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The Illusion of Certainty: Risk, Probability, and Chance

Thursday, June 2, 2011
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Stuff happens. The weather forecast says it’s sunny, but you just got drenched. You got a flu shot—but you’re sick in bed with the flu. Your best friend from Boston met your other best friend from San Francisco. Coincidentally. What are the odds? Risk, probability, chance, coincidence—they play a significant role in the way we make decisions about health, education, relationships, and money. But where does this data come from and what does it really mean? How does the brain find patterns and where can these patterns take us? When should we ditch the data and go with our gut? What took place was a captivating discussion that sought to demystify the chancy side of life.

This program is part of the Big Ideas Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


Marcus du SautoyMathematician

Mathematician, researcher, writer and radio presenter Marcus du Sautoy has contributed to the Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent and the Guardian. For several years, he wrote a regular column in the Times called Sexy Science. He is also a frequent commentator on BBC radio and television.

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Amir AczelMathematician, Science Writer

Recognized mathematician and science writer Amir D. Aczel is the author of numerous books that have appeared on various bestseller lists in the United States and abroad, with translations into 22 languages. Present at the Creation: The Story of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider is his most recent literary contribution.

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Gerd GigerenzerPsychologist, Author

Gerd Gigerenzer is director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. He has trained U.S. Federal Judges, physicians, and top managers in decision-making and understanding risks and uncertainties.

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Leonard MlodinowPhysicist, Author

Leonard Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and taught at the California Institute of Technology. He is a popular international speaker and the author of numerous academic papers in physics and eight popular science books, including four best sellers.

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Josh TenenbaumCognitive Scientist

Josh Tenenbaum is a professor of Computational Cognitive Science in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). He studies learning, reasoning, and perception in humans and machines.

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