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Warwick Public Lectures in Mathematics and Statistics

  • About attractive topics in Mathematics and Statistics
  • Aimed at a broad audience
  • A special emphasis on connections to the "real world"

Hosted by the Department of Statistics

Jeff Rosenthal, University of Toronto

From Lotteries to Polls to Monte Carlo
Date and time: Wednesday 3rd May 2017, 6.15pm
Venue: MS.02 Zeeman Building (Maths and Statistics), University of Warwick

This talk will discuss randomness and probability, to answer such questions as: Just how unlikely is it to win a lottery jackpot? If you flip 100 coins, how close will the number of heads be to 50? How many dying patients must be saved to demonstrate that a new medical drug is effective? Why do strange coincidences occur so often? If a poll samples 1,000 people, how accurate are the results? How did statistics help to expose the Ontario Lottery Retailer Scandal? If two babies die in the same family without apparent cause, should the parents be convicted of murder? Why do casinos always make money, even though gamblers sometimes win and sometimes lose? And how is all of this related to Monte Carlo Algorithms, an extremely popular and effective method of scientific computing? No mathematical background is required to attend.

Previous lectures:

Bernard Silverman
Hosted by the Department of Statistics

Professor Bernard Silverman FRS (Chief Scientific Adviser to the Home Office)

Mathematics and Science in the Home Office (poster(PDF Document)) 

Date and time: Wednesday 10 February, 2016; 6:15 p.m.

Venue: MS.02, Zeeman Building (Maths and Statistics), University of Warwick.

How many victims of Modern Slavery are there? How long should it be legal to retain a DNA profile on someone who is arrested but not charged? How can we ensure you don’t wait too long to be checked when you enter the country? These and many other questions are the sort of thing where mathematics and statistics play a key role in Home Office policy and operations. I will explain both the role of a departmental Chief Scientific Adviser and also the wider work carried out by the Home Office Science organisation under my leadership. As well as describing some particular problems, such as those set out above, I will also reflect more widely on the way that science and evidence contribute to Government.

Attendance is FREE!

Refreshments will be served in the Main Atrium, Zeeman Building after the lecture.

Sheila Bird
Hosted by the Department of Statistics

Professor Sheila Bird OBE FRSE (MRC Biostatistics Unit)

Biostatistician behind bars (poster(PDF Document))
By design and on trial

Date and time: Wednesday 29 April, 2015; 6:15 p.m.

Venue: MS.02, Zeeman Building (Maths and Statistics), University of Warwick.

For over 100 years, the MRC Biostatistics Unit has used statistics to investigate epidemics such as tuberculosis, cigarette smoking, HIV, heroin addiction and hepatitis C. Our findings are not always popular. I will describe how research into HIV, hepatitis B and heroin injection got us barred from Scottish prisons.

Naloxone is the heroin antidote that can save lives in the event of an overdose. Record-linkage studies led us to quantify a 7 times higher risk of overdose death amongst ex-prisoners shortly after release from prison. This enabled us to mount the pilot N-ALIVE trial in England, which measures the effectiveness of naloxone take-home kits at reducing drug related deaths.

Even before the N-ALIVE randomized controlled trial started in England, Scotland introduced take-home-naloxone as a funded public health policy. The 3-year results of Scotland's closely-monitored naloxone policy led us to stop the N-ALIVE trial. I will explain why.

Attendance is FREE!

Refreshments will be served in the Main Atrium, Zeeman Building after the lecture.

(Video clip)Video of the lecture

Hosted by the Mathematics Institute

Professor Cédric Villani (University of Lyon)

The Amazing Theorems of Mr Nash (poster(PDF Document))

Date and time: Monday 10 November, 2014; 6:15 p.m.

Venue: MS.02, Zeeman Building (Maths and Statistics), University of Warwick.

The scientific career of John Nash started with his celebrated contributions to "game theory", the subject of his doctoral thesis which he defended in 1950 at the age of 22. It is for this first contribution that he was awarded the economics Nobel prize in 1994!

After his PhD, John Nash turned to a very different area of mathematics. Between 1954 and 1958 he published three articles in which he proved three theorems that revolutionised mathematical analysis. For mathematicians, it is really for these three articles, more than for his work on game theory, that Nash deserves his place in the pantheon of mathematics. This talk will focus on one of these theorems by explaining its scope in simple terms and by insisting on the notion of regularity, central in Nash's work and in modern analysis in general.

Attendance is FREE!

Refreshments will be served in the Main Atrium, Zeeman Building after the lecture.

Cédric Villani · Wikipedia page on Nash (Video clip)Video of the lecture
Hosted by the Department of Statistics

Professor Nando de Freitas (Professor of Computer Science, University of Oxford)

Data and the Brain (poster(PDF Document))

The impact of big data on learning deep neural models for speech, image and language understanding

In our quest to build deep neural models to reproduce different brain functions, we have discovered that it is of paramount importance to understand how data shapes the brain. Models that are learned from data are the best at many tasks such as speech recognition, language modelling and image understanding --- e.g., detecting where faces occur in photos and recognizing road features for self-driving cars. In this talk, I will describe how neuroscience, statistics and computer science have influenced the design of deep neural models, which have won many recent prediction competitions and have become state-of-the-art in image recognition tasks and speech recognition. I will argue that at present the complexity of our models is so large that big data is essential to learn these models appropriately.

Date: Wednesday 30 April, 2014

Nando de Freitas · (Video clip) Video of the lecture
Hosted by the Mathematics Institute

Professor Sir Roy Anderson (Imperial)

Plagues and People in the Modern World (poster (PDF Document))

The historical and epidemiological literature abound with accounts of infectious disease epidemics and of the concomitant effects on population abundance, social organisation and the unfolding pattern of historical events. Epidemics have long been a source of fear and fascination in human societies, but it is only in comparatively recent times that their origins and patterns have begun to yield their secrets through mathematical and scientific study.

The talk will examine the role played by predictive modelling in modern infectious disease epidemiology and will illustrate this by reference to past epidemics including the very recent H1N1 influenza pandemic (Did we overreact ? How can we better measure and predict pathogenicity? Will the H1N1 experience have a detrimental impact on how we respond to future epidemics?). The talk will also examine some of the neglected tropical diseases to address how can epidemiological modelling help the poorest societies in the world control infection and disease, and also help international agencies develop cost effective policies?

Date: Wednesday 12 February, 2014

Sir Roy Anderson
Hosted by the Department of Statistics

Professor Valerie Isham (University College London; Past President of the Royal Statistical Society)

Rainfall, Hydrology and Climate (poster(PDF Document))

Rainfall is the driving force for many hydrological processes. As has been all too apparent in recent months, rainfall that cannot be absorbed or drained away causes major flooding disasters worldwide and flood defences must be designed to cope with extreme events. Soil moisture provides the dynamic link between climate, soil and vegetation, and impacts plant dynamics as well as other processes at a range of spatial scales. Historical rainfall data are, perhaps surprisingly, often not available at the temporal and spatial resolution needed for hydrological design. Climate change poses an additional challenge, as rainfall data under future climate scenarios are needed for design purposes. The talk, aimed at a general audience, will illustrate some of the approaches taken by statistical modellers to provide and use artificial rainfall data to address these issues.

Date: Wednesday 8 May, 2013

Valerie Isham · Royal Statistical Society
Hosted by the Mathematics Institute

Professor Ian Stewart FRS (Dept of Mathematics, University of Warwick)

Turing's Tiger (poster(PDF Document))

2012 is the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing. Turing is best known for his wartime code-breaking work at Bletchley Park and his fundamental contributions to computer science and artificial intelligence, but he was also a pioneer of mathematical biology.

Many animals have striking markings: spots on a leopard, stripes on a tiger. How do they arise? In the early 1950s, Turing showed his colleagues a drawing with irregular black-and-white patches, asking them whether they agreed that it looked like a cow. In 1952 he published ‘the chemical basis of morphogenesis’, in which he proposed a mechanism for the creation of animal markings.

The resulting patterns are remarkably similar to those found on many animals, including convoluted stripes on fish and intricate patterns on seashells. The talk will be an informal, highly illustrated discussion of these Turing patterns in both mathematics and biology, with no technicalities.

Date: Monday 19 November, 2012

Ian Stewart · Wikipedia page on Turing · (Video clip) Hear Ian's lecture online
Hosted by the Department of Statistics

Peter Donnelly FRS, FMedSci (University of Oxford and Oxford Wellcome Trust)

The Genetic Revolution (poster(PDF Document))

Genetic factors are responsible for a substantial part of the susceptibility to all of the common diseases afflicting humans, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and many cancers and infectious diseases. Recent advances in genomic science have dramatically altered our ability to "read" genetic differences between people, leading to an explosion in our understanding of the genetic basis of most common human diseases. These new tools have led to an explosion in the amount and nature of genetic data available, with statistical analysis methods critical to the scientific progress. It won't be long before these changes have an impact on the practice of clinical medicine. Over a longer timeframe, they offer hope for new treatments for disease, and genetics is likely to become routine in some parts of medicine. The talk, aimed at a general audience, will give a sense of the excitement of the science and some of the statistical challenges, as well as the opportunities and challenges for our health and society.

Date: Wednesday 2nd May 2012

Peter Donnelly · Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics · (Video clip) Hear Peter's lecture online
Hosted by the Mathematics Institute

Hendrik Lenstra (University of California at Berkeley and University of Leiden)

Escher and the Droste Effect (poster(PDF Document))

This lecture is to shed light on the mind-bending art of Dutch artist Escher by taking a closer look at the mathematics behind his images. Professor Lenstra will look at Escher's 1956 work The Print Gallery, which depicts a swirling impossible world centred around a mysterious hole in the middle of the image.

The lecture will offer a fascinating insight into how art and maths work together. People often think of mathematics as something extremely specialised and abstract which is just not relevant to their daily lives. But the opposite is in fact true - mathematics runs through so much, whether it's the banking system or the music we listen to. It's not often you see mathematics and art together on the same bill but Escher's works are a great illustration of how the two are interlinked.

Date: Monday 28th November 2011

Hendrik W Lenstra · Official Escher website · Droste effect · (Video clip) Hear Hendrik's lecture online
Hosted by the Department of Statistics

David J Spiegelhalter OBE, FRS (Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, University of Cambridge)

Living with risk and uncertainty — we're all going to die (sometime)

Past experience and probability theory can be used to check the odds of your football team winning or judge the risks of activities such as riding motorcycles, taking illegal drugs, going into hospital or just living. Things get more difficult when we don't fully understand what is going on, like early on in the swine-flu epidemic, or when we are dealing with huge complexity, as in climate change. Then it can be helpful to admit what we don't know, and I shall show how we can use probability and statistics to measure how ignorant you are.

Date: Monday 22nd November 2010

David Spiegelhalter · Understanding Uncertainty (blog) · (Video clip) Hear David's lecture online