In mathematics, a mean of circular quantities is a mean which is sometimes better-suited for quantities like angles, daytimes, and fractional parts of real numbers. This is necessary since most of the usual means may not be appropriate on circular quantities. For example, the arithmetic mean of 0° and 360° is 180°, which is misleading because for most purposes 360° is the same thing as 0°. As another example, the "average time" between 11 PM and 1 AM is either midnight or noon, depending on whether the two times are part of a single night or part of a single calendar day.

Mean of angles

Since the arithmetic mean is not always appropriate for angles, the following method can be used to obtain both a mean value and measure for the variance of the angles:

Convert all angles to corresponding points on the unit circle, e.g., alpha  to (cos alpha ,sin alpha ). That is, convert polar coordinates to Cartesian coordinates. Then compute the arithmetic mean of these points. The resulting point will lie on the unit disk. Convert that point back to polar coordinates. The angle is a reasonable mean of the input angles. The resulting radius will be 1 if all angles are equal. If the angles are uniformly distributed on the circle, then the resulting radius will be 0, and there is no circular mean. In other words, the radius measures the concentration of the angles.

Given the angles alpha _{1},dots ,alpha _{n} the mean is computed by

root mean squared error

using the atan2 variant of the arctangent function.

Note: atan2 is the arcangent function with two arguments.

References & Resources