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Google’s Flawed ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ Search [Updated]

Photo: Warner Brothers Pictures

When we read about a new Google Search tool that lets you calculate any actor’s “Bacon number” — the number of degrees he or she is removed from a Kevin Bacon movie — we immediately started trying it out using names from the political world, because that is just how fun we are. We quickly discovered that Barack Obama’s Bacon number is two. Bill Clinton’s is also two.

So far, so good. But then searches for the Bacon numbers of Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton failed to turn up any results at all. This seemed peculiar, but in fairness, none of those people are actors. However, we became truly concerned after an attempt to find Patrick Leahy’s Bacon number also came up empty. Leahy, the longtime Vermont senator, had a famous cameo in The Dark Knight as “Gentleman at Party” — a speaking role, no less!

For reasons that are not entirely clear, Leahy appeared again in The Dark Knight Rises as “Boardmember #2,” and IMDb tells us he portrayed himself in Batman & Robin, which we don’t recall because we have expunged that movie from our memory.

The Oracle of Bacon, an existing Bacon-number-generating website, gives Leahy a Bacon number of two. (He was in Dark Knight Rises with Hector Atreyu Ruiz, who was in Death Sentence with Bacon.) So why can’t Google? As of this writing, we have not heard back from Google, and until we do, we will remain skeptical of the search engine’s authority in the important realm of Bacon-number calculations.

Update: Google senior communications associate Roya Soleimani sheds some light on the missing results: It appears that Leahy doesn’t get any love because, unlike the Oracle of Bacon, Google’s Bacon-number search doesn’t utilize IMDb.

“The ‘Bacon Number’ feature is based on Google’s Knowledge Graph, which is our ‘map’ of real-world people, entities, and the connections between them,” Soleimani tells us in an e-mail. “For most celebrities and some public figures, the feature will return their Bacon Number based on the connections in the Knowledge Graph. Our team is constantly working to make search smarter, and features like the Bacon Number equip our users with ways to explore and discover more.”

Google ‘6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ Search Flawed