The World Congress in Probability and Statistics

Last year, the latest World Congress in Probability and Statistics was held in Istanbul, Turkey. This was the 8th World Congress in Probability and Statistics. Held every four years, the meeting is a worldwide event covering all branches of statistics and probability. This includes insurance, theoretical, methodological, applied and computational statistics and probability, as well as stochastic processes. The latest scientific developments in all of these fields is showcased.

The World Congress is overseen by members of the Bernoulli Society and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. The two organizations joined forces, and their combined meetings comprise the World Congress in Probability and Statistics. The first of these meetings was the 7th World Congress, which took place in Singapore in 2008.

Each meeting of the World Congress covers a wide range of topics in statistics and probability. Recent developments in all of the aforementioned fields are discussed. Special lecture series document a variety of modern research topics with in-depth uses and applications of these disciplines to other fields in the sciences, industrial innovation, and society as a whole. The meeting always features several special plenary lectures presented by leading specialists in their respective fields. In addition, many invited sessions discuss topics of current research interests. Posters and videos also take part in the World Congress in Probability and Statistics.

The membership criteria for the Program Committee is highly competitive. The Program Chair convenes with previous heads of the Congress to choose highly qualified and respected members of the two committees. Twenty one members comprise the elite Program Committee. Their job is to shape the program of the World Congress for its meeting every four years. It could take two plus years to complete such a task. Various subcommittees are also appointed to gather speakers for lecture series during the five-day meeting. Members of the subcommittees are also appointed by the Program Chair.

The goal of the World Congress in Probability and Statistics is to convene with the greatest minds in the field to discuss the scientifical know-how of the day. Every branch of probability and statistics is discussed, as well as new, interesting applications in the fields. Scientists gather to discuss the goings-on in hopes of expanding upon their own research. Overall, the program is meant to expound upon the scientific knowledge of the day, creating a better future for mankind.

What is Probability?

In its simplest form, probability is the likelihood that a given event will occur - which is of course the basis for all insurance calculations. It can be expressed in mathematical terms as a percentage or as a ratio of the number of desired or target outcomes over the total number of possible outcomes. An easy example is tossing a coin. There are two possible outcomes of a coin toss--heads or tails. The likelihood or probability of tossing heads is 1/2 or 50%. When rolling a die, there are six possible outcomes; the probability of rolling a particular number, say, 3, is 1/6 or 16.6%. What is the probability of drawing the ace of spades from a pack of playing cards? There are 52 cards in a standard deck, so the probability of drawing the ace of spades is 1/52 or 0.019%. How about the probability of drawing ANY spade? There are 13 spades in a deck, so the probability is 13/52 or 1/4: 25%.

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So far, it's not too complicated. The examples given so far are single events. Probability becomes more complicated when calculating the likelihood of a series of events. In a series of events a distinction must be made whether successive events are independent or dependent. In a series of coin tosses, the events are independent; each toss has no effect on any other, so the probability of any one toss coming up tails is still 1/2. When drawing cards from a deck, however, subsequent draws are dependent on the results of the earlier ones; that's because the number of target and total outcomes changes with each draw. The likelihood that the first card drawn will be a spade is 13/52. If it IS a spade, the likelihood that the next card will be a spade is 12/51; one card has been drawn so the total of possible outcomes is now 51, and since it was a spade there are 12 spades left. If the first draw is not a spade, the chance of drawing a spade on the second draw is 13/51; the first draw reduced the total possible outcomes to 51, but all 13 of the spades are still in the deck.

Once you have determined the probability of each target event, the probability of specific events happening together is obtained by multiplying the probabilities of the individual events. When tossing a coin, the probability of any single toss coming up heads is 1/2; the probability of two tosses both being heads is 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4. The probability of 5 consecutive tosses all being heads is 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/64 or 0.03125, just over 3%. The probability of drawing five spades from a deck of cards is 13/52 x 12/51 x 11/50 x 10/49/ x 9/48 = 0.25 x 0.235 x 0.22 x 0.204 x 0.1875 = 0.000494 or about five-hundredths of a percent.

The concepts of probability aren't difficult to understand, but the math involved in calculating probability can be complex. The examples we have looked at are simple ones involving small numbers of possible outcomes. When the number of possible outcomes increases, the calculations get complicated.

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