The arXivotubes have delivered unto me A. James and M. J. Plank’s “On fitting power laws to ecological data” (4 December, arXiv:0712.0613).
Heavy-tailed or power-law distributions are becoming increasingly common in biological literature. A wide range of biological data has been fitted to distributions with heavy tails. Many of these studies use simple fitting methods to find the parameters in the distribution, which can give highly misleading results. The potential pitfalls that can occur when using these methods are pointed out, and a step-by-step guide to fitting power-law distributions and assessing their goodness-of-fit is offered.
The classic in this genre is Clauset, Shalizi and Newman’s “Power-law Distributions in Empirical Data,” but more correctives are always appreciated.