University of Toronto
Department of Computer Science

A Distinguished Lecture on Computer Science

Peter Winkler

Bell Labs

Games People Don't Play


We usually think of mathematics as a tool for decision-making, but nearly all human decisions are made by the mind without mathematical benefit. However, intuition is not infallible, and mathematics can be of great use in training one's mind so that it doesn't dribble off the court when faced with a real-life problem.

For this purpose brain-teasers are invaluable, and many of these come in the form of games: who wins, and what's the best strategy? Among many such games collected by the speaker are four pairs concerning, respectively, numbers, cards, hats and gladiators. The rules in each pair differ only slightly but with surpising consequences for the result.


Peter Winkler is Director of Fundamental Mathematics Research at Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies. He is the author of about 100 research papers in combinatorics, probability and the theory of computing; he holds a dozen patents in cryptology, telephony, holography and marine navigation.

Dr. Winkler received his PhD from Yale (on the same day as Prof. Joe Repka) after a stint in the U.S. Navy. He taught at Stanford and Emory Universities for 14 years but joined industry in 1989, and has been having too much fun to go back to academia.

In some circles Dr. Winkler is best known as the inventor of cryptologic methods for the game of bridge, which have now been declared illegal for tournament play in North America.

Host: contact Prof. Corneil for information on the speaker's schedule.

Time and Location: 11am Thursday January 18th. GB221.

R. J. Miller
Last modified: Mon Apr 30 22:29:47 EDT 2001