Stanford University mathematician and statistician Persi Diaconis will serve as a Patten Lecturer on the IU Bloomington campus next week.
“Education is our outstanding asset. Our American system of education is what has made these United States the outstanding nation of the world… education is our surest guarantee of maintaining our present high standing and of providing for our future advancement.”
—William T. Patten
His first lecture, on Tuesday (March 2) at 7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium 015, is titled “On Coincidences,” a topic he has explored for decades. After reviewing the early work of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, Diaconis will demonstrate, through quantitative thinking, that coincidences are not all that surprising. By contrast, “The Search for Randomness,” on Thursday (March 4) at 7:30 p.m. at Woodburn Hall 101, will take a careful look at some primitive examples of random phenomena: tossing a coin, throwing a dart at the wall and shuffling cards. In each case, while randomness can be achieved, normally there are substantial biases. A careful look at the foundations can help protect from error in census adjustment, random number generation and mindless statistical modeling.
Among the highlights of his research is pioneering work on the speed of convergence of Markov chains to equilibrium, a rapidly growing field with numerous applications to statistics, physics and computer science. His dramatic and famous “cut-off phenomenon” has been nothing short of amazing. Together with David Freedman of Berkeley, Diaconis has made fundamental and dramatic contributions to Bayesian statistics. But the impact of his contributions extend beyond probability and statistics.
As both a magician and a statistician, Diaconis has debunked with unusual authority much research on extra sensory perception and the paranormal, and has exposed several psychics, including Uri Geller.
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