David Bourget (Western Ontario)
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According to Bikas Chakrabarti (2005, p. 225), the term econophysics was neologized in 1995 at the second Statphys-Kolkata conference in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India by the physicist H. Eugene Stanley, who was also the first to use it in print (Stanley, 1996). Mantegna and Stanley (2000, pp. viii-ix) define “the multidisciplinary field of econophysics” as “a neologism that denotes the activities of physicists who are working on economics problems to test a variety of new conceptual approaches deriving from the physical sciences.” The list of such problems has included distributions of returns in financial markets (Mantegna, 1991; Levy and Solomon, 1997; Bouchaud and Cont, 1998; Gopakrishnan, Plerou, Amaral, Meyer, and Stanley, 1999; Sornette and Johansen, 2001; Farmer and Joshi, 2004) the distribution of income and wealth (Drăgulescu and Yakovenko, 2001; Bouchaud and Mézard, 2000; Chatterjee, Yarlagadda, and Charkrabarti, 2005), the distribution of economic shocks and growth rate variations (Bak, Chen, Scheinkman, and Woodford, 1993; Canning, Amaral, Lee, Meyer, and Stanley, 1998), the distribution of firm sizes and growth rates (Stanley, Amaral, Buldyrev, Havlin, Leschhorn, Maass, Salinger, and Stanley, 1996; Takayasu and Okuyama, 1998; Botazzi and Secchi, 2003), the distribution of city sizes (Rosser, 1994; Gabaix, 1999), and the distribution of scientific discoveries (Plerou, Amaral, Gopakrishnan, Meyer, and Stanley, 1999; Sornette 1 and Zajdenweber, 1999), among other problems, all of which are seen at times not to follow normal or Gaussian patterns that can be described fully by mean and variance. The main sources of conceptual approaches from physics used by the econophysicists have been from models of statistical mechanics (Spitzer, 1971), geophysical models of earthquakes (Sornette, 2003), and “sandpile” models of avalanches, the latter involving self-organized criticality (Bak, 1996). An early physicist to assert the essential identity of statistical methods used in physics and the social sciences was Majorana (1942). A common theme among those who identify themselves as econophysicists is that standard economic theory has been inadequate or insufficient to explain the non-Gaussian distributions empirically observed for various of these phenomena, such as “excessive” skewness and leptokurtotic “fat tails” (McCauley, 2004)..
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