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In this supplemental set of notes we derive some approximations for ${n!}$, when ${n}$ is large, and in particular Stirling’s formula. This formula (and related formulae for binomial coefficients ${\binom{n}{m}}$ will be useful for estimating a number of combinatorial quantities in this course, and also in allowing one to analyse discrete random walks accurately.

In preparation for my upcoming course on random matrices, I am briefly reviewing some relevant foundational aspects of probability theory, as well as setting up basic probabilistic notation that we will be using in later posts. This is quite basic material for a graduate course, and somewhat pedantic in nature, but given how heavily we will be relying on probability theory in this course, it seemed appropriate to take some time to go through these issues carefully.

We will certainly not attempt to cover all aspects of probability theory in this review. Aside from the utter foundations, we will be focusing primarily on those probabilistic concepts and operations that are useful for bounding the distribution of random variables, and on ensuring convergence of such variables as one sends a parameter ${n}$ off to infinity.

We will assume familiarity with the foundations of measure theory; see for instance these earlier lecture notes of mine for a quick review of that topic. This is also not intended to be a first introduction to probability theory, but is instead a revisiting of these topics from a graduate-level perspective (and in particular, after one has understood the foundations of measure theory). Indeed, I suspect it will be almost impossible to follow this course without already having a firm grasp of undergraduate probability theory.