Do words behave like earthquakes?

The words used to describe major events seem to propagate through the blogosphere in the much the same way that earthquakes affect our planet. So says a study done by physicist Peter Klimek of the Medical University of Vienna.

The study looked at the frequency of words in political blogs, and found that the topics emerged and decayed in a manner similar to the Gutenberg-Richter law, which describes the relationship between magnitude and number of earthquakes in a given region.

As reported on’s Wired Science blog:

“We show that the public reception of news reports follow a similar statistic as earthquakes do,” the researchers conclude. “One might also think of a ‘Richter scale’ for media events.”

However Duncan Watts, a researcher at Yahoo! Research, … notes that drawing mathematical analogies between unrelated phenomena doesn’t mean there’s any deeper connection. …

“But they’re all generated by different processes,” Watts said. “To suggest that the same mechanism is at work here is kind of absurd. It sort of can’t be true.”

See the full article on Wired Science, and the published report on