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Elementary 2x02

Kudos to Elementary for choosing a real mathematical problem, and explaining it well. In fact, the only two caveats I have are due to the fact that reality is a bit more fiction-like than that:



  • The NSA entered the plot way too late. Everybody is absolutely sure that they are monitoring pretty much everybody with a chance of solving P=NP. Or hiring them; once upon a time (not sure if that's the case now) the NSA employed more mathematicians and used more computers than any other entity on Earth.

  • If anything, the show understated the impact of figuring out and proving that P = NP. Forget breaking cryptography; it'd basically erase the difference between toy problems like compressing a file and non-trivial problems like optimizing a global economy.



Random observations:

  • Technically, "P vs NP" has two possible solutions: P *is* NP (with a proof) or P *isn't* NP (with a proof). Pretty much all mathematicians think P isn't NP, and the prize (which does exists) is payable either way, but P *is* NP, if true, is the one that'd have world-changing implications.

  • There is a movie: Travelling Salesman


Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
jarodrussell
Oct. 23rd, 2013 04:04 am (UTC)
Watching that episode it occurred to me that Finch much have come close to solving P=NP, which is how his machine can so easily bypass every known security.
__marcelo
Oct. 23rd, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)
Good observation! And given that the kind of data mining/speech analysis/tactical modeling/etc the Machine does with the data it gathers _also_ needs lots of the kind of computing power P=NP would give you, you'd explain both things at once.
jarodrussell
Oct. 23rd, 2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
Good point. I hadn't even considered that human psychology is actually one of the things that basically becomes calculable if you prove P=NP.
__marcelo
Oct. 23rd, 2013 04:02 pm (UTC)
That's the fun thing about complexity classes - solve one version, you solve all of them :).
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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