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Normal Distribution

Blog posts and articles about the role of the normal distribution in statistics, data analysis, and quality improvement.

If you've read the first two parts of this tale, you know it started when I published a post that involved transforming data for capability analysis. When an astute reader asked why Minitab didn't seem to transform the data outside of the capability analysis, it revealed an oversight that invalidated the original analysis.  I removed the errant post. But to my surprise, the reader who helped me... Continue Reading
I don't like the taste of crow. That's a shame, because I'm about to eat a huge helping of it.  I'm going to tell you how I messed up an analysis. But in the process, I learned some new lessons and was reminded of some older ones I should remember to apply more carefully.  This Failure Starts in a Victory My mistake originated in the 2015 Triple Crown victory of American Pharoah. I'm no... Continue Reading
Every now and then I’ll test my Internet speed at home using such sites as http://speedtest.comcast.net  or http://www.att.com/speedtest/.  My need to perform these tests could stem from the cool-looking interfaces they employ on their site, as they display the results using analog speedometers and RPM meters. They could also stem from the validation that I need in "getting what I am paying for,"... Continue Reading
By Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger.   Many statistical tests assume the data being tested came from a normal distribution. Violating the assumption of normality can result in incorrect conclusions. For example, a Z test may indicate a new process is more efficient than an older process when this is not true. This could result in a capital investment for equipment that actually results in higher... Continue Reading
Scientists who use the Hubble Space Telescope to explore the galaxy receive a stream of digitized images in the form binary code. In this state, the information is essentially worthless- these 1s and 0s must first be converted into pictures before the scientists can learn anything from them. The same is true of statistical distributions and parameters that are used to describe sample data. They... Continue Reading
In previous posts, I discussed the results of a recycling project done by Six Sigma students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology last spring. (If you’re playing catch up, you can read Part I and Part II.) The students did an awesome job reducing the amount of recycling that was thrown into the normal trash cans across all of the institution’s academic buildings. At the end of the spring... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger.  The old saying “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it must be a duck” may be appropriate in bird watching; however, the same idea can’t be applied when observing a statistical distribution. The dedicated ornithologist is often armed with binoculars and a field guide to the local birds and this should be sufficient. A... Continue Reading
As a Minitab trainer, one of the most common questions I get from training participants is "what should I do when my data isn’t normal?" A large number of statistical tests are based on the assumption of normality, so not having data that is normally distributed typically instills a lot of fear. Many practitioners suggest that if your data are not normal, you should do a nonparametric version of... Continue Reading
A while back, I offered an overview of process capability analysis that emphasized the importance of matching your analysis to the distribution of your data. If you're already familiar with different types of distributions, Minitab makes it easy to identify what type of data you're working with, or to transform your data to approximate the normal distribution. But what if you're not so great with... Continue Reading
In 1898, Russian economist Ladislaus Bortkiewicz published his first statistics book entitled Das Gesetz der keinem Zahlen, in which he included an example that eventually became famous for illustrating the Poisson distribution. Bortkiewicz researched the annual deaths by horse kicks in the Prussian Army from 1875-1984. Data was recorded from 14 different army corps, with one being the Guard... Continue Reading
To choose the right statistical analysis, you need to know the distribution of your data. Suppose you want to assess the capability of your process. If you conduct an analysis that assumes the data follow a normal distribution when, in fact, the data are nonnormal, your results will be inaccurate. To avoid this costly error, you must determine the distribution of your data. So, how do you determine... Continue Reading
Imagine that you are watching a race and that you are located close to the finish line. When the first and fastest runners complete the race, the differences in times between them will probably be quite small. Now wait until the last runners arrive and consider their finishing times. For these slowest runners, the differences in completion times will be extremely large. This is due to the fact that... Continue Reading
by Lion "Ari" Ondiappan Arivazhagan, guest blogger.   Predicting project completion times is one of the major challenges project managers face. Project schedule overruns are quite common due to the high uncertainty in estimating the amount of time activities require, a lack of historical data about project completion, organizational culture, inadequate skills, the complex and elaborative nature of... Continue Reading
Welcome to the Hypothesis Test Casino! The featured game of the house is roulette. But this is no ordinary game of roulette. This is p-value roulette! Here’s how it works: We have two roulette wheels, the Null wheel and the Alternative wheel. Each wheel has 20 slots (instead of the usual 37 or 38). You get to bet on one slot. What happens if the ball lands in the slot you bet on? Well, that depends... Continue Reading
It’s safe to say that most people who use statistics are more familiar with parametric analyses than nonparametric analyses. Nonparametric tests are also called distribution-free tests because they don’t assume that your data follow a specific distribution. You may have heard that you should use nonparametric tests when your data don’t meet the assumptions of the parametric test, especially the... Continue Reading
In part 1 of this post, I covered how Six Sigma students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology cleaned up and prepared project data for a regression analysis. Now we're ready to start our analysis. We’ll detail the steps in that process and what we can learn from our results. What Factors Are Important? We collected data about 11 factors we believe could be significant: Whether the date of... Continue Reading
By Peter Olejnik, guest blogger. Previous posts on the Minitab Blog have discussed the work of the Six Sigma students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to reduce the quantities of recyclables that wind up in the trash. Led by Dr. Diane Evans, these students continue to make an important impact on their community. As with any Six Sigma process, the results of the work need to be evaluated. A... Continue Reading
If you wanted to figure out the probability that your favorite football team will win their next game, how would you do it?  My colleague Eduardo Santiago and I recently looked at this question, and in this post we'll share how we approached the solution. Let’s start by breaking down this problem: There are only two possible outcomes: your favorite team wins, or they lose. Ties are a possibility,... Continue Reading
by Matthew Barsalou, guest blogger.  E. E. Doc Smith, one of the greatest authors ever, wrote many classic books such as The Skylark of Space and his Lensman series. Doc Smith’s imagination knew no limits; his Galactic Patrol had millions of combat fleets under its command and possessed planets turned into movable, armored weapons platforms. Some of the Galactic Patrol’s weapons may be well... Continue Reading
In technical support, we frequently receive calls from Minitab users who have questions about the differences between Cpk and Ppk.  Michelle Paret already wrote a great post about the differences between Cpk and Ppk, but it also helps to have a better understanding of the math behind these numbers. So in this post I will show you how to calculate Ppk using Minitab’s default settings when the... Continue Reading