From Lotteries to Terrorism: Explaining the Inexplicable

 In AMSI in the news, Media releases, News

Call it fate, chance or coincidence; life is littered with random seemingly inexplicable occurrences from lottery wins, to terrorist attacks and chance meetings.

Struck by Lightning: Curious World of Probability author, improvisational comedian and the mastermind who cracked open Canada’s biggest Lottery scandal, Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal begins his Australian tour of all major cities on 28 November 2016.

Hosted by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) and Statistical Society of Australia (SSA), Professor Rosenthal will equip Australian audiences with the statistical know-how to navigate the unexpected and improbable and make choices based on facts rather than media hype.

“Uncertainty and randomness surround us. With simple logic and an understanding of a few easy principles, such as how to calculate probability and the law of large numbers, people can make smart choices based on fact and avoid unnecessary fears,” says University of Toronto Statistician, Professor Rosenthal.

Overcoming the odds has long-captured the public imagination from hitting the jackpot and surviving crime to medical miracles.

“There is something powerful and relatable about overcoming the odds, stories connected to mathematical formulas,” explains Professor Rosenthal.

The popular writer and statistician has a few such stories himself, arguably his most famous remains his role in cracking open one of Canada’s biggest lottery retailer scandals.

“Canadian investigative TV program, Fifth Estate, asked me to investigate whether lottery ticket retailers were winning more prizes than could be explained by chance alone. I did some calculations, and it turned out they were! The story quickly became front page news with the firing of two CEOs and several criminal charges,” he explains.

A respected statistician and academic, Rosenthal’s research has been applied across many areas of science from medical research and economics and finance to computer science and chemical physics.

“Much of my work focuses on ‘Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithms’, special computer algorithms that use randomness to assist in computing difficult quantities,” he says.

Sponsored by AMSI and SSA, this annual lecture tour provides a platform to strengthen ties between the international and Australian mathematical and statistical communities, while allowing broader audiences the rare opportunity to engage with field leaders.

“AMSI is delighted to host Professor Rosenthal as this year’s AMSI-SSA Lecturer. A skilled communicator, he has the rare ability to transcend academia and entertainment to bring his discipline to life,” says AMSI Director, Professor Geoff Prince.

Professor Rosenthal will present public lectures in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. For details and to register, visit

For Interview:
Professor Jeffrey Rosenthal
Professor Geoff Prince, AMSI Director

Media Contact: Laura Watson
M: 04215 18733
P: +613 9035 3683

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