Frederik's Friday Fact

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Friday 19 Jan 2007: Benford's law
Benford's law states that certain digits will show up more often than others as the leading non-zero digit in many sets of real-life data. The number 1 shows up around 30% of the time, 2 around 17.6%, down to 9 only around 4.6%. This phenomenon was first formulated by astronomer and mathematician Simon Newcomb in 1881, supposedly after he noticed that the earlier pages of log tables were more worn than later ones. It hardly received any attention until it was formulated independently in 1938 by physicist Frank Benford. Nowadays it is often used in the detection of anomalies (i.e. fraud) in e.g. insurance and accounting data.

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