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Special ISR Olympic Seminar: Michael Rotkowitz, "The False Start Rule in Track & Field"
Friday, August 3, 2012
3:00 p.m.
1146 A.V. Williams Building
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ISR Special Olympic Seminar
The False Start Rule in Track & Field

Michael Rotkowitz
Assistant Professor
Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Institute for Systems Research

A sprinter is considered to have false started, not if s/he starts prior to the firing of the starter's pistol, but if s/he starts within 0.1 seconds of its firing. Since this rule was implemented, runners have indeed been disqualified for starting after the gun but prior to this threshold. The justification is that it would be extremely unlikely or impossible for a human to react that quickly if s/he had waited for the gun, but the likelihood of the alternative is never considered. For the first time in the Olympics this year, any false start will mean a disqualification, potentially compounding any mistakes in how a false start is determined. In this talk we consider the modeling of perceived reaction times given that a false start occurred, and then compare the likelihoods of false and fair starts for the range of times out of the blocks. We then revisit this rule to discuss its fairness and possible alternatives.

Michael Rotkowitz is an Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Maryland, and has been a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne, as well as an Honorary Fellow in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. He obtained his PhD from Stanford University in 2005, and has also held positions at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and the Australian National University in Canberra. His research interests include decentralized control, sparse estimation, and various aspects of optimization, and his awards include the 2007 IEEE George S. Axelby Outstanding Paper Award, and the 2011 SIAM Control and Systems Theory Prize.

This Event is For: Graduate • Undergraduate • Faculty • Post-Docs • Alumni

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