I am trying to plot the power spectrum (\$|FT(f)|^2\$) of a Gaussian function, and overlap it with the theoretically expected spectrum calculated from the Fourier transform pair:

\$e^{-\alpha t^2} \iff \sqrt{\frac{\pi}{\alpha}} e^{-\pi^2 \nu^2 / \alpha}.\$

But when I do this in Matlab they look completely different:

enter image description here

So, what is wrong here? I am very confused but I think it has something to do with the differences in the normalization of FT used here with that of the DFT of Matlab. What exactly do I need to change in the code in order for the plots to match?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Here is my code:

clear; clf; clc;
n=50; % length of DFT

x=exp(-a.*k.^2); % Gaussian function

xx=fft(x); % DFT calculation
y=(sqrt(pi/a)).*exp((-pi^2*nu.^2)./a); % Theoretical
yy=(abs(y)).^2; % Power spectrum

% subplot(2,1,1) % Power spectrum plot
plot(nu, yy, '-om'); hold on;
hold on; plot(nu,(abs(fftshift(xx))).^2,'-o'); grid;xlabel('Frequency');
title('Power Spectrum')
hold off;

% subplot(2,1,2) % Temporal waveform plot
% plot(k,x);grid;
% xlabel('Time');
% title('Data waveform');
% hold on; plot(k,x,'o'); hold off;

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ one of the plots is a '1' at the origin. This is obviously wrong, and is the place to look for your error. I notice you are still using k=[-n:1:n] without normalising to n. While setting a to 0.05 does get you a sensible plot, normalising to n and using an 'a' value like 5 will give you a sigma at the extrema of the plot equal to 'a', much easier to interpret later, leaving n unnormalising and frigging a to something meaningless is something of a kludge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Neil_UK
    Apr 23, 2016 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


The problem is your calculation of the theoretical Fourier values.

When you do a DFT with N points, the interval between points on the frequency axis is \$ \Delta f = 1/(N t_s) \$ where \$ t_s\$ denotes the sampling time.

Therefore you have to calculate the theoretical Fourier values with $$ \sqrt{\frac{\pi}{a}}\exp{-(\frac{(\pi k)^2}{(Nt_s)^2\cdot a})} $$

Use nu=[-n:1:n]; and y=(sqrt(pi/a))*exp((-pi^2*nu.^2)/((2*n+1)^2*a)); in your code.


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