Probability, Outside the Classroom

Speaker: David Aldous

Date: Fri, Mar 4, 2016

Location: PIMS, University of British Columbia

Conference: Hugh C. Morris Lecture

Subject: Mathematics, Probability

Class: Scientific


Aside from games of chance and a handful of textbook topics (e.g. opinion polls) there is little overlap between the content of an introductory course in mathematical probability and our everyday perception of chance. In this mostly non-mathematical talk I will give some illustrations of the broader scope of probability.

Why do your friends have more friends than you do, on average? How can we judge someone’s ability to assess probabilities of future geopolitical events, where the true probabilities are unknown? Were there unusually many candidates for the 2012 and 2016 Republican Presidential Nominations whose fortunes rose and fell? Why, in a long line at airport security, do you move forward a few paces and then wait half a minute before moving forward again? In what everyday contexts do ordinary people perceive uncertainty/unpredictability in terms of chance?