September 20, 2006

Arrrrgh! Owwwwwww! Noooooooooo! (A Remark on Power Laws)

Via Language Log, there comes this fun post on the distribution of the number of repetitions of "R" in strings of the form "AR+", as in, "Arrr, mateys!" These findings, like Mark Liberman's on "AW+", are in line with the results of the seminal paper in this area, Dennis Chao and Patrik D'haeseleer's "The Distribution of Variable-length Phatic Interjectives on the World Wide Web" (University of New Mexico Computer Science Department Tech Report TR-CS-2001-23). I eagerly await further results in this exciting pico-field.

Being what I am, however, I can't resist pointing out that looking for a straight line on a log-log plot, and even finding one with high r-squared, is simply not a reliable way of checking whether a distribution is a power-law. Please do not do this. (And yes, I should be finishing that paper on the right approach, rather than blogging.)

Power Laws

Posted at September 20, 2006 13:23 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth