Benford's law

Whilst talking to @StevieHamilton he mentioned listening to this great podcast called Radiolab Numbers. He also mentioned Benford’s Law and it’s applications, it sounded interesting and so I went and listened and indeed, it is.

Benford’s Law, also known as the First Digit law basically states that numbers will have a tendency to start with a lower digit number than a higher digit number, i.e. they start with a 1 or a 2 more often than a 8 or a 9. It was actually a guy called Simon Newcomb who first found this tendency because he noticed that in logarithm books (a book of Log tables), the pages at the front of the book, were much more worn than the other page, this lead him to ask the all important question of “why?”.

And that is actually the point of this post, asking “why?” is important. Very. Unless we ask that question, so many things will be undiscovered. It doesn’t matter if someone else has already discovered it, if it’s new for us, it can be something that expands our mind, leads us in new directions. As proof of that, you’ll note that Benford’s Law isn’t called Newcomb’s Law. You don’t have to be the first to ask “why?”, but you do have to ask.

What have you asked “Why?” about lately? and why is that?

Written on December 22, 2009