After closing Spool & Spindle (an online fabric store), neither Erin nor Caroline really wanted to continue making SewQuest. It was a lot of work for Erin as she did the vast majority of the research involved and organizing of content, and Caroline hadn’t been sewing as much as she had in the past. However, as time passed, Caroline missed having recorded chats with Erin. She kept searching for a new podcast idea that would both be fun and not too much work for either of them.
One fateful day, while showering, Caroline came up with an idea. It seems all the her best ideas happen while showering. She remembered a concept and some experiments that she had learned about in a psych class: the small world experiments. The idea is that we are all connected within a relatively few degrees of separation (more info below, but TL;DR think Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). She thought, “it would be cool if we could interview people in a chain until we managed to interview Becky Chambers… that would probably be an idea that Erin would get onboard with…”. Side note: Erin always recognizes when Caroline is pandering to her, so Erin saw right through this. Erin was a bit off her game that day though, so she didn’t say no fast enough and got drawn into the idea. They chatted it through; maybe interviewing Becky Chambers wouldn’t be a good first goal. In an offhand remark, Erin asked if the goal should be to find someone who had been licked by a giraffe. Caroline thought that was just strange enough to work.
So with the idea ready, they set about trying to name this beast. Many ideas were tossed back and forth, many involving Bacon. They settled on Ephemeral Existence to allow future growth of concept and purpose for the podcast, and yet capture the essential nature of life, the universe, and everything. Everything is ephemeral, our existence is fleeting in nature, although it lives on through our connections. And really, this is a podcast about building connections and learning about the other ephemeral beings that we share this life with.
Small World Experiments
The small world experiments were a series of groundbreaking studies conducted by Stanley Milgram and other researchers in the 1960s that explored the concept of “six degrees of separation” and the idea that we are all connected through relatively short chains of acquaintances.
The basic premise of the experiments was to see how many steps it would take for a message to be transmitted from one person to another through a chain of intermediaries. Participants were given a letter or package and asked to send it to a specific person they did not know personally, but who was located in a different city. The participants were allowed to send the letter or package to anyone they knew personally, but they had to instruct the recipient to do the same, and so on, until the message reached the final destination.
The results of the small world experiments were surprising and revolutionary. It was found that the messages often reached their destination in just a few steps, suggesting that we are all connected by relatively short chains of acquaintances. This finding has been confirmed by many subsequent studies and has become known as the “six degrees of separation” phenomenon.
The small world experiments have had a lasting impact on our understanding of social networks and have influenced many fields, including psychology, sociology, and computer science. They have also contributed to our understanding of how information spreads and how diseases and ideas can quickly spread through a population.
A lot of the content on this site was written with the help of ChatGPT, which Caroline used because it seemed to generate text that she felt was more eloquent than she would write herself.