A new study of word frequencies has found that certain words can shake the political blogosphere in a similar way to an earthquake.

The study, completed by researchers at the Medical University of Vienna, looked at 168 political blogs in the US and tracked spikes in the frequency of individual words. They noticed that some events trigger ‘reverberations’ and can cause social change.

The types of blogosphere responses took two forms, the researchers say. Some words suddenly spiked in popularity in response to a real-world event. Sarah Palin’s nomination as the Republican vice presidential candidate was the most dramatic example.

“Indeed, aftershocks of this event are still trembling and quivering through our society,” Klimek and colleagues wrote. Because these events are triggered from outside the blogosphere, the researchers called them “exogenous.”

Other words gradually grew in frequency and then died down, like the use of the word “inauguration” in the days before and after Barack Obama took office. Such events are called “endogenous” because they seem to arise within the blogosphere itself. (Source: Wired.com)

So what does this have to do with earthquakes? Well, apparently the ‘aftershocks’ of the increase in word frequency fit the equation of Omori’s law for the frequency of earthquake aftershocks.

It’s a pretty interesting concept, but as Duncan Watts says in the article, “it sort of can’t be true” as the analogy is between two unrelated phenomena.