In 1881, astronomer Simon Newcomb noticed something curious. The first pages in books of logarithms were dirty on the edge, while the pages became progressively cleaner in later pages. He inferred from this that people more often looked up the logarithms of numbers with small leading digits than with large leading digits.
Why might this be? One might reasonably expect the numbers that came up in work to be uniformly distributed. But as often the case, it helps to ask “Uniform on what scale?”
Read on for a bit more of the story behind
Newcomb’s Benford’s law and a just-so story about differing bases.