The second annual Elizabeth S. Meckes Memorial Lecture lecture will be given by Persi Diaconis, at 12:45 p.m. on April 5, 2024 in Clapp Hall room 108.

Title: The Mathematics of Solitaire

Abstract: Millions of people play solitaire (usual Klondike) every day. It  is an embarrassment that mathematicians can’t answer the questions ‘what are the odds of winning?’, ‘What’s a good way of playing?’, In Vegas, you can ‘buy a deck’ for $52 and get $5 for each card played up. Is this fair? (HAH). I’ll report what we know; surely you say one of the fancy computer programs (alpha zero, mu zero) can do it (NOPE). There is a ‘simple solitaire’ where we can ‘do the math’. Surprisingly, this has links to some of the deepest corners of modern probability–random matrix theory–and the work of Elizabeth Meckes. I’ll try to explain all this in English, for a general audience.

The lecture can be viewed remotely in real time from the Clapp Hall Live Stream.  A recording will be posted online afterward.

About the speaker
Persi Diaconis is the Mary V. Sunseri Professor of Statistics and Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University, a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and numerous other awards, as well as a former professional magician.  He has written nearly 300 papers and monographs in mathematics and statistics and is the coauthor of the books The Mathematics of Shuffling Cards, Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas That Animate Great Magic Tricks, and Ten Great Ideas about Chance.  Elizabeth Meckes completed her PhD thesis under Prof. Diaconis’s supervision in 2006.

About the lecture
Elizabeth Meckes was a professor of mathematics at Case Western Reserve University from 2007 until her death in 2020.  She earned her B.S. and M.S. at Case in 2001 and 2002 and her Ph.D. from Stanford in 2006.  Prof. Meckes was a strong proponent of mathematical outreach, and had hoped to one day establish an annual public lecture in mathematics at Case.  In her memory, an endowment was established to make her vision a reality.
The first annual Elizabeth S. Meckes Memorial Lecture, “How to Bake Pi: Mathematics Made Tasty” was given by Dr. Eugenia Cheng on April 21, 2023.  A video of the lecture is posted here and a video of the introduction by Professor Emerita Sandy Russ is posted here.

How to support the department
Please see more information about donations here: (To support the Elizabeth S. Meckes Memorial Endowed Fund, please add the “Honor or Memorial Gift” information after choosing “Department of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, and Statistics” in the “Designation” box.)