In the mathematical subfield of numerical analysis, interpolation is a method of constructing new data points within the range of a discrete set of known data points.
In engineering and science one often has a number of data points, as obtained by sampling or experimentation, and tries to construct a function which closely fits those data points. This is called curve fitting or regression analysis. Interpolation is a specific case of curve fitting, in which the function must go exactly through the data points.
A different problem which is closely related to interpolation is the approximation of a complicated function by a simple function. Suppose we know the function but it is too complex to evaluate efficiently. Then we could pick a few known data points from the complicated function, creating a lookup table, and try to interpolate those data points to construct a simpler function. Of course, when using the simple function to calculate new data points we usually do not receive the same result as when using the original function, but depending on the problem domain and the interpolation method used the gain in simplicity might offset the error.
The Interpolate iPhone App is a handy personal interpolation calculator, allowing you to create as many function sets as you desire for analysis... and it even allows you to email your charts to your colleagues!
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- Last changed:
- Jan 23, 2009
- David J. Hinson
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