Nemenman eScience

Ilya Nemenman and his collaborators David Schwab of Princeton and Pankaj Mehta of Boston University have identified a mechanism that may help explain Zipf's law - a unique pattern of behavior found in disparate systems, including complex biological ones. The journal Physical Review Letters is publishing their mathematical models, which demonstrate how Zipf's law naturally arises when a sufficient number of units react to a hidden variable in a system.

"We've discovered a method that produces Zipf's law without fine-tuning and with very few assumptions," says Ilya Nemenman, a biophysicist at Emory University and one of the authors of the research.