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The Illusion of Certainty: Risk, Probability, and Chance

Date & Time

Thursday, June 2, 2011
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
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Tishman Auditorium at The New School

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.

More from this series: The Illusion of Certainty

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


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    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, and was a presenter for BBC4’s TV game show Mind Games, where he was nominated for the Royal Society of Television’s Best Newcomer to a Network Award. More »


  • Amir Aczel

    Mathematician, 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. More »
  • Gerd Gigerenzer

    Psychologist, 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. His award-winning popular books on calculating risk have been translated into 18 languages. More »
  • Leonard Mlodinow

    Physicist, Author A physicist and author of seven books that have appeared in 25 languages, Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives was a New York Times bestseller, editor’s choice, and notable book of the year, and was short-listed for the Royal Society book award. More »
  • Josh Tenenbaum

    Cognitive 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, with the twin goals of understanding human intelligence in computational terms and bringing computers closer to human capacities. More »