Science Café Gives Community Free Lectures

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Indranil SenGupta, assistant professor in the department of mathematics, explained the concepts of game theory, the prisoner’s dilemma and the Nash equilibrium to a crowd of about 20 Tuesday in Stoker’s Basement as part of the monthly Science Café event.

Game theory, SenGupta said, is the “study of strategic interdependence.” The basic concept is that two people or groups of people make decisions and those decisions determine the outcome for both parties involved.

A classic example of game theory is the prisoner’s dilemma. In this example, SenGupta explained, two people are arrested for trespassing and were planning on breaking into a store.

There is not enough evidence to convict them of anything other than trespassing, but law enforcement wants to convict them for attempted theft.

During the interrogation, the two people, or prisoners, are separated and are offered freedom for cooperation.

If they both stay silent, then they will both spend one month in jail. If they both speak, they will both spend eight months in jail. If one speaks and the other stays silent, then the speaker spends no time in jail and the other spends one year behind bars.

By determining the “most natural outcome,” SenGupta said, it is apparent that the best move for the prisoner is to confess because it yields the least amount of jail time for the individual.

SenGupta provided real world applications of game theory, all centered on international relations.

For instance, SenGupta created hypothetical situations for two countries that involved going to war and striking first or defending, an arms race where the countries either chose to develop new weapons and the potential to tax international trade.

The next Science Café will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5 in the same location. Wenting Wang, Rhonda Magel and Ronald Degges will describe the process of creating statistical models to predict point spread, and thus the victors, in women’s volleyball and basketball games.

North Dakota State’s College of Science and Mathematics hosts Science Café.

The event is free, and everyone is welcome. Because the event is held in a bar, a parent or guardian must accompany anyone under the age of 21.

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