Five dice all turned up to value of sixThe Probability Prof, Jeffrey Rosenthal, will deliver two public lectures next week on the UWindsor campus.

Probability Prof to ponder puzzle of luck

The next time someone asks if you’re feeling lucky, think of statistics professor Jeffrey Rosenthal.

Dr. Rosenthal, a University of Toronto professor giving two free lectures on UWindsor’s campus next week, has made a career out of calculating probability.

Rosenthal is best known for blowing the lid off Ontario lottery fraud, finding an impossibly disproportionate number of ticket retailers were cashing in on big prizes. He has written two bestsellers, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities and Knock on Wood: Luck, Chance and the Meaning of Everything, bringing the study of statistical analysis into the mainstream.

“After the success of my first book… I gave lots of public talks where I spoke about everything from lotteries to opinion polls to crime statistics to medical studies,” he said.

“Every once in a while someone would ask if I believe in luck, and if the uncertainty in our lives is truly random or is governed by such concepts as fate, destiny, superstition, astrology, ESP, and divine intervention.”

He deflected the questions for years, he said, before delving into them with his second book.

Rosenthal’s latest public lecture tour is entitled “The Puzzle of Luck,” and will discuss his perspective as a statistician on various examples of the puzzle of luck.

While on campus, Rosenthal will also give a research talk on adaptive Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithms, a popular method of approximately sampling from complicated probability distributions.

“If you buy lottery tickets, play games of chance, or just wonder if it is destiny or divine intervention that make some people more lucky than others, you will enjoy Dr. Rosenthal’s public presentation,” said Richard Caron, head of UWindsor’s mathematics and statistics department. “His entertaining style and easy manner makes his public presentation accessible to all.”

Rosenthal, who goes by the moniker “the Probability Prof” on social media, is an award-winning teacher and researcher elected to the Fellowship of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the Royal Society of Canada.

He got his PhD in mathematics from Harvard University at the age of 24 and is a musician, computer game programmer, and improvisational comedian.

His public talk is on Monday, March 25, from 7 to 8 p.m. in room 202 of the Toldo Health Education Centre. His research lecture, entitled “Adaptive MCMC for Everyone,” will be from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26, in the Toldo centre’s room 204.

─Sarah Sacheli