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Subject: Re: [office-comment] Re: Gaussian Distribution vs Normal Distribution

• To: dwheeler@dwheeler.com, office-comment@lists.oasis-open.org
• Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2008 10:32:24 +0100

```Hello all,

...
> > * A Googlefight (showing which term is more popular on the Internet)
> shows
> > "Gaussian distribution" with 943,000 references while "normal
> > distribution" gets 14,100,100 references:

FALSE

"normal distribution": 782,000
"gaussian distribution": 573,000

The difference is quite small, and, considering that one is a technical term
and the other was quite common to the laymen and in the past, this seems
even more astonishing.

Sincerely,

> >
> > We should choose the terms that are more common, generally, so that we
> can
> > communicate - and by that measure "Normal distribution" wins.
> >
> > In addition, since this is one of the _statistical_ functions in the
> > formula spec, it seems appropriate to use the standard terminology used
> by
> > statisticians. Wolfram's text in particular argues that the term should
> be
> > "Normal distribution".
> >
> > While there are obviously other statistical distributions, I think the
> > central limit theorem is a pretty good argument for NAMING this
> distribution
> > the "normal" distribution.  This theorem states that "Under certain
> > conditions (such as being independent and identically-distributed with
> finite
> > variance), the sum of a large number of random variables is
> approximately
> > normally distributed" [Wikipedia text, but this is well-known in
> > mathematics/statistics].  Which means that when things get added up,
> even if they didn't
> >
> > The spec _should_ include the term "Gaussian distribution" when
> discussing
> > this function - that's fair enough.  But it appears to me that the
> > standard name for this is "Normal distribution" - the alternative
> terminology
> > seems to be primarily in specialty areas (e.g., physics).  We should
> strive for
> > the most common term, and if there isn't an obvious common term, use the
> > term that the primary experts use (in this case statisticians).  Either
> way,
> > I think "Normal distribution" wins.
> >
> > --- David A. Wheeler
>
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