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Is Math Behind Everything?

Eight years ago, when Anne Strieber woke up from a coma, she got the message "God is a mathematical formula." Recent studies suggest that mathematics may govern everything from the timing of earthquakes (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) to tennis player rankings.

In BBC News, Jason Palmer writes: "In the 1930s, linguist George Kingsley Zipf spotted an unusual trend in languages. In a given work of literature, the second-most commonly used word occurs half as often as the most-used. The third-most used word occurs one-third as often as the first, and so on. He had discovered what has become the most widely known 'power law.' It was a striking finding--that something as fluid and untamed as language can appear to be so incredibly ordered."

Even seemingly random systems seem to follow power laws--even events like the timing and sizes of earthquakes. Researchers are discovering mathematical systems hidden within things like the characteristic motion patterns of depressed people, the numbers of pages in websites, and even the rankings of players of tennis players. Some single, unknown mechanism must be behind this, imposing order in a way we do not yet understand.

But not all scientists agree. Palmer quotes researcher Michael Stumpf as saying, "Science goes through fashions just like anything else does, and certainly finding power laws has been fashionable."

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