The Fascinating world of Dr Jeffrey Rosenthal

Probabilities and randomness arise whenever we're not sure what will happen next. At the base it is a counting problem.  They apply to everything from lottery jackpots to airplane crashes; email spam to insurance policies; medical studies to election polls.

This exploration of odds and oddities  explains how a 'Probability Perspective' can shed new light on many familiar situations in our everyday lives, and how computer algorithms which use randomness can be used to address problems in many branches of science.

So went the introduction to Dr. Jeff Rosenthal's wonderful lecture in the ongoing Perimeter Institute outreach Lecture Series at the Bruce County Museum on Wednesday October 22, 2008.

A more engaging speaker cannot be imagined.  He obviously has a great brain as his PhD from Harvard attests, but he also is a born entertainer and teacher.  He could in another life have been a stand up comic.  His timing is impeccable and his remarks natural and amusing.  How can you make the study of probability comical?  He managed to do it.  The audience had smiles and laughs galore. 

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He took us on a journey of randomness describing Markov Chains, Monte Carlo Methods, the Central Limit Theorem and the 'Law of Large Numbers'.  Very few in the audience could state the aforementioned facts, but they would know them by his examples. 

He talked about things we all know about.  For example he ran a Monte Carlo Simulation for Casino Craps giving us $100 and having us bet $10 bets.  The object was to show us that although the house has a small margin in craps, over time we will lose, if we play long enough.  The object of the game was to bet until broke or quit when you doubled your money. 

If you increase the pool to $1000 and want to quit when you make $2000 with $10 bets, you will find you lose much more often than at the $100 level.

He ran these simulations with animations and somehow made them hilarious.  The audience was laughing along with him.

If you want and you should want to, tune into Jeff's fun lecture right here and now by going to  the streaming feed from the Perimeter Institute.


13/01/2009 04:24 PM