanks to collaboration between mathematicians and other researchers, many people in science and medical research now have Erdős numbers. Not everyone has a (finite) Erdős number, though; people without any chain linking them to Erdős have an Erdős number of infinity (or an undefined Erdős number). For example, most people who are not mathematicians or scientists do not have a finite Erdős number.
In this comic, the apocalypse happens. Cueball quickly writes a math paper and gets everyone from the math dept. to sign it. Then he gets the resurrected Erdős to sign it. This way everyone from the math dept. has an Erdős number of 1.
Paul Erdős described people who had stopped doing mathematics as "dead."
The title text mentions a similar (and less esoteric) meme called "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon", or simply Bacon numbers. This time, the chain's center is actor Kevin Bacon, and the links are formed by two people appearing in the same movie. Unlike Erdős, Kevin Bacon is not dead, so those of you wishing to get a Bacon number of 1 still have a chance.
One of the mathematical scribbles appearing in panel 5 shows the square root of 163, which may be a reference to Ramanujan's constant.
- [Scene of meteors showering the darkened earth.]
- [Beret Guy is running, with his arms raised in the air.]
- Beret Guy: The apocalypse! The skies burn, the seas turn to blood, and the dead walk the earth!
- [Cueball and Beret Guy.]
- Cueball: The dead what?
- Beret Guy: Walk the earth!
- [Cueball running.]
- Cueball: I have to go.
- [Cueball scribbling at a table. Mathematical symbols and equations are above Cueball's head.]
- Scribble scribble
- [Cueball running, paper and pencil in hand.]
- [Cueball opening door labelled "Math dept."]
- Cueball: The dead return! Everyone, quick, get your names on here!
- [People lining up.]
- Female Mathematician: At last!
- Male Mathematician: I hope there's still time!
- [Cueball running.]
- [Cueball at a cemetery.]
- Rising dead: Hurrghhh
- [Cueball finds a man rising from his grave.]
- Cueball: Paul Erdős?
- Erdős: Yes?
- Cueball: We need you to sign this.