The mathematics of making a mess


Persi Diaconis



Thursday, December 7, 2017


Talk at 4:30 p.m. in 2-190

Tea at 4:00 p.m in 2-290


Abstract: In joint work with Soumik Pal, we study a standard way of mixing cards; I call it 'smooshing'. Here, a deck of cards is spread on the table, mixed around with the two hands 'for a while' and then gathered up for dealing. This is used in poker tournaments and in Monte Carlo (for mixing 6 decks for Baccarat). Similar mixing schemes are used with dominoes and mahjong tiles. Natural questions are 'how long should cards be mixed?' and, 'if they are not mixed enough why aren't they random?'. the mathematics involves various fluid models and stochastic calculus. I will try to explain it all in 'mathematical English' for a general audience.

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Posted: September 3, 2017    URL: