Research Highlights | Published:

Statistics: One size fits all

Nature volume 456, page 548 (04 December 2008) | Download Citation

Subjects

In the 1940s, linguist George Kingsley Zipf found that the probability distribution of a wide range of variables, including word-use frequency and demographic distributions, depends on the rank of the variable according to a power law. Now Thomas Maillart and his colleagues at ETH Zurich in Switzerland report empirical evidence from the spread of open-source software that an explanation posited in 1955 is correct.

This came from economist Herbert Simon. He thought that Zipf's law stems from the growth of a population of which the size varies at random but with a standard deviation proportional to that size. An analysis of exceptionally detailed data reveals that the Zipf law in incoming links to packages of the Debian Linux computer-operating system is supported by exactly this growth process.

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/456548e

Authors

    Comments

    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing