Monday, February 15, 2010

This Post Has One Topic, For Instance

Math is strange and surprising. Consider Benford's Law, which states that

in lists of numbers from many (but not all) real-life sources of data, the leading digit is distributed in a specific, non-uniform way. According to this law, the first digit is 1 almost one third of the time, and larger digits occur as the leading digit with lower and lower frequency, to the point where 9 as a first digit occurs less than one time in twenty ... This counter-intuitive result has been found to apply to a wide variety of data sets, including electricity bills, street addresses, stock prices, population numbers, death rates, lengths of rivers, physical and mathematical constants, and processes described by power laws (which are very common in nature). The result holds regardless of the base in which the numbers are expressed, although the exact proportions change.
Apropos of that, it was article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli that declared that "... the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion ..."

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