When the probability of measuring a particular value of some quantity varies inversely as a power of that value, the quantity is said to follow a power law, also known variously as Zipf's law or the Pareto distribution. Power laws appear widely in physics, biology, earth and planetary sciences, economics and finance, computer science, demography and the social sciences. For instance, the distributions of the sizes of cities, earthquakes, forest fires, solar flares, moon craters and people's personal fortunes all appear to follow power laws. The origin of power-law behaviour has been a topic of debate in the scientific community for more than a century. Here we review some of the empirical evidence for the existence of power-law forms and the theories proposed to explain them.
- Pub Date:
- September 2005
- Condensed Matter - Statistical Mechanics;
- Physics - Data Analysis;
- Statistics and Probability;
- Physics - Physics and Society
- 28 pages, 16 figures, minor corrections and additions in this version