Applications of Standard Deviation

Standard deviation is widely used in experimental and industrial settings to test models against real-world data. An example of this in industrial applications is quality control for some products. Standard deviation can be used to calculate a minimum and maximum value within which some aspect of the product should fall some high percentage of the time. In cases where values fall outside the calculated range, it may be necessary to make changes to the production process to ensure quality control.

Another area in which standard deviation is largely used is finance, where it is often used to measure the associated risk in price fluctuations of some asset or portfolio of assets. The use of standard deviation in these cases provides an estimate of the uncertainty of future returns on a given investment. For example, in comparing stock A that has an average return of 7% with a standard deviation of 10% against stock B, that has the same average return but a standard deviation of 50%, the first stock would clearly be the safer option, since the standard deviation of stock B is significantly larger, for the exact same return. That is not to say that stock A is definitively a better investment option in this scenario, since standard deviation can skew the mean in either direction. While Stock A has a higher probability of an average return closer to 7%, Stock B can potentially provide a significantly larger return (or loss).

These are only a few examples of how one might use standard deviation, but many more exist. Generally, calculating standard deviation is valuable any time it is desired to know how far from the mean a typical value from a distribution can be.

Standard Deviation Calculator 

Standard deviation in statistics, typically denoted by σ, is a measure of variation or dispersion (refers to a distribution's extent of stretching or squeezing) between values in a set of data. The lower the standard deviation, the closer the data points tend to be to the mean (or expected value), μ. Conversely, a higher standard deviation indicates a wider range of values. Similar to other mathematical and statistical concepts, there are many different situations in which standard deviation can be used, and thus many different equations. In addition to expressing population variability, the standard deviation is also often used to measure statistical results such as the margin of error. When used in this manner, standard deviation is often called the standard error of the mean, or standard error of the estimate with regard to a mean. The calculator above computes population standard deviation and sample standard deviation, as well as confidence interval approximations. 

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