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Diaconis to deliver Pitcher Lectures

Persi Diaconis

Persi Diaconis, the Mary V. Sunseri Professor of Statistics and Mathematics at Stanford University will present three lectures at Lehigh from March 17-19 as part of the Department of Mathematics’s A. Everett Pitcher Lecture Series. The lectures are free and open to the public.

The first lecture, “The Search for Randomness,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Lewis Lab Auditorium and will investigate some of our most primitive images of random phenomena: tossing a coin, shuffling cards, and rolling a roulette ball. Diaconis will show that things are not so random, while making connections to computer-generated, pseudo-random numbers and the use—and misuse—of statistical models are made. A lobby reception will be held at 6:30 p.m.

On March 18, Diaconis will speak on “What Do We Know about the Metropolis Algorithm?” at 4:10 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium. He will examine and explain the metropolis algorithm, one of the most used procedures in scientific computing, and illustrate its use in cryptography and biology.

His final lecture, held March 19 in Neville 3, will discuss “The Mathematics of Shuffling Cards.” A few magicians and gamblers can shuffle cards perfectly, and Diaconis will demonstrate that eight perfect shuffles bring a 52-card deck back to order. The mathematics illuminates computer algorithms and leads to problems on the edge of what is known in number theory.

The lectures are held in honor of A. Everett Pitcher, who was secretary of the AMS from 1967 until 1988. Pitcher served in the mathematics department at Lehigh from 1938 until 1978, when he retired as Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. He died on December 4, 2006, at the age of 94.

For more information, call (610) 758-3731 or visit the Web site.

--Tricia Long

Posted on Thursday, March 13, 2008

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