Persi Diaconis Lectures Celebrated Department's 40th Anniversary

March,  2008

The Department was pleased to celebrate it's 40th anniversary with three lectures by magician and statistician Persi Diaconis. Below was the schedule of events:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 10:30 am, LWSN B155
Statistics 40th Anniversary talk joint with the Mathematical Statistics Seminar
Title of the Talk: "Horseshoes and Politics"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 4:30 pm, MA 175
Statistics 40th Anniversary talk joint with the Probability Seminar and the Department of Mathematics
Title of the Talk: "What Do We Know About the Metropolis Algorithm"
Refreshments were served in the Math library at 4:00pm.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 4:30 pm, MA 175
Statistics 40th Anniversary talk joint with the Statistics Research Colloquium, and part of the College of Science Centennial Distinguished Lecture Series
Title of the Talk: "On Coincidences"

Thursday, March 27, 2008 from 6:00pm - 7:00pm, Reception in the Purdue Memorial Union, Anniversary Drawing Room, 2nd floor
A reception was held in the Purdue Memorial Union, Anniversary Drawing Room, 2nd floor, to honor Persi Diaconis and celebrate the Department of Statistics 40th Anniversary and the College of Science Centennial.

Persi Diaconis

Persi Diaconis

Persi Diaconis is the Mary V. Sunseri Professor of Statistics and Mathematics, Stanford University. 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.

He is particularly known for tackling mathematical problems involving randomness and randomization, such as coin flipping and shuffling playing cards. Professor Diaconis received the MacArthur Fellowship in 1979, and again in 1992 after the publication (with Dave Bayer) of a paper entitled "Trailing the Dovetail Shuffle to Its Lair" (a term coined by magician Charles Jordan in the early 1900s) which established rigorous results on how many times a deck of 52 playing cards must be riffle shuffled before it can be considered "random enough." Diaconis established that the deck gradually increases in randomness until seven shuffles, after which the thus-far experienced increase in randomness stops significantly increasing. At least seven shuffles, for reasons made precise in the paper, is what casinos should use.

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.