Newcomb-Benford law helps customs officers to detect fraud in international trade
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PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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The leading digit of a number represents its nonzero leftmost digit. For example, the leading digits of 19 and 0.072 are 1 and 7, respectively. The Newcomb–Benford law (NBL) was originally discovered in the late 19th century (1, 2) as an anecdotal pattern emerging in such seemingly disparate datasets as streets addresses, freezing points of chemical compounds, house prices, and physical constants, with the leading digit, d, in those datasets following a logarithmically decaying distribution, P(d) = log10(1 + 1/d), instead of being uniformly distributed, as one may naively assume. Later, this pattern was shown to be a consequence of a central limit-type mechanism (3⇓–5), emerging not only empirically but also in...
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