More than a number: Predicting the Unpredictable

Professor Jonathan Tawn, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Lancaster University

Wednesday 24 April 2013, 1900-2000
Centenary Hall, Lancaster Girls Grammar School

In recent years the statisticians at Lancaster have helped answer the following questions:

  • Are the flood defenses at Heysham power station high enough?
  • What is the chance that large sections of the UK will be hit by flooding?
  • How is climate change affecting the occurrence of drought in Africa?
  • Is this oilrig design strong enough?
  • What caused the sinking of MV Derbyshire?
  • Are my investments safe from stock market crashes?
  • Should a new drug be passed safe for use?

To answer such questions we need to know about the frequency of extreme events. Estimating this frequency can be very difficult as, by their nature, these events are rare and in many cases are more extreme than any previous observations.

Statistics at school is often about typical values, like the mean, median and the variation about these. This talk will introduce you to a theory of extreme values that underpins answers to all these questions and it will illustrate the power of statistical methods in practice.

Register for your free tickets for this talk at

More than a number

More than a number is a series of public lectures throughout 2013 in celebration of the international year of statistics. A series of statisticians from the department will be talking about the exciting work that they do and how it relates to daily life.

From the approval of medicine, to fighting the spread of disease, from designing flood defences to harnessing renewable energy, we will delve into how a knowledge of statistics reveals the solution to many issues.

This talk is the third and final talk in the first part of the series and the second part will run from September to December. Watch this space for further information.

Videos of past talks are available via our YouTube channel.

To find about more about statistics visit the International Year of Statistics web page: