MEDIA RELEASE — November 26, 2014

Canadian Mathematical Society

November 26, 2014

Making sense of strange coincidences, plane crashes and polls

Renowned statistician explains random probability in public lecture

Jeffrey Rosenthal

OTTAWA — Jeffrey Rosenthal, author of the national bestseller Struck by Lightning, will explain randomness and probability in a public lecture on Friday, Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. as part of the Canadian Mathematical Society’s Winter Meeting.

“The CMS Winter Meeting brings together many of Canada's leading mathematicians, to discuss their latest advanced research results,” says Rosenthal. “I am pleased to be able to give a public lecture and share mathematical and statistical ideas with a broader audience in an accessible way.”

The University of Toronto statistician is a multi-talented author, improv comedian and musician and was featured in the 2012 Cadbury commercial exploring the probability of winning a golden ticket.

Rosenthal is known for his entertaining lectures and ability to frame complicated statistical analysis in terms that are accessible for the general public. He often uses examples such as murder rates, lotteries and strange coincidences to explain probability, drawing inspiration from his book Struck by Lightning.

“Most people believe that random coincidences occur because of some great cosmic force, but if you look at the numbers, it has a simple explanation,” says Rosenthal. “Understanding statistics helps people make sense of the world and can help them determine what events are likely and unlikely to occur.”

Rosenthal believes that understanding statistics can often ease people’s concerns about the possibility of catastrophic events, such as plane crashes and terrorist attacks, occurring. Rosenthal admits he was a nervous flyer before analyzing the numbers and concluding that his plane was far more likely to be late than to crash.

Rosenthal’s public lecture will launch the 2014 Canadian Mathematical Society Winter Meeting. Over 500 mathematics professionals, students and educators from Canada and around the world are expected to attend. The lecture takes place at the Hamilton Sheraton on Friday December 5 at 5 p.m. in the East Ballroom and is free event. No mathematical background is required to attend.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Jeffrey Rosenthal, please contact:

Julie Bortolotti
Communications and Special Projects Officer
Canadian Mathematical Society
613-733-2662 ext. 728

About Jeffrey Rosenthal

Jeffrey Rosenthal is a professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Toronto. He received his BSc from the University of Toronto at the age of 20; his PhD in Mathematics from Harvard University at the age of 24; and tenure at the University of Toronto at the age of 29. He received the 2006 CRM-SSC Prize, the 2007 COPSS Presidents' Award, the 2013 SSC Gold Medal and teaching awards at both Harvard and Toronto. He is a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and of the Royal Society of Canada. Rosenthal's book for the general public, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, was published in 16 editions, 10 languages and was a bestseller in Canada. He has also dabbled as a computer game programmer, musical performer and improvisational comedy performer and is fluent in French. His web site is:

About the Canadian Mathematical Society (CMS)

The CMS is the national mathematics organization that promotes the advancement, discovery, learning and application of mathematics. The Society's activities cover the whole spectrum of mathematics including: scientific meetings, research publications, and the promotion of excellence in mathematics education at all levels. The CMS annually sponsors mathematics awards and prizes that recognize outstanding achievements.