PIMS-UNBC Distinguished Colloquium: Benford's Law: Why the IRS might care about the 3x + 1 problem and zeta (s)

Speaker: Steven J. Miller

Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2020

Location: Zoom, University of Northern British Columbia

Subject: Mathematics

Class: Scientific


Many systems exhibit a digit bias. For example, the first digit base 10 of the Fibonacci numbers or of 2^n equals 1 about 30% of the time; the IRS uses this digit bias to detect fraudulent corporate tax returns. This phenomenon, known as Benford's Law, was first noticed by observing which pages of log tables were most worn from age- it's a good thing there were no calculators 100 years ago! We'll discuss the general theory and application, talk about some fun examples (ranging from the 3x + 1 problem to the Riemann zeta function), and discuss some current open problems suitable for undergraduate research projects.