Stuff I Found

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Benford's Law

Does your house address start with a 1? According to a strange mathematical law, about 1/3 of house numbers have 1 as their first digit. The same holds true for many other areas that have almost nothing in common: the Dow Jones index history, size of files stored on a PC, the length of the world’s rivers, the numbers in newspapers’ front page headlines, and many more.

Hmmm... interesting, no? I think it has more to do with human psychology than actual mathematics, such as why we use a ten-based system and how we choose numbering systems. While math is inherent in nature, how we represent it numerically is entirely up to us. Benford's Law is not a strange mathematical law, it's a reflection on our own psychological tendencies when it comes to choosing mathematical representations. It's an emergent property. Fascinating, no?


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