Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have a set of data (metallicity of globular clusters) and wish to determine the presence of two sub-populations. I know there are two populations but I am unsure on how to split the two.

I have plotted a histogram of the data (metallicity vs number). Is there any method aside from sight, to determine the two populations?

FeH     Frequency
0       4
-0.2    6
-0.4    14
-0.6    15
-0.8    6
-1      15
-1.2    22
-1.4    23
-1.6    19
-1.8    15
-2      8
-2.2    5

Histogram of data

share|cite|improve this question
If there are two modes, it is common to infer that there are two populations, and to hope that at least one will be named after you. I do not see two modes here. – André Nicolas Apr 21 '12 at 5:14
Thanks André. I have update my question slightly and redone the histogram to show the total number agains the value. Perhaps this is a better place to start from? – Carl Apr 21 '12 at 5:57
Congraulations! Which subpopulation should be named Carl? The population is clearly bimodal. – André Nicolas Apr 21 '12 at 6:09
There are. I have forgotten, it has been many years since I have done statistical consulting. That's why I included the term bimodal, for searching. Post a similar question on the stats version, bottom of page, and you will probably get a few references. – André Nicolas Apr 21 '12 at 6:45
I've seen, -also some years ago, and do not remember the details- a concept and a software called "emmix" (try google) which should be able to separate mixtures of normal distributed data into the most likely subgroups. It seems to me, that this could be the required systematic approach for your question (but might require high level understanding of the required math, don't know). – Gottfried Helms Apr 21 '12 at 8:59
up vote 1 down vote accepted

For anyone else interested, I used Gaussian Mixture Modeling (GMM) algorithm to determine the means of the two populations and separate them.

Details of the techniques used are explained in the paper linked on this page:

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.