The Drunkard's Walk

Leonard Mlodinow

Dr. Mlodinow was an entertaining Speaker Wednesday in the 4th Perimeter Institute Lecture.  He does comedy writing as a hobby and has written some interesting books.

His entire talk concerned the ramifications of randomness.  He used sports as an example a number of times.  He tried to show that some things, even our lives, turn on the whim of randomness.  That is, being in the right place at the right time.

He showed how sequences of either good or bad 'luck' are sometimes a form of randomness.

One classic segment of his talk concerned our inability to trust intuition.  A well known example is called the Monty Hall Problem  It clearly shows that intuition is not a very good guide where probability is concerned.

He used an example of the stock market and those who are lauded for their predictions.  He showed that although talent is important, randomness plays a strong part.

The basic difficulty in handling randomness and probability is counting.  How many ways can we succeed and how many ways can we fail.  Those are the building blocks of probability.  It's much harder than you think.

For example in a fair coin toss of 10 flips, what is the probability of getting exactly 5 heads and five tails?   This is different and not like a single coin toss so your intuition does not help you.

The PI lecture series is a treasure at the Museum and it is gaining in popularity.  It's a great venue and their is coffee for all.  Cost is by donation and it's comfortable in the theatre with the soft seats and free coffee.  Plan to attend the final lecture next week.  If you miss Dr. Mlodinow's lecture you can watch it streaming by clicking our logo for videos below.


Now what about the title of the lecture 'The Drunkard's Walk'?

This refers to a random walk using the Monte Carlo Technique that generates a random path and exhibits randomness.  Shown above is a little animation of a random walk with multiple walks.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009