STAT 157: Seminar on Topics in Probability and Statistics

Probability and the Real World (Spring 2016)

NEWS (1/22) The class is now completely full. If you have not already contacted me to do the pre-quiz then you cannot be admitted.

Instructor: David Aldous

GSI None.

Class time: MW 4.00-5.30 in room 9 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 link 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.

Read here for more about administration and deadlines.

Resources for projects

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

Class-by-class schedule

The link below go to slides of the lectures, which will be posted after the lecture. The link here goes to extended write-ups of about half of the lectures. The link here goes to links, books and papers mentioned in lectures -- implicit suggestions for further reading.

W 1/20: Lecture 1: Everyday perception of chance.

M 1/25: Lecture 2: The Kelly criterion for favorable games: stock market investing for individuals.
W 1/27: Lecture 3: Sports rating models.

M 2/1: Lecture 4: Risk to Individuals: perception and reality.
W 2/3: Lecture 5: Short and Medium term predictions and risks in politics and economics.

M 2/8: Lecture 6: Coincidences, near misses and one-in-a-million chances.
W 2/10 : Student talks

M 2/15: no class
W 2/17: Student talks

M 2/22: Student talks

Wordle: My "probability in the real world" course