Probability Seminar


October 17, 1996
Y. L. Tong
Georgia Tech

Dimension-Reduction Inequalities for Exchangeable Random Variables, With Applications in Statistical Inference

Exchangeable random variables make frequent appearances in probability and statistics, and play a central role in Bayes theory, multiple comparisons, reliability theory, and certain other applications. This talk is concerned with a class of dimension-reduction inequalities for exchangeable random variables with selected applications to statistical inference problems. The proof of the main theorem depends on a moment inequality and de Finetti's theorem, which states that exchangeable random variables are conditionally i.i.d. random variables.

October 24, 1996
Doug Down
Georgia Tech

Stability and Monotone Properties of a Tandem Queueing Network under Window Flow Control

In this talk a network under window flow control is studied. The system is modelled as a (tandem) queueing network with two types of sources, one uncontrolled exogenous traffic and the other controlled. Window flow control operates on the following principle: the controlled source cannot send more than K packets without receiving an acknowledgement from the destination. The situation of interest in this work is that of the flow control being active, in which case the system may be modelled as a network in which exogenous traffic traverses the system as before but the controlled source can be replaced by a closed loop of K packets. Service at each of the servers is assumed to be FIFO. The stability for the system is examined with an emphasis on the situation in which the network dynamics may be described by a Markov process. It is found that the system is stable under the usual load condition (service rate greater than arrival rate) on the exogenous traffic, and in particular is independent of the window size K. Monotonicity properties of certain quantities in the system are identified, which may have implications for further analysis. Finally, the case in which the arrival and service processes are simply assumed to be stationary will be examined.

October 31, 1996
Tom Kurtz
University of Wisconsin

Martingale problems for partially observed Markov processes

We consider a Markov process $X$ characterized as a solution of a martingale problem with generator $A$. Let $Y(t)=\gamma (X(t))$. Assuming that we observe $Y$ but not $X$, then the fundamental problem of filtering is to characterize the conditional distribution $\pi_t(\Gamma )=P(X(t)\in\Gamma |{\cal F}^Y_t)$. Under very general conditions, the probability measure-valued process $\pi$ can be characterized as a solution of a martingale problem. Applications of the general result include a proof of uniqueness for the Kushner-Stratonovich equation for the conditional distribution of a signal observed in additive white noise, proofs of Burke's output theorem and an analogous theorem of Harrison and Williams for reflecting Brownian motion, conditions under which $Y$ is Markov, and proofs of uniqueness for measure-valued diffusions.

November 1, 1996
Reuven Y. Rubinstein
Technion, Israel

Optimization of Computer Simulation Models with Rare Events

Discrete event simulation systems (DESS) are widely used in many diverse areas such as computer-communication networks, flexible manufacturing systems, project evaluation and review techniques (PERT), and flow networks. Because of their complexity, such systems are typically analyzed via Monte Carlo simulation methods. This talk deals with optimization of complex computer simulation models involving rare events. A classic example is to find an optimal (s,S) policy in a multi-item, multicommodity inventory system, when quality standards require the backlog probability to be extremely small. Our approach is based on change of the probability measure techniques, also called likelihood ratio (LR) and importance sampling (IS) methods. Unfortunately, for arbitrary probability measures the LR estimators and the resulting optimal solution often tend to be unstable and may have large variances. Therefore, choice of the corresponding importance sampling distribution -- and in particular of its parameters -- in an optimal way is an important task. We consider the case where the IS distribution belongs to the same parametric family as the original (true) one and use the stochastic counterpart method to handle simulation based optimization models. More specifically, we use a two-stage procedure: at the first stage we identify (estimate) the optimal parameter vector of the IS distribution, and at the second the optimal solution of the underlying constrained optimization problem. Particular emphasis will be placed on estimation of rare events and on integration of the associated performance function into stochastic optimization programs. Supporting numerical results are provided as well.

November 7, 1996
Walter Philipp
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Weak Dependence in Probability, Analysis, and Number Theory

In this talk we survey some of the basic facts on weak dependence, some results on sums of lacunary trigonometric series and their application to harmonic analysis and probabilistic number theory. Also, we will mention some new results on the domain of partial attraction of phi-mixing random variables. The talk will be accessible to non-experts and graduate students.

November 14, 1996
Raid Amin
University of West Florida

Some Control Charts Based on the Extremes

Howell (1949) introduced a Shewhart-type control chart for the smallest and largest observations. He showed that the proposed chart was useful for monitoring the process mean and process variability, and it allowed specification limits to be placed on the chart. We propose an exponentially weighted moving average (EWMA) control chart which is based on smoothing the smallest and largest observations in each sample. A two-dimensional Markov chain to approximate the Average Run Length is developed. A design procedure for the MaxMin EWMA control chart is given. The proposed MaxMin EWMA chart shows which parameters have changed, and in which direction the change occurred. The MaxMin EWMA can also be viewed as smoothed distribution-free tolerance limits. It is a control procedure that offers excellent graphical guidance for monitoring processes. A modified (two-sided) MaxMin chart is also discussed. Numerical results show that the MaxMin EWMA has very good ARL properties for changes in the mean and/or variability. The MaxMin chart has already been implemented at a local company with success.

November 21, 1996
Serguei Foss
Novosibirsk State University and Colorado State University

Coupling and Renovation

In the first part of the talk, we introduce notions of coupling (forward coupling) and strong coupling (backward coupling), and show the use of these notions in the stability study of Markov chains and of stochastically recursive sequences, and, in particular, in a simulation of the stationary distribution of a homogeneous discrete-time Markov Chain.

In the second part of the talk, we consider the following problem. Let $Y \equiv Y_0 \equiv \{ X_n, n \geq 0 \}$ be a sequence of random variables. For $k=1,2, \ldots $, put $Y_k = \{ X_{k+n}, n \geq 0\}$ and denote by $P_k$ the distribution of $Y_k$. When does there exist a probability measure $P$ such that $P_k \to P$ in the total variation norm?

December 5, 1996
Minping Qian
Peking University, Beijing, China

An accelerated algorithm of Gibbs sampling

To overcome the difficulty of oscillation when the density of samples is peaky, a reversible calculation scheme is introduced. Theoretical discussion and calculation examples show that it does accelerate the calculations.

January 10, 1997
Andre Dabrowski
University of Ottawa

Statistical Analysis of Ion Channel Data

Ion channels are small pores present in the outer membranes of most biological cells. Their use by those cells in generating and transmitting electrical signals has made their study of considerable importance in biology and medicine. A considerable mathematical literature has developed on the analysis of the alternating on/off current signal generated by ion channels in "patch-clamp" experiments.

After a brief decription of patch-clamp experiments and their associated data, we will provide an overview of the major approaches to the statistical analysis of current traces. The renewal-theoretic approach of Dabrowski, McDonald and Rosler (1990) will be described in greater detail, and applied to the analysis of data arising from an experiment on stretch-sensitive ion channels.

January 16, 1997
Christian Houdre
Georgia Tech

An Interpolation Formula and Its Consequences

We present an interpolation formula for the expectation of functions of Gaussian random vectors. This is then applied to present new correlation inequalities, comparison theorems and tail inequalities for various classes of functions of Gaussian vectors. This approach can be extended to the infinitely divisible and the discrete cube cases.

January 30, 1997
Ming Liao
Auburn University

L'evy processes on Lie groups and stability of stochastic flows

We consider stochastic flows generated by stochastic differential equations on compact manifolds which are contained in finite dimensional Lie transformation groups. Using a result for limiting behavior of L'evy processes on Lie groups, we can decompose such a stochastic flow as a product of the following three transformations:
(1) a random "rotation" which tends to a limit as time goes to infinity;
(2) an asymptotically deterministic flow;
(3) another random "rotation".
Using this decomposition, we may describe the random "sinks" and "sources" of the stochastic flow explicitly. Examples of stochastic flows on spheres will be discussed.

February 6, 1997
Dana Randall
Georgia Tech

Testable algorithms for generating self-avoiding walks

We present a polynomial time Monte Carlo algorithm for almost uniformly generating and approximately counting self-avoiding walks in rectangular lattices. These are classical problems that arise, for example, in the study of long polymer chains. While there are a number of Monte Carlo algorithms used to solve these problems in practice, these are heuristic and their correctness relies on unproven conjectures. In contrast, our algorithm relies on a single, widely-believed conjecture that is simpler than preceding assumptions, and, more importantly, is one which the algorithm itself can test. Thus our algorithm is reliable, in the sense that it either outputs answers that are guaranteed, with high probability, to be correct, or finds a counterexample to the conjecture. (Joint work with Alistair Sinclair.)

February 13, 1997
Steen Andersson
Indiana University

Models combining group symmetry and conditional independence in a multivariate normal distribution

Three of the most important concepts used in defining a statistical model are independence, conditional distributions, and symmetries. Statistical models given by a combination of two of these concepts, conditional distributions and independence, the so-called conditional independence models, have received increasing attention in recent years. The models are defined in terms of directed graphs, undirected graphs or a combination of the two, the so-called chain graphs.

This paper combines conditional independence (CI) restrictions with group symmetry (GS) restrictions to obtain the group symmetry conditional independence (GS-CI) models. The group symmetry models and the conditional independence models are thus special cases of the GS-CI models. A complete solution to the likelihood inference for the GS-CI models is presented.

Special examples of GS models are Complete Symmetry, Compound Symmetry, Circular Symmetry, Complex Normal Distributions, Multivariate Complete Symmetry, Multivariate Compound Symmetry, and Multivariate Circular Symmetry. When some of these simple GS models are combined with some of the simple CI models, numerous well-behaved GS-CI models can be presented.

February 27, 1997
Dimitris Bertsimas
Sloan School, MIT

Optimization of multiclass queueing networks via infinite linear programming and singular perturbation methods

We propose methods for optimization of multiclass queueing networks that model manufacturing systems. We combine ideas from optimization and partial differential equations.

The first approach aims to explore the dynamic character of the problem by considering the fluid model of the queueing network. We propose an algorithm that solves the fluid control problem based on infinite linear programming. Our algorithm is based on nonlinear optimization ideas, and solves large scale problems (50 station problems with several hundred classes) very efficiently.

The second approach aims to shed light on the question of how stochasticity affects the character of optimal policies. We use singular perturbation techniques from the theory of partial differential equations to obtain a series of optimization problems, the first of which is the fluid optimal control problem mentioned in the previous paragraph. The second order problem provides a correction to the optimal fluid solution. This second order problem has strong ties with the optimal control of Brownian multiclass stochastic networks. We solve the problem explicitly in many examples and we see that the singular perturbation approach leads to insightful new qualitative behavior. In particular, we obtain explicit results on how variability in the system affects the character of the optimal policy.

March 5, 1997
Paul Glasserman
Columbia Business School

Importance Sampling for Rare Event Simulation: Good News and Bad News

Precise estimation of rare event probabilities by simulation can be difficult: the computational burden frequently grows exponentially in the rarity of the event. Importance sampling --- based on applying a change of measure to make a rare event less rare --- can improve efficiency by orders of magnitude. But finding the right change of measure can be difficult. Through a variety of examples in queueing and other contexts, a general strategy has emerged: find the most likely path to a rare event and apply a change of measure to follow this path. The most likely path is found through large deviations calculations.

The first part of this talk reviews positive results that support this strategy and examples of its potential for dramatic variance reduction. The second part shows, however, that the same approach can be disastrous even in very simple examples. For each negative example, we propose a simple modification that produces an asymptotically optimal estimator.

March 13, 1997
Hayriye Ayhan
Georgia Tech

On the Time-Dependent Occupancy and Backlog Distributions for the $GI / G / \infty$ Queue

An examination of sample path dynamics allows a straightforward development of integral equations having solutions that give time-dependent occupancy and backlog distributions (conditioned on the time of the first arrival) for the $GI/G/\infty$ queue. These integral equations are amenable to numerical evaluation and can be generalized to characterize $GI^X/G/ \infty$ queue. Two examples are given that illustrate the results.

April 17, 1997
Andrew Nobel
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Adaptive Model Selection Using Empirical Complexities

We propose and analyze an adaptive model selection procedure for multivariate classification, which is based on complexity penalized empirical risk.

The procedure divides the available data into two parts. The first is used to select an empirical cover of each model class. The second is used to select from each cover a candidate rule with the smallest number of misclassifications. The final estimate is chosen from the list of candidates in order to minimize the sum of class complexity and empirical probability of error.

A distinguishing feature of the approach is that the complexity of each model class is assessed empirically, based on the size of its empirical cover.

April 24, 1997
Robert Adler
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
and Technion -- Israel Institute of Technology

An Introduction to Superprocesses

A superprocess is a measure valued stochastic process used for modelling, among other things, infinite density systems of particles undergoing random motion and random branching. They can be studied either via the general theory of Markov processes, stochastic partial differential equations, or martingale problems.

In this talk I shall try to provide an introduction to superprocesses for the uninitiated, describing their basic structure, some basic results, and some interestimg open questions.

The talk will be followed by a 15 minute movie for anyone who wishes to stay.

May 1, 1997
Alex Koldobsky
University of Texas at San Antonio

More on Schoenberg's problem on positive definite functions

In 1938, Schoenberg posed the following problem: for which $p>0$ is the function $exp(-\|x\|_q^p)$ positive definite. The solution was completed in 1991, and since then there have appeared a few more proofs all of which were quite technical. We present a new proof which significantly generalizes the solution and, in a certain sense, clears things up. This proof is based on extending the Levy representation of norms to the case of negative exponents. We also show the connections between Schoenberg's problem and isotropic random vectors, and apply our results to inequalities of correlation type for stable vectors.

May 8, 1997
Bok Sik Yoon
Hong-Ik University, Seoul, Korea & Georgia Tech

QN-GPH Method for Sojourn Time Distributions in General Queueing Networks

We introduce the QN-GPH method to compute the sojourn time distributions in non-product form open queueing networks. QN-GPH is based on GPH semi-Markov chain modelling for the location process of a typical customer. To derive the method, GPH distribution, GPH/GPH/1 queue, and GPH semi-Markov chains are briefly explained and a seemingly efficient method computing the transition function and first passage time distributions in the GPH semi-Markov chain is developed. Numerical examples in the area of telecommunication are given to demonstrate the accuracy of the method. The QN-GPH method seems to be computationally affordable tool for delay analysis in various manufacturing systems or computer and communication systems.

May 15, 1997
Jan Rosinski
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Problems of unitary representations arising in the study of stable processes

Study of different classes of stable processes, such as stationary, self-similar, stationary increment, isotropic, etc., leads to the problem of obtaining explicit forms for unitary representations on L^p spaces, which can be used for a classification of stable processes. This approach is necessitated by the lack of a satisfactory spectral theorem when p < 2. The talk will survey some results in this area and present some open problems.

May 22, 1997
Robert Cooper
Florida Atlantic University

Polling Models and Vacation Models in Queueing Theory: Some Interesting and Surprising Stuff

A polling model is used to represent a system of multiple queues that are attended by a single server that switches from queue to queue in some prescribed manner. These models have many important applications, such as performance analysis of computer-communication networks and manufacturing systems, and they tend to be quite complicated. A vacation model describes a single-server queue in which the server can be unavailable for work (away on "vacation") even though customers are waiting. Some vacation models exhibit a "decomposition," in which the effects of the vacations can be separated from the effects of the stochastic variability of the arrival times and the service times. In a polling model, the time that the server spends away from any particular queue, serving the other queues or switching among them, can be viewed as a vacation from that queue. Adoption of this viewpoint greatly simplifies the analysis of polling models.

Recently, it has been found that polling models themselves enjoy an analogous decomposition with respect to the server switchover times (or, in the manufacturing context, setup times), but for apparently different reasons. Furthermore, it has recently been discovered that some polling models exhibit counterintuitive behavior: when switchover times increase, waiting times decrease; or, equivalently, in the parlance of manufacturing, WIP (work in process) can be decreased by artificially increasing the setup times.

In this talk we give an overview of polling and vacation models, including some historical context. Also, using decomposition we "explain" the counterintuitive behavior, and identify it as a hidden example of the well-known renewal (length-biasing) paradox.

The talk will emphasize conceptual arguments rather than mathematical detail, and should be of interest to a general audience.

Unless otherwise noted, the seminar meets Thursdays at 3 PM in Skiles, Room 140. For further information, contact Jim Dai ( or Richard Serfozo (

May 29, 1997
Takis Konstantopoulos
University of Texas, Austin

Distributional Approximations of Processes, Queues and Networks under Long-Range Dependence Assumptions

In this talk we discuss the issue of modeling and analysis of stochastic systems under the assumption that the inputs possess long-range dependence. The hypothesis is based on experimental observations in high-speed communication networks that have motivated a large body of research in the recent years. After briefly reviewing typical experiments, models, and theoretical results on performance, we present a detailed limit theorem for a class of traffic processes possessing a weak regenerative structure with infinite variance cycle times and ``burstiness constrained'' cycles. The distribution of the approximating process is characterized and found to be of Levy-type with a stable marginal distribution whose index is the ratio of a parameter characterizing the tail of cycle times and a parameter representing the asymptotic growth rate of traffic processes. We also discuss queueing analysis for Levy networks. Finally, we comment on the matching of distributions of both arrivals and queues with those observed in practice.

June 5, 1997
Alan F. Karr
National Institute of Statistical Sciences

Does Code Decay?

Developers of large software systems widely believe that these systems _decay_ over time, becoming increasingly hard to change: changes take longer, cost more and are more likely to induce faults.

This talk will describe a large, cross-disciplinary, multi-organization study, now in its first year, meant to define, measure and visualize code decay, to identify its causes (both structural and organizational), to quantify effects, and to devise remedies. Emphasis will be on the code itself and its change history as statistical data, and on tools to describe and visualize changes.

Last updated: May 31, 1997 by J. Hasenbein (