Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What Every School Child Knows...

Lately there has been a lot of buzz about a paper claiming that the correspondence response times of Einstein and Darwin followed a power law distribution. The counterclaim is that a log-normal distribution makes for a better fit. I'm not concerned with that here.

Three Toed Sloth chimes in on the subject and cheekily says:

"As every school-child knows (at least, these school-children do!), adding together many independent random variables, each of which makes a small contribution to the over-all result, generally gives you a Gaussian or normal distribution (unless the contributing variables are, themselves, kind of pathological). This fact is the central limit theorem."

If you follow the link, you'll see the "school children" noted are CMU engineering students. Cheekiness aside, I just want to say that I think teaching the Central Limit Theorem to school children seriously is a very good idea. It's such an important concept. I think it can be done.

Update: (1/2/2006). I added a new post on a cool contraption at the Science Museum of Minnesota to demonstrate the CLT.


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