Assessing the error of linear and planar field data using Fisher statistics
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This page first made public: Oct 23, 2009
- to reinforce the idea that numbers that are used in science should carry with them a valid assessment of their associated error or uncertainty,
- to reinforce the practice of collecting multiple observations associated with a given phenomenon, such as the orientation of a bed at a given outcrop, and
- to teach geoscientists how to assess the error associated with the collection of field data related to the orientation of near-parallel lines, vectors and planes.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
A manuscript with a fuller explanation of this application of Fisher statistics has been submitted for publication, and is currently available upon request from Vince Cronin.Explanation of Fisher statistics for students, in MS Word (Microsoft Word 1.2MB Jul17 04)
Explanation of Fisher statistics for students, in a PDF file (Acrobat (PDF) 1.5MB Jul17 04)
Excel spreadsheet to compute Fisher statistics of 3 to 5 observations (Excel 16kB Jul16 04)
Problem set in MS Word (Microsoft Word 315kB Jul17 04)
Problem set in a PDF file (Acrobat (PDF) 658kB Jul17 04)
Teaching Notes and Tips
Once students have acquired these statistical skills, it would be good to encourage them to make the collection of multiple observations and subsequent statistical analysis a routine part of their field work.
References and Resources
Fisher, N.I., Lewis, T., and Embleton, B.J.J., 1987, Statistical analysis of spherical data: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 329 p.
Fisher, R.A., 1953, Dispersion on a sphere: Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, v. A17, pp. 295-305.
Irving, E., 1964, Paleomagnetism and its application to geological and geophysical problems: John Wiley & Sons, New York, 399 p.
Mardia, K.V., 1972, Statistics of directional data: Academic Press, London, 357 p.
Opdyke, N.D., and Channell, J.E.T., 1996, Magnetic stratigraphy: Academic Press, San Diego, 346 p.
Tarling, D.H., 1971, Principles and applications of palaeomagnetism: Chapman and Hall, London, 164 p.
Tauxe, L., 1998, Paleomagnetic principles and practices: Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 299 p.