random walk

1. Statistics. the path taken by a point or quantity that moves in steps, where the direction of each step is determined randomly.
2. Physics. the tendency of particles in random motion to achieve a net displacement or to drift in a particular direction.
[1900-05]

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▪ mathematics and science
      in probability theory, a process for determining the probable location of a point subject to random motions, given the probabilities (the same at each step) of moving some distance in some direction. Random walks are an example of Markov processes (Markov process), in which future behaviour is independent of past history. A typical example is the drunkard's walk, in which a point beginning at the origin of the Euclidean plane moves a distance of one unit for each unit of time, the direction of motion, however, being random at each step. The problem is to find, after some fixed time, the probability distribution function of the distance of the point from the origin. Many economists believe that stock market fluctuations, at least over the short run, are random walks.

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Universalium. 2010.

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