Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Changing the way power-law research is done.

From time to time, I have had Michael Mitzenmacher comment on issues relating to power-law research. Michael now has an editorial in the latest issue of Internet Mathematics, on new directions for power-law research.

I highly recommend reading it, whether you work in this area or not. It addresses the main point that has always made me uncomfortable about power-law research: that almost anything looks like a power-law if you squint hard enough. Michael makes the argument that
while numerous models that yield power law behavior have been suggested, and in fact the number of such models continues to grow rapidly, no general mechanisms or approaches have been suggested that allow one to validate that a suggested model is appropriate.
There is a larger point here about "algorithms on data" and "algorithms on structures" that I want to talk about, but I'll keep that for a later post.


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