Most people are familiar with the normal or Gaussian distribution. However, there’s a whole world of lesser-known distributions that play crucial roles in specific applications.

Understanding these lesser-known distributions can greatly enhance our ability to analyze data and make informed decisions in fields ranging from finance to engineering. And research supports this.

Recent data projects that the global big data analytics market will reach USD 103 billion by 2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.5% from 2020 to 2027. This shows that there is an increasing need for robust statistical tools and models to handle complex datasets effectively.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of ten lesser-known probability distributions and their real-world applications.

## 1. Beta Distribution

The Beta distribution is a continuous probability distribution defined on the interval [0, 1]. It is characterized by two positive shape parameters, α (alpha) and β (beta).

These parameters determine the distribution’s shape and allow for a wide range of forms, including symmetrical, skewed, U-shaped, and uniform distributions.

Key properties include:

**Boundedness.**The Beta distribution is defined on the interval [0, 1], making it ideal for modeling proportions, probabilities, or any continuous outcomes within known bounds.**Flexibility.**This distribution can take on a variety of shapes depending on its shape parameters, α and β. It can be symmetric, skewed, U-shaped, and more.**Probability Density Function:**The PDF of the Beta distribution shows how probabilities are spread over the interval from 0 to 1. It indicates which values within this range are more likely to occur. The formula of PDF is f(x) = (x^(α-1) * (1-x)^(β-1)) / B(α, β), where x represents the random variable, and B(α, β) denotes the beta function.

The Beta distribution is particularly useful in Bayesian statistics as a conjugate prior for the binomial and Bernoulli distributions. If the prior distribution of a probability parameter is Beta, then the posterior distribution, after observing data, will also be a Beta distribution. This property simplifies the process of updating beliefs with new evidence.

Beta distribution can also be used in digital marketing and website optimization to model the probability of success in A/B testing scenarios. For example, it helps determine which version of a webpage leads to a higher conversion rate.

## 2. Log-Normal Distribution

The Log-Normal distribution is a continuous probability distribution of a random variable whose logarithm is normally distributed. In simpler terms, if you take the natural logarithm of a log-normally distributed variable, you get a variable that follows a normal distribution.

The log-normal distribution is handy for modeling variables that are positively skewed and cannot take negative values.

**Positivity.**The Log-Normal distribution only takes positive values. This makes it useful for modeling quantities that cannot be negative, such as stock prices or product lifetimes.**Skewness.**It is right-skewed, meaning it has a long tail on the right side. This is in contrast to the symmetric bell curve of the normal distribution.**Parameters**. It is characterized by two parameters:**μ (mu).**The mean of the logarithm of the variable.**σ (sigma).**The standard deviation of the logarithm of the variable.

The Log-Normal distribution is commonly used to model stock prices and financial returns. Since stock prices cannot be negative and often exhibit skewness, the Log-Normal distribution provides a more accurate representation than the normal distribution.

It can also be used to describe the distribution of biological measurements, such as the size of organisms or the concentration of substances in the body, which are often positively skewed.

## 3. Gamma Distribution

The Gamma distribution is a continuous probability distribution that models the time until an event occurs a certain number of times. It is often used for variables that are always positive and can have a wide range of shapes depending on its parameters.

Some of its key properties include:

- It approaches zero as time goes to infinity.
- For real numbers (n), the Gamma distribution value is the factorial of (n-1).
- The Gamma distribution value for 1/2 is the square root of pi.

The Gamma distribution helps predict when big market changes might happen. Traders use it to guess how long it’ll be between important events that affect prices. This helps them make prevent mistakes when trading options, stocks or monitoring any kind of price changes for goods or commodities.

It can also be used to model the life durations of products and systems. For instance, Gamma distribution can describe the time until a machine or component fails, helping in planning maintenance and improving reliability.

## 4. Exponential Distribution

The Exponential Distribution is a continuous probability distribution that models the time between events in a Poisson process. This is where events occur continuously and independently at a constant average rate.

It is characterized by a single parameter λ (lambda), known as the rate parameter.

Some of its key properties include:

**Mean and variance.**The mean of the Exponential distribution is 1/𝜆 and the variance is 1/λ 2**Memoryless property**. This property means that the probability of an event occurring in the future is independent of any past events.

In reliability engineering, the Exponential distribution is used to model the time until a system or component fails, especially when the failure rate is constant. This means the likelihood of failure remains the same over time.

For instance, it helps predict the failure times of mechanical parts, such as gears, bearings, and engines, to optimize maintenance and reduce downtime.

## 5. Cauchy distribution

The Cauchy distribution, also known as the Lorentz or Lorentzian distribution, is a continuous probability distribution notable for its heavy tails and undefined mean and variance. It has unique properties and diverse applications across several fields.

The mean, variance, and other higher moments of the Cauchy distribution are undefined because the integrals required to compute them do not converge. This makes the distribution useful in demonstrating the limitations of statistical measures like the mean and variance.

The Cauchy distribution describes the distribution of resonance frequencies in physics, particularly in spectroscopy. It models the shape of spectral lines broadened by homogeneous interactions, such as collision broadening in atoms.

It can also be used to model extreme events like maximum one-day rainfall and river discharge. It helps in understanding and predicting rare and extreme hydrological phenomena.

## Conclusion

Probability distributions are essential tools for analyzing and understanding data in various fields, such as finance, engineering, meteorology, and medicine. They provide unique perspectives to uncover patterns and insights that might otherwise be hidden.

Knowing these distributions can offer a significant advantage, whether you’re developing AI algorithms, managing financial risks, or preparing for uncertain events.

So, next time you encounter a dataset or a real-world problem, consider whether one of these lesser-known distributions might offer valuable insights. You might be surprised at how often these mathematical models can shed light on the patterns and probabilities shaping our daily lives.

*Header image by freepik.*