Cole Campton

Projects Interests About
  • Iterative Graph Alignment
    Discussion of an interesting factorization and iterative algorithm for (relaxed) sub-graph isomorphism.

  • Image Deconvolution
    Discussion of the math behind denoising by directly inverting a regularized convolution objective.

  • The Perron-Frobenius Operator
    A project which demonstrates the power of numerical methods in approximating the long-term behavior of Ergodic mappings.

  • The Probabilistic Method
    A discussion and example of Paul Erdoős' Probabilistic Method.

  • Chronic Kidney Disease
    An overview of work at Emory University's Summer Institute in Biostatistics to predict development of Chronic Kidney Disease.

  • Coffee
    A compilation of some useful resouces and background information in coffee and brewing equiptment.

  • The Elektra Factory
    Photos from my tour of the Eletra factory in Treviso, Italy.

  • Climbing
    Photos from various climbing trips, including some with the Reed Mountaineering Club.

  • Budapest Semesters in Mathematics
    My experiences at the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program.


    Hello my name is Cole Campton. I was born and raised in Mill Valley, California. I graduated from Reed College with a B.A. in mathematics. While at Reed I wrote a thesis on the homological equivalence of discrete configure space models used in motion planning.

    I currently work at Gilead Science's Clinical Bioinformatics and Exploratory Analytics group in Foster City, California.

    I am interested in computer science, mathematics, rock climbing, coffee and lever espresso machines.

    Feel free to contact me. Let’s talk computer science and coffee.

The Probabilistic Method

The Probabilistic Method is a method of proof first used by Paul Erdős. Erdős himself said during his 80th birthday conference, that he believes this method will live long after him. The method has the striking ability to build proofs of existence without actual construction.

Each application of the methods follows the same general workflow

  1. Describe the probability that an element of a set has a certain property.
  2. Use the property to show that this probability occurs with a non-zero provability.
  3. Then observe that an element with the chosen property must exist.

In the abstract this seems to be an obvious technique. The following provides an example to allow the reader to appreciate the magic-like power of Erdős’ Probabilistic Method.

The Chip-Liar Game

Example: The Liar Game

  1. Paul asks \(q\) questions in the form “Is \(x\in S\)?” for any subset \(S\)
  2. Determining x \(\in\left\{1,...,n\right\}\)
  3. Carole doesn’t necessarily need to select an \(x\) beforehand, but at least one \(x\) must be consistent with her answers.

For which \(n\) numbers, \(q\) questions, and \(k\) lies are known by both Carole and Paul. Can Paul determine the number? Use Probabilistic method to prove the existence of a winning strategy for one player.

An Equivalent Game: Chip-Liar

  1. Chip for each \(x\).
  2. Board is a method for keeping track of lies each \(x\) has remaining.
  3. Used to keep track of the possibility that each answer \(x \in S\) and \(x \not\in S\) could be a lie.
  4. Chips are removed from the board past the 0th slot, they are not possible \(x\)’s.

If there are more than one chips on the board at the end of the game then Paul cannot determine between them which is \(x\) and Carol wins.

Playing Chip-Liar: Examples

Example 1

Imagine asking “Is \(x \in \left\{ 1,2,..., n \right\}\)?”. Clearly it is. Carole could respond no, but would certainly use a lie and move the whole stack left one unit.

Example 2

Imagine asking “Is \(x \in \left\{ 1,2 \right\}\)?” Carole could answer “No”, and has either lied or told the truth.

Or she could answer “Yes” and has either lied or told the truth.

At each round Carole can choose to either move \(S\) or \({S}^{c}\) one space to the left.

Does a Chip Survive: Expected Value

  1. Consider Carole playing randomly, moving $S$ or ${S}^{c}$.
  2. For each \(c \in\left\{1,...,n\right\}\) let \({I}_{c}\) is 1 iff \(c\) is on the board after \(q\) rounds
  3. If \(c\) is on position \(j\), \(c\) will survive if chosen \(\le j\) times.

Probability of Survival

\(E\left[ {I}_{c} \right] = \frac { 1 }{ {2}^{q} } \sum_{i=0}^{j}{\begin{pmatrix} q \\ i \end{pmatrix}} \stackrel{def}{=} B(q,j)\)

\(B(q,j)\) to be the probability that a chip at \(j\) survives q rounds.

Expected Values

Expected Number of Chips

  1. Number chips on each space is given by \(\left\{x_{1},...,{x}_{k}\right\}\) 1. The expected total number of chips is \(C\) is the number of chips in a position times the probability each will survive the game

Expected total number of chips.

\(E\left[C\right]= \sum_{c}{E\left[{I}_{c}\right]} =\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}B(q,i)}\)

Existence of a Winner

Game Theory: Theorem

In a game with perfect information, no hidden moves and no draws one player has a perfect winning strategy.

\(E\left[C\right]\) weighted average of possibilities. If \(E\left[C\right] > 1\),

  1. \(E\left[C\right] = {C}_{1} \mu\left({C}_{1}\right)+...+{C}_{p} \mu\left({C}_{p}\right)>1\) implies \(\exists {C}_{k} > 1\) with \(\mu\left({C}_{k}\right)>0\)
  2. If some \({C}_{k} > 1\) with \(\mu\left({C}_{k}\right)>0\) then Carole is able to win.
  3. So no strategy allows Paul to always win.
  4. But by the Theorem someone has a perfect strategy that always wins, so it must be Carole.

since \(\forall j\) \(0\le{C}_{j}\le 1\) and \(\sum_{j=0}^{p}{\mu\left({C}_{j}\right)}=1\)


  1. \(E\left[C\right]=\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}B(q,i)}\) gives \(\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}} B(q,k) = \left\{x_{1},...,{x}_{k}\right\} = \left\{0,...,n\right\}\)
  2. When \(E\left[C\right]>1\) and Carole wins this gives \(\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}} B(q,k)>1\)
  3. Rearranges to: \(\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}} > \frac{2^{q}}{B(q,k)}\) and \(\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}} = n\) yield

Corollary - Carole wins the \(n\) number, \(q\) question, and \(k\) lie game

\(n> \frac{2^{q}}{\sum_{i=0}^{k}{\begin{pmatrix} q \\ i \end{pmatrix}}}\)

\[\text{(Probability of removing an x) * (the number of x's)} > \text{(total number of subsets of x's)}\]


  1. Random play is expected to yield the same result, so the initial position will decide a better move.
  2. With \(l\) moves remaining Carole’s dominant strategy is to maximize the expected number of chips on the board playing randomly after moving \(S\) or \({S}^{c}\).


\(S\rightarrow \left({x}_{1}^{'},..., {x}_{k}^{'}\right) \text{ and }{S}^{c}\rightarrow \left({x}_{1}^{"},..., {x}_{k}^{"}\right)\) \(E\left[{C}^{'}\right]=\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}^{'}B(l,i)} \text{ and } E\left[{C}^{"}\right]=\sum_{i=0}^{k}{x_{i}^{"}B(l,i)}\) \(\text{if } E\left[{C}^{'}\right]>E\left[{C}^{"}\right] \text{ then move } S \text{, otherwise move }{S}^{c}\)