from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The symmetrical curve of a normal distribution. Also called normal curve.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. In mathematics, the bell-shaped curve that is typical of the normal distribution.


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  • Everybody's familiar with the bell curve. But nobody considers that other one, a second bell curve: x2 + y2 = 1, i.e., the circle. Dip the bell skirt in ink, plunk it down on paper and presto!

    October 8, 2008

  • Jan is not talking about lifeforms, he is talking about the Life of Life, a larger evolution subsuming all lifeforms. The crux of the comment is: "(same deal is running in your consciousness.)", which is to say that true creativity happens at the extremes and is quickly dragged into the fold of convention--enriching the heart of the bell curve; but creativity only thrives at the cutting edges. And that is all that Jan was interested in.

    January 29, 2008

  • Actually, becoming more homogeneous over time does conform with the laws of thermodynamics. A more homogeneous system has less order. As cream and sugar mix into your coffee, the entropy of the system increases. If entropy were to decrease, the cream and sugar would spontaneously separate from the coffee.

    Cox is incorrect in saying "as Life grows on this planet, it becomes more homogenous". As life forms evolve, they become less, not more, similar and the overall disparity among living organisms increase.

    January 26, 2008

  • Nah, just death.

    January 26, 2008

  • Erm -- accident?

    January 25, 2008

  • Was a guy.

    January 25, 2008

  • Jan Cox is a guy??

    January 25, 2008

  • I've got no argument with you sionnach. What you think is what you get. Note however, the "special edition" qualifier. Jan's treatment was never meant to reward a scrutiny like yours. It was meant to be a kind of keyhole through which an appropriately interested reader might view an extraordinary new landscape, one that renders the metaphor moot and preempts the natural tendency of men to argue with it.

    January 25, 2008

  • With all due respect, this is rubbish.

    1. Many natural phenomena follow a Gaussian distribution, BUT any set of measurements of any size will typically be contaminated by measurement error, making reliance on the assumption of a bell-shaped distribution dangerous and likely to lead to misleading conclusions.

    2. The notion that things become more homogeneous over time is in direct contradiction to the laws of thermodynamics - perhaps Jan Cox needs to look up the definition of entropy.

    3. There is a wide range of phenomena that do not even remotely follow a bell-shaped distribution -- incomes, internet traffic, frequency of letters/words within a given corpus of text, first digits, to name a few. These are generally governed by some kind of power law; depending on the details, characterizable by the Pareto distribution, Zipf's law, or the related Benford's law.

    Maybe the Cox quotation was not meant to be taken seriously, but recognized for the pseudo-mystical twaddle that it is. I just find it annoying when meaninglessness attempts to hide the emptiness at the core by misappropriating the language of science.

    Where's Professor Sokal when you need him?

    January 24, 2008

  • The BELL CURVE (Special Edition): (1) Everything in Life falls within the well known Bell Curve, but not so well observed is that as Life grows on this planet, it becomes more homogenous and enriches itself via mankind collectively by gradually pulling its extremes into the heart of the Curve. (2) Select individuality produces technical innovations conducive to extended life; after that: uniformity allows the masses to enjoy it. (Same deal is running in your consciousness.) --

    January 24, 2008