Thursday, June 7, 2007

Galton's Quincunx

A Qunicunx at the Instituto Butantan, São Paulo, Brazil.

The model was the invention of Sir Francis Galton, one of the English gentry scientists of the 19th century. Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin, and like Darwin, devoted himself to scientific explorations. He made significant contributions to meteorology, forensic science, and statistics. In the 1870s Galton developed a device to study dispersion of random events. His device consists of an array of pins that allows lead shot, encased behind glass, to cascade through. As a ball of shot falls it strikes a pin and falls randomly to the right or to the left, each equally likely. From there, the shot falls to the next level of pins where it repeats this random walk downward. The shot is collected in separate bins at the bottom of the device. The pattern of shot accumulated in the bins illustrates the variability associated with this simulation of a binomial experiment. He called his device a quincunx, due to the arrangement of pins like the pips on the number five side of a die. An illustration of Galton’s original quincunx can be found at the Galton Institute.

No comments: