In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

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The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 7, 2007 / 21 Sivan, 5767

5.5 degrees of separation

By Paul Greenberg

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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Professor,

It was wholly a pleasure to get your scholarly response to my casual reference to sociologists who talk about there being only six degrees of separation between all of us. In a small, wonderfully interconnected state like Arkansas, there may be only four degrees of separation — if that.

You helped confirm my wholly unscientific theory by noting that a former student of yours knows my son. Which would separate us by only three degrees. And you're not even in Arkansas.

But as for those Six Degrees of Separation, you had a little correction to offer: First off, you inform me, it's "5.5 steps on average between random pairs of people," rather than between all of us. Thank you, sir. There's nothing like being precise about the imprecise. It lends an air of solidity to what otherwise might be confused with mere conjecture.

A figure like 5.5 exudes scientific authority in a way a simple 6 could never match. Of course, 5.57 would carry even more weight. The more decimal places, the more impressive the number. If "Π" were an exact number, it wouldn't have the same aura at all.

Now you've gone and whetted my curiosity about that .5 person. I visualize him as very short. Or, if a she, as a Venus de Milo figure — a streamlined torso shorn of excess limbs.

I now await the terribly serious letter pointing out that this .5 person is just a statistical abstraction, but is that any reason, I ask you, to dehumanize that half a person? We have civil rights laws in this country, you know. I bet Randy Newman is still getting irate letters inspired by his politically incorrect ditty about short people.

But "more important," you add, those 5.5 degrees of separation were discovered "not by a sociologist but by the psychologist Stanley Milgram." Of course that's more important. Every academic knows it's which discipline deserves credit for a theory that counts, not the theory itself.

Somehow I am not surprised to see that you're a professor of psychology. Of course you're not about to let those uppity sociologists horn in on your turf.

Like any good scholar, you cite your source: "the first issue (Volume 1, issue 1) of 'Psychology Today' on May 1967." I'm heading out to find one now. I hear the centerfold is something else.

You credit Stanley Milgram for this scientific "discovery," but his experiments have been challenged so regularly by now that it might be safer to refer to it as a theory.

And like many another scientific theory, could it have been science fiction first? Literature has a way of anticipating science. Or as Augustine put it, art is science in the making.

Ever hear of Frigyes Karinthy? Neither had I until I googled Six Degrees of Separation and came up with the name of this Hungarian author. It seems he wrote a short story called "Chains" in which he theorized that, thanks to modern communications, we can connect any two people in the world through at most five others. (OK, so he was .5 off.)

Karinthy's story was written in 1929, long before the Internet. In it, one of the characters "suggested performing the following experiment to prove that the population of the Earth is closer together now than they have ever been before. We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth — anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances."

It was left to psychologist Stanley Milgram to do the fieldwork that backed up Karinthy's intuition. Then came along playwright John Guare to popularize the concept by naming his 1990 play about a con man and his gullible victims "Six Degrees of Separation."

To quote one of the characters in the play, "I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The president of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find it extremely comforting that we're so close. I also find it like Chinese water torture that we're so close because you have to find the right six people to make the right connection. I am bound, you are bound, to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people."

Maybe it's really only 5.5 people — yes, on average, and between random pairs — but somehow I doubt if John Guare's play would have had quite the same appeal if it had been called "5.5 Degrees of Separation."

Inky Wretch

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