Danica McKellar

Published on Thursday, June 07, 2007 in , , , , ,

Danica McKellarBack in May, I briefly mentioned Danica McKellar when discussing mathematically-oriented women. This is one child star who is winding up very well adjusted and successful!

When you probably last saw her, she was portraying Winnie Cooper, and telling Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) that they should go their own ways and find out who they are. I'll let this clip from 20/20 catch you up on her life since then:

Yes, you heard correctly. She's a math whiz! If you want to read her paper, you can read Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin–Teller models on Z² here, as published in the Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General (Now known as Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical). Remember, I said you could read it. How well you understand it will depend on your physics background.

Moving to the more recreational mathematic side, Danica also possesses an Erdös-Bacon number of 6, the lowest of any professional actor or actress. Since your head is probably still spinning from ferromagnetic physics, I should probably explain this number.

Most of you are familiar with the 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon concept, through which you could determine an actor or actress' Bacon number. Those who collaborate on mathematical papers have a similar concept, but with Paul Erdös instead of Kevin Bacon. When you add these two together, the total is the Erdös-Bacon number. Danica is linked to Erdös through four collaborations (citations 13-16 here) and to Kevin Bacon through 2 steps, giving a total of 6.

Besides her acting projects, she'll also be releasing a book on math in August 2007, called Math Doesn't Suck: How To Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking A Nail. If you scroll down on that page, you'll see that she also answers e-mailed math questions, too. Besides her site, she also has her own math column targeted to help kindergartners through 8th graders called Danica's Corner.

Between being known for her nerd-loving character Winnie Cooper, and being published in a physics journal, you would think she would have a hard time shaking a nerdy, wholesome image. However, her interest in ballroom dancing and her lingerie photo shoot for Stuff Magazine (which may or may not be safe for work, depending on your office standards) will probably help shed that image.

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