# On Standard Deviations¶

This essay is meant as a reflection on the implementation of Standard Deviations and/or measurement errors in
`symfit`

. Although reading this essay in it’s entirely will only be interesting to a select few, I urge anyone who
uses `symfit`

to read the following summarizing bullet points, as `symfit`

is NOT backward-compatible with
`scipy`

.

- standard deviations are assumed to be measurement errors by default, not relative weights. This is the opposite of the
`scipy`

definition. Set`absolute_sigma=False`

when calling`Fit`

to get the`scipy`

behavior.

## Analytical Example¶

The implementation of standard deviations should be in agreement with cases to which the analytical solution is known.
`symfit`

was build such that this is true. Let’s follow the example outlined by [taldcroft]. We’ll be sampling from a
normal distribution with \(\mu = 0.0\) and varying \(\sigma\). It can be shown that given a sample from such a
distribution:

where N is the size of the sample. We see that the error in the sample mean scales with the \(\sigma\) of the distribution.

In order to reproduce this with `symfit`

, we recognize that determining the avarage of a set of numbers is the same as
fitting to a constant. Therefore we will fit to samples generated from distributions with \(\sigma = 1.0\) and
\(\sigma = 10.0\) and check if this matches the analytical values. Let’s set \(N = 10000\).

```
N = 10000
sigma = 10.0
np.random.seed(10)
yn = np.random.normal(size=N, scale=sigma)
a = Parameter('a')
y = Variable('y')
model = {y: a}
fit = Fit(model, y=yn, sigma_y=sigma)
fit_result = fit.execute()
fit_no_sigma = Fit(model, y=yn)
fit_result_no_sigma = fit_no_sigma.execute()
```

This gives the following results:

- a = 5.102056e-02 +- 1.000000e-01 when
`sigma_y`

is provided. This matches the analytical prediction. - a = 5.102056e-02 +- 9.897135e-02 without
`sigma_y`

provided. This is incorrect.

If we run the above code example with `sigma = 1.0`

, we get the following results:

- a = 5.102056e-03 +- 9.897135e-03 when
`sigma_y`

is provided. This matches the analytical prediction. - a = 5.102056e-03 +- 9.897135e-03 without
`sigma_y`

provided. This is also correct, since providing no weights is the same as setting the weights to 1.

To conclude, if `symfit`

is provided with the standard deviations, it will give the expected result by default. As
shown in [taldcroft] and `symfit`

‘s `tests.py`

, `scipy.optimize.curve_fit`

has to be provided with the
`absolute_sigma=True`

setting to do the same.

Important

We see that even if the weight provided to every data point is the same, the *scale* of the weight still effects the
result. `scipy`

was build such that the opposite is true: if all datapoints have the same weight, the error in the
parameters does not depend on the scale of the weight.

This difference is due to the fact that `symfit`

is build for area’s of science where one is dealing with
measurement errors. And with measurement errors, the size of the errors obviously matters for the certainty of the
fit parameters, even if the errors are the same for every measurement.

If you want the `scipy`

behavior, initiate `Fit`

with `absolute_sigma=False`

.

# Comparison to Mathematica¶

In Mathematica, the default setting is also to use relative weights, which we just argued is not correct when dealing with measurement errors. In [mathematica] this problem is discussed very nicely, and it is shown how to solve this in Mathematica.

Since `symfit`

is a fitting tool for the practical man, measurement errors are assumed by default.

[taldcroft] | http://nbviewer.ipython.org/urls/gist.github.com/taldcroft/5014170/raw/31e29e235407e4913dc0ec403af7ed524372b612/curve_fit.ipynb |

[mathematica] | http://reference.wolfram.com/language/howto/FitModelsWithMeasurementErrors.html |