Monday, August 1, 2016

A Distribution on a Cylinder

Here's a utility pole at a traffic intersection in Aspen Hill, Maryland. The pole has served as display for the many yard sales, community meetings, and businesses that have had their advertising flyers posted on the pole. The flyers have long since been removed. Only their staples and nails remain. These accumulated staples show a distribution of the heights of flyer postings. 

The close-up view below shows the distribution of individual staples and nails on the cylinder of the pole. The staples are distributed both around the pole and vertically up and down the pole. Vertically, it's too difficult to put flyers high on the pole and few staples can be found there. Flyers very low on the pole wouldn't be easily seen by those passing by, so few staples are also found there. Most staples and nails are at a comfortable shoulder and viewing height. If we imagine the height of a staple above the ground is our random variable, we find few staples with small height, few with large height, and many more with a medium height. This is a bell-shaped pattern up and down the pole that we have seen often.

Horizontally, the staples are distributed circularly around the pole. They would also have greatest frequency towards the traffic and lesser frequency on the backside of the pole. This is likely also a bell-shaped distribution, wrapped around a circle. We have seen such a distribution before connected with the characteristic function of a random variable. We've also seen a distribution on a pole at the Rodin museum in Paris.


Barry Rowlingson said...

That's a marked inhibitory point pattern. You can't put a nail or a staple where there's already a nail, although you can to some extent put a staple over an existing staple...

Robert W. Jernigan said...

Good observation. Although, I've dealt with point process, I've never used the inhibitory process you mentioned. Something to look up. Thanks for the comment.