September 30, 2023

September 27-28, 2007 -- 4:00 p.m.
Room 230, Fields Institute
Distinguished Lecture Series in Statistical Science

Persi Diaconis

Mary V. Sunseri Professor of Statistics and Mathematics, Stanford University

September 27, 2007 -- 4:00 p.m.

Mathematics and Magic Tricks

The way that a magic trick works can be even more amazing than the trick itself. I will illustrate by performing and explaining a trick whose mathematical underpinnings involve secret codes, robot vision, breaking and entering and the statistical design of taste testing experiments. The mathematical questions raised by the trick lead to the edge of what we know. This is a talk suitable for a general university audience.

September 28, 2007 -- 4:00 p.m.

Gibbs sampling, orthogonal polynomials and Alternating projections

The Gibbs sampler (also known as the heat bath algorithm or Glauber dynamics) is a mainstay of scientific computing. I will explain the algorithm, give many examples where the operators can be explicitly diagonalized ( thus sharp rates of convergence are available) and explain a useful connection with von Neumann's alternating projection theorem. This meeting of operator theory and statistics has consequences for both subjects. All is joint work with Kshitij Khare and Laurent Saloff-Coste.

Persi W. Diaconis
(born January 31, 1945) is an American statistician/mathematician and former professional magician. He is Mary V. Sunseri Professor of Statistics and Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University. He is particularly known for tackling mathematical problems involving randomness and randomization, but his expertise is much broader - taking in such topics as group theory, Fourier analysis, combinatorics, random matrices and zeros of the zeta function,...

Professor Diaconis achieved national fame when he received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1979, and again in 1992 after the publication (with D. Bayer) of a paper entitled "Trailing the Dovetail Shuffle to its Lair" (a term coined by magician Charles Jordan in the early 1900's) which established rigorous results on how many times a deck of playing cards must be shuffled before it can be considered "random enough." They established that the deck gradually increases in randomness until seven
shuffles, after which the thus-far experienced increase in randomness with each shuffle decreases sharply. Seven shuffles, for reasons made precise in the paper, is what casinos should use.

Among his many honours, in addition to the MacArthur Fellowship, are a fellowshipo in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1989), membership in the National Academy of Sciences (1995), and honorary degrees from the University of Chicago (2003), Universite Paul Sabatier (Toulouse) (2003), Uppsala University (2005), and Queen Mary University of London (2006).

The Distinguished Lecture Series in Statistical Science series was established in 2000 and takes place annually. It consists of two lectures by a prominent statistical scientist. The first lecture is intended for a broad mathematical sciences audience. The series occasionally takes place at a member university and is tied to any current thematic program related to statistical science; in the absence of such a program the speaker is chosen independently of current activity at the Institute. A nominating committee of representatives from the member universities solicits nominations from the Canadian statistical community and makes a recommendation to the Fields Scientific Advisory Panel, which is responsible for the selection of speakers.

Distinguished Lecture Series in Statistical Science Index

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