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4 - Risk of Extreme and Rare Events: Lessons from a Selection of Approaches

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Vicki M. Bier
Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin – Madison, Madison, WI
Scott Ferson
Applied Biomathematics, Seatauket, NY
Yacov Y. Haimes
Department of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
James H. Lambert
Department of Systems and Information Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Mitchell J. Small
Departments of Civil Engineering & Environmental Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
Timothy McDaniels
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Mitchell Small
Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania
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GUILDENSTERN: We have been spinning coins together since I don't know when, and in all that time … I don't suppose either of us was more than a couple of gold pieces up or down. I hope that doesn't sound surprising because its very unsurprisingness is something I am trying to keep hold of. The equanimity of your average tosser of coins depends upon a law, or rather a tendency, or let us say a probability, or at any rate a mathematically calculable chance, which ensures that he will not upset himself by losing too much nor upset his opponent by winning too often. This made for a kind of harmony and a kind of confidence. It related the fortuitous and the ordained into a reassuring union which we recognized as nature. The sun came up about as often as it went down, in the long run, and a coin showed heads about as often as it showed tails. Then a messenger arrived. We had been sent for … Ninety-two coins spun consecutively have come down heads ninety-two consecutive times.

Tom Stoppard Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead


Extreme and rare events have captured our imagination. They have inspired fear, introspection, art, literature, religion, law, science, and engineering. Are they acts of God or acts of man; destined or random; to be expected, designed for, and perhaps controlled, or rather ignored, left off of our “worry budgets,” and responded to only if they occur?

Risk Analysis and Society
An Interdisciplinary Characterization of the Field
, pp. 74 - 118
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2003

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