# Histogram of Subtraction of Underlying Values

I have histograms produced from two sets of data recording. One of background noise of values $$X$$ and another $$Z$$ with a signal of values $$Y$$ present such that $$Z = X + Y$$.

How can I estimate a histogram of the distribution of $$Y$$ given that I can only record $$X$$ and $$Z$$?

$$X$$ and $$Z$$ are not recorded simultaneously, so the samples taken of $$X$$ in $$Z$$ may not be precisely the same.

I learned that if I had $$X$$ and $$Y$$ already, I could convolve the histograms to produce $$Z = X + Y$$ predictably using the convolution theorem to calculate $$Z_{hist} = f(\hat{f}(X_{hist}) * \hat{f}(Y_{hist}))$$ in a pointwise manner, where $$\hat{f}$$ and $$f$$ are the Fourier and inverser Fourier transforms respectfully. I inverted this to produce $$Y_{hist} = f(\hat{f}(Z_{hist}) / \hat{f}(X_{hist}))$$ and found it worked when the data sampled from X was exactly the same as summed into Z, but when the data is sampled separately the resulting histogram has negative bin counts and a non-integer sum.

Is there a better way than the convolution theorem, or a way to massage the data to produce a workable answer?

An example of the situation might be as follows.

1. Simulate arbitrary, differing distributions $$X$$ and $$Y$$.
2. Produce $$n$$ samples of $$X$$ and store a histogram $$X_{hist}$$.
3. Produce $$m$$ pairs of samples from $$X$$ and $$Y$$ and sum them, calling it $$Z = X + Y$$. Store these sums into a histogram $$Z_{hist}$$.
4. I would like to produce an approximate histogram $$Y_{hist}$$ using only $$X_{hist}$$ and $$Z_{hist}$$ and the knowledge that $$Z_{hist}$$ was generated by $$Z = X + Y$$. I am trying to estimate the distribution of $$Y$$.
• Your description is too vague for the question to be answerable. Could you provide an example or an illustration?
– whuber
Jan 13, 2019 at 22:44
• @whuber thank you for the feedback. Is this good enough now? Jan 13, 2019 at 23:16
• note to self if I ever dig this up in the future: if needed, I could probably do this by estimating each output bin separately, possibly with error determined with a weighted sum of errors from the possible bins that can produce that particular output. there's a description of histogram error at stats.stackexchange.com/a/214496/233920 Jan 13, 2019 at 23:24
• I got a downvote after adding my example. I'm new here, and it would be great to know a next step to improve this question further. Jan 14, 2019 at 3:19
• I am sorry about the downvote. It's best to ignore anonymous, unexplained downvotes: they mean nothing when applied to posts by new users.
– whuber
Jan 14, 2019 at 14:37