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James Brody
January 30th, 2005, 09:03 AM
Country & Western Power Laws

Power laws (Barabasi, 2002; Strogatz, 2003; Murray, 2003) describe emergent networks wherein 20% of the players access 80% of the action and thousands of players share the remaining 20%. Vilferdo Pareto, Alfred Lotka, and Zipf reminded us of such things. We find power laws operating in phase transitions and in "self-organized" systems. We also find them in human, insect, and dolphin sociality and in that of neurons.

They also work inside our cells: ATP is the mulla-yenta-alpha that attracts resources and shares them with the camel jocks and omegas. Infinite variety then accrues to old structures as ultrabithorax and abdominal A or B build their respective castles and heads and bellies follow parallel but sometimes divergent evolutionary paths. The way to only one of a man's hearts is through his stomachs!

The C&W Top-40 hint of a power law function. The fun stuff that jumps like popcorn is played in the first 90-120 minutes of the C&W survey on Sunday morning. The last 40 minutes is less chaotic in artists and in song. McGraw, Brooks & Dunn, and Alan Jackson are often at top; McBride, Womack, and Reba McIntire are there with them but less prominently. (One more time, the guys are on top!) Sometimes, consistent with Barabasi (2002), a fast-recruiting newcomer moves into the top: Gretchen Wilson surprised all of us.

The C&W data for the last 50 years present an easy master's thesis for an abacus driver versed in behavior genetics and evolution.

James Brody

More Reading

Barabasi, A-L (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks. NY: Perseus.
Murray, C. (2003) Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts & Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 NY: Harper Collins.
Strogatz, S. (2003) Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. NY: Hyperion.