STAT 157: Seminar on Topics in Probability and Statistics

In this course, different instructors treat very different topics. My topic is

Probability and the Real World (Fall 2014)

August 18: update re enrollment. This is a "consent of Instructor" course, limited to 35 students. Admission will be based on performance on the "pre-quiz", below. So far, 28 students have had the initiative to do the pre-quiz adequately, and they have been admitted to the course.

Other students wishing to enrol should
(i) browse the links below to understand the general style of this course
(ii) answer this quiz, rather soon.
Every few weeks I will post status (is class full or not?) here.

Instructor: David Aldous

T.A. None.

Class time: MW 4.00-5.30 in room 334 Evans.

Prerequisite: Upper division probability (STAT 134 or equivalent). The course emphasizes student participation and initiative while offering students the opportunity to pursue intellectual curiosity in directions of their individual choice.

Courses in mathematical probability teach you to do certain mathematical calculations, but these are often far removed from broader questions about the the role of randomness in the "real world" of science or of human affairs. In contrast, this junior/senior seminar course seeks to engage such questions in two ways.

1. In lectures I will treat about 20 different topics, one each lecture, chosen to illustrate the diversity of contexts where probability arises. Some idea of this diversity can be gleaned from my list of 100 contexts where we perceive chance.

2. A recurrent theme is to adopt a classical science paradigm: can we use probability theory to make predictions about the real world which can be verified or falsified by experiment or observation?

Here are the requirements for students are (see the links below for more info).

There are no other homeworks or exams. There is no course textbook, but to get into the spirit of the course it's helpful to read one of the ``popular science" books on the book list.

Lecture schedule

The page Plans/debriefing for each class serves as a rough plan of future classes and a record of past classes.

Administration, deadlines etc

This page contains adminstrative info and I suggest you print it out or bookmark it for future reference.

Resources for projects

This page is a guide to online resources which may be helpful in choosing projects. It's intended for online browsing.

Wordle: My "probability in the real world" course