The Humboldt State University Department of Mathematics
The 42nd Harry S. Kieval Lecture**
Monday, September 22, 2003
7:30 P.M.
Founders Hall 118

Persi Diaconis
The Mary Sunseri Professor of Statistics
and Professor of Mathematics
Stanford University
“The Search for Randomness”

Abstract: I will examine some of our most primitive images of random phenomena, e.g. tossing coins, rolling dice, and shuffling cards.  Thinking hard about randomness illuminates issues in the foundations of mathematics and computation.  We will further appreciate the practical use of large statistical models and computer-generated random numbers. In each case, while standard procedures can produce randomness, usually we are lazy, and there are strong biases to be found.

This talk will be accessible to the general public.  It will be of special interest to anyone interested in probability and statistics and their applications.  All are welcome to attend!

**A lecture on some popular and/or broad aspects of mathematics attractive to undergraduates and the public
For More Information go to:

HSU is an AA/EO institution.
Disability accommodations may be available from event sponsor at 826-5347


Professor Persi Diaconis
Stanford University
Monday, September 22, 2003, 4:00 P.M.
Natural Resources 101
Pre-Colloquium Tea
Library 56 3:30 P.M.
“What Do We Know About the Metropolis Algorithm”

Abstract: The Metropolis Algorithm is one of the great tools of scientific computing.  I will explain the algorithm and applications in cryptography, bioinfomatics, and physics.  While there is some available theory, most of the basic questions are open.

Persi Diaconis was born into a family of professional musicians.  At 14 he had finished high school and was enrolled in the City College of New Youk when Dai Vernon, “the greatest magician in the US, “ invited Diaconis to go on tour with him.  Diaconis dropped out of school, quit his violin lessons at Julliard after 9 years of study, and left home without telling his parents.  At 16 he struck out on his own as a magician and did well doing magic, inventing tricks, giving lessons and living a “very colorful” life.  On a visit to a bookstore a friend recommended a book on probability by Feller.  Diaconis bought it and then found that he couldn’t read it.  He enrolled in N.Y. City College at night and two and half years later, in 1971, he graduated with a degree in mathematics and was accepted into the statistics program at Harvard.  By 1974 he had earned a Ph.D. and joined the faculty of the Statistics Department at Stanford.  He has been at Stanford ever since.

“The way I do magic is very similar to mathematics.  Inventing a magic trick and inventing a theorem are very, very similar activities in the following sense.  In both subjects you have a problem you’re trying to solve with constraints.  One difference between magic and mathematics is the competition.  The competition in mathematics is a lot stiffer than in magic.”