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The Coronavirus, Nature and Understanding a Bell Curve Distribution of Data

Updated on April 3, 2020

Chart-2 Bell Curve Distribution Examples

Typical Bell Curve Distribution Curves
Typical Bell Curve Distribution Curves | Source

Tracking the Corona Virus

Every country in the world has people tracking the growth in the present Coronavirus outbreak, otherwise known as CoVid-19. This Virus has proven to be deadly and as it spreads around the world, its devastation is increasing at an alarming rate.

As our governments enact one control measure after another in their efforts to control this virus, they continue to show the data they are collecting on it progress in every nation.

What they are actually showing us all are a number of different curved lines that illustrate the statistics of the growth of CoVid-19.

You need to realize that all of the nations have some very smart statisticians working with the real-time data on their populations and the effects of this specific CoVid-19 virus on their population. Although they are collecting many other statistics for analysis at the same time, the most watched numbers they are watching and analysing are.

  • the total population,
  • the number of tested people tested for CoVid-19,
  • the number of people who are infected,
  • and the number of people who have died.


What is a Bell Curve?

When scientists want to analyze dat, pretty much any data, they will first check to see if their data is a large enough sampling to be considered a "natural distribution" of data.

Things occur naturally with the vast majority of any data collected. But you must have collected enough data on what you are analyzing. for the sampling to be considered totally random.

For example if you pick up something as common as loose Acorns that have fallen onto the ground, and start stacking them in orderly stacks by their weight from the lightest to the heaviest, you will eventually see these stacks seem to be the largest in the middle and you with have the least number of Acorns in the end stacks.

This is what is called a Natural distribution and if the population of loose stones you picked your random samples from was large enough, when you plotted the distribution of stack weights on a graph you would have a bell-shaped graph.

Two Crops of Corn example

Let's keep this next example simple, OK?

First, let's say you and your neighbor are both growing Corn, which each of you will want to sell.

And assume that the only difference between your crop and your neighbor's is the fact that you are growing corn on 1000 acres of land while your neighbor only has 10 acres of the very same Corn.

So if you remove as many of the variables as possible from the two crops, such as soil quality, rain, seed used, etcetera, both you and your neighbor will be able to look at your, much larger, last year's data.

The data you both have from the past shows that your corn production, specifically the number of "ears of corn" produced per acre occurs in a natural distribution and fits a Bell Curve distribution nicely, so your data can be considered to be a sample of the the POPULATION

And by studying your crop data from the past years, your neighbor will have a high probability of accurately predicting how many ears of corn he can expect on his smaller 10 acres.

Normal Distributions

A Normal Distribution of the data of a large enough population such as mentioned here with "ears of corn per acre" will how the smallest number at one end of the plotted curve and the maximum number of ears of corn per acre at the other end.

The MEAN or Average

The very center of a true Bell Curve will be the MEAN or Average of all of the data collected and being the average it is also used for data prediction purposes.

For the 1000 acre farmer, he can use this Average number as well as other standard distribution calculations from this larger sampling of data to predict such things as; his crop yield, his potential asking price, his next years fertilizer needs and even more.

The farmer with only 10 acres of Corn may not have enough data to be able to predict a very accurate distribution of his much smaller sampling of Corn data, but he can use the data from the larger farmer's data mentioned here

Be aware that there are numerous data distribution predictive tools that are used by statisticians but I am only mentioning the highly relied on Bell Curve and the established tools it supports.

Bell Curves when plotted can be very different in overall shape from very narrow curves to very wide curves as shown in Chart-2, but as mentioned, if they are true Normal Distributions of the data used then they will all have a distinct Bell shape.

What these two farmers are doing is using an assumption that the first farmer's population is large enough that if all of the collected data were plotted on a chart, it would exhibit a Bell-shaped curve.

If you plotted this data, on and X-Y chart, the baseline (X-axis) would be labeled Ears of Corn per acre, while the vertical line (Y-axis) would be labeled Number of Acres, then the chart would look like what you see in Chart-1.

Chart-1 A Normal Distribution

Normal Distribution of data
Normal Distribution of data | Source

The CoronaVirus, CoVid-19 Virus Data

Each nation is using their own population of people for their tracking and predictions of the spread of CoVid-19.

Sure, they are hoping for a Bell-shaped curve of the number of humans and how they are being affected by the Virus.

But most of the statisticians are also monitoring and manipulating their data with different variables in their efforts to predict how it affects different sectors of their population as well as being analyzed by others that are searching for cures.

The data being analyzed is not just infection rates and death rates but even the different sectors of the population are being monitored such as; the age of portions of the population, the medical conditions of portions of the population, and numerous other variables in their efforts to predict the future of this virus.

Virus' and other diseases Grow and Die Off Naturally

So yes, everyone is hoping for CoVid-19 to eventually exhibit a Normal Distribution of its data, both on the rising numbers we see now as well as on the eventual declining numbers; and they are hoping for a natural Bell-shaped distribution of these numbers.

Something like a deadly virus is not much different from any other naturally occurring phenomenon in that for a large enough sampling of its population it will live and die off at rates that can be predicted by a Bell distribution analysis.

Now that I've said this; with a new disease, nations can do very little to manipulate the data. They can only dow two basic things until a cure is found, like; decrease the size of the population that is affected and isolate certain potential victims until the disease disappears.

Otherwise the only thing that will truly change the natural projections for the increase and decrease of this disease and its effects on mankind is to develop a cure.

With an Antivirus available, the right side of the Bell Curves used (or potentially decreasing numbers) can be turned into a sharp line heading down rapidly towards zero because tha available population of potential victims has changed after everyone has been inoculated.

Applying a Bell Curve to the CoVid-19 situation.

Every nation on this planet, is multiple weeks into monitoring and studying this virus' growth, and they keep showing their one-sided curve of the numbers to the public.

Presently this one-sided curve is exhibiting the left side (or increasing) numbers for almost every data category that is collected; with the infection rates and the death rates being the ones most shown.

What the staticians want is to see these two curves (calculated from the raw data available) start to flatten somewhat.

When they are able to see this happening, then they can truly start to predict an actual peak in the infections and deaths and even start to predict a curve with a slope to the other side of the Bell Curve.

What about an Antivirus?

The hope is, of course, that there will be an immediate discovery, development and production of an antivirus.

The Reality of an Antivirus for everyone.

Now we get to the sad part of this CoVid-19 situation and there being an Antivirus release.

There have been several people on the news over the next week who have told the truth about the development of pretty much any antivirus. once a potential cure is found for such a disease.

Each of them stated that, like I have said, once a potential antivirus is found, it typically takes as much as 12-18 months for it to be manufactured, tested, approved, produced in volume and then given to the masses of humanity around the world who are part of the remaining potential population of victims.

Yeah, they said 12-18 months.

So, while the world watches the infection rates and the death rates increase, hoping not only for a peak to the numbers, but also hoping that we will not be on the list of those killed by the disease.

Who am I to write this?

Ok, I am not a statistician with multiple degrees in Math and Physics, nor have I worked in any of the medical and disease management fields that so many of those studying this visur' data have.

But I am an Engineer and I have had my mandatory statistics classes and I have worked on leading edge technologies over my career and the indepth use of statistics has been something I understand.

So, as I watch the evolution of this virus' data being presented to the public, I thought it would be helpful to try to give my fellow human beings a view of what a Bell Curve is and how it and its related tools are being used to monitor and predict where CoVid-19 is heading over its lifespan.

I have to say one other thing; from my personal perspective and what I have learned over the past several months; as this virus has taken over the news media around the world, is that we, humanity in general, have a number of months of exposure to CoVid-19, in its present state, and once we have a viable anti-virus which we will probably have a new annual immunization program that we will all have to follow.

Comments

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    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      2 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Tim - As I sit here (sic) reading the works of my peers and writing my own, I do see what you are saying about the simple things that are becoming more important in our daily lives again.

      I am an Engineer, and I tend to drop to far into techno-talk, but I did try to give people who might read this article a few facts about the "Bell Curve" and how it reflects the reality that everything in our Natural world can be reflected and even studied as a population that can tell us things we never realized were measurable.

      Have a Great Day,

      DON

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      2 months ago from U.S.A.

      Excellent explanation of bell curves, Don. I've read China stopped reporting on the number of cases occurring or people dying from this disease. I am glad Mom's old advice seems relevant for this thing: Wash hands and face. I'm concerned the state south of here is reluctant to take some of the actions which other states are taking, but I will follow good advice from my parents. This was an educational and well written article. Thanks, and stay safe.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      2 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      I agree with you. There are too many potential new variables when you are dealing with the population of our whole world.

      The real hope we should all cling to is that with the whole world's scientists working on an antivirus, there is a high probability that we will have a breakthrough sooner than what we see as normal.

      I an just luck to be on my computer for several hours a day anyway, so this isolation thing hasn't bothered me as much as I expected.

      We all need to just take the next month or so on a day to day basis and thus increase our odds of survival.

      Have a Great Day,

      DON

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 months ago from Beautiful South

      Don, you've explained the "flattening of the curve" and the overall Bell Curve very well. There is one other factor that could affect the curve by sending it spiraling up or down, a mutation. I think everyone is holding his or her breath that such a thing won't happen before this thing poops itself out. In the meantime we can only hope that people follow instructions and stay at home. My state's governor refuses to issue any kind of orders of that nature, but we follow that advice anyway. We both have health problems and aren't going to flaunt our luck. Hope you and yours stay well.

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      2 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Liz - We can only hope that these isolation measures we are seeing being implemented will get us to that desired flat spot on this growing curve of people infected and dying.

      One of my fears is that a big portion of the public will "break out and the wold will see a second peak in the data. I hate to speak of human beings as "data" but that's pretty much what we have become at this time.

      Good luck to you and yours,

      DON

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      In the UK there is talk of flattening the peak as a result of isolation measures. In this way the government hopes to spread the strain on the National Health Service to ensure that it is not completely overrun. Time will tell if the measures taken will have the desired effect and we can all look at the charts and data from the other side.

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