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Monday, October 12, 2009

Scientist Appreciation: Persi Diaconis the Mathemagician

Dr. Persi Diaconis is a fascinating man, and part of that fascination comes from the fact that he can claim title to one of the simultaneously coolest and silliest job names ever: mathemagician. I saw Diaconis give a talk on mathematics and magic at the Fields Institute a couple of years ago, and it is one of my favourite all time talks. Diaconis is engaging, charismatic, and relates a sense of absolute enjoyment of both mathematics and performance trickery. Having worked as both a professional magician and as a professor in departments of both statistics and mathematics, Diaconis exudes the combined sense of wonder and power that can be found in the study of mathematics.

Aside from the one talk I visited, I don't have a lot to present about Persi Diaconis that is not available on either Wikipedia or his website. I had intended to share one of his tricks that I saw him demonstrate, but I think it would be better to try and show it. That, however, requires a little more organization than I currently have (including a tripod for my camera and a volunteer to be in the video with me), so you will have to wait for me to get everything together. In the meantime, if you get the chance to see a talk by Dr. Persi Diaconis, I highly recommend it.