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The P-NP problem is the most important open problem in computer science, if not all of mathematics. The Golden Ticket provides a nontechnical introduction to P-NP, its rich history, and its algorithmic implications for everything we do with computers and beyond. In this informative and entertaining book, Lance Fortnow traces how the problem arose during the Cold War on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and gives examples of the problem from a variety of disciplines, including economics, physics, and biology. He ...
The P-NP problem is the most important open problem in computer science, if not all of mathematics. The Golden Ticket provides a nontechnical introduction to P-NP, its rich history, and its algorithmic implications for everything we do with computers and beyond. In this informative and entertaining book, Lance Fortnow traces how the problem arose during the Cold War on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and gives examples of the problem from a variety of disciplines, including economics, physics, and biology. He explores problems that capture the full difficulty of the P-NP dilemma, from discovering the shortest route through all the rides at Disney World to finding large groups of friends on Facebook. But difficulty also has its advantages. Hard problems allow us to safely conduct electronic commerce and maintain privacy in our online lives.
The Golden Ticket explores what we truly can and cannot achieve computationally, describing the benefits and unexpected challenges of the P-NP problem.
"In any case, it is excellent to have a nontechnical book about the P versus NP question. The Golden Ticket offers an inspiring introduction for nontechnical readers to what is surely the most important open problem in computer science."—Leslie Ann Goldberg, LMS Newsletter
"The Golden Ticket does a good job of explaining a complex concept in terms that a secondary-school student will understand—a hard problem in its own right, even if not quite NP."—Physics World
"The whole book is fun to read and can be fully appreciated without any knowledge in (theoretical) computer science. Fortnow's efforts to make the difficult material accessible to non-experts should be commended. . . . The book thus caters to all audiences: from novices with an interest in computational problems to experts with knowledge in theoretical computer science."—Andreas Maletti, Zentralblatt MATH
Posted June 13, 2013
In The Golden Ticket, Lance Fortnow takes a fascinating look at a conundrum that has been around since Kurt Gödel wrote about it in a letter to a pioneer in the field of computer science, John von Neumann in 1956. The mystery? Is P = NP?
Gödel didn’t get credit for the question because the letter didn’t come to public light for years, and in the meantime Sam Cook in the West and Leonid Levin in the East each posed the question to their respective mathematical communities and in fact, Sam Cook received the Turing Award for his work on the subject.
Fortnow explores what he calls “the beautiful world” that we would live in if we could actually achieve P = NP where P represents problems that can be solved quickly on computers and NP represents those that cannot be solved quickly or easily. He goes through a number of problems that are satisfyingly illustrative of the complexity of the mystery: clique and map coloring to name a few.
In The Golden Ticket, Fortnow, who is a professor and chair of the School of Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, writes really well. He somehow explains these problems and the enormous challenge involved (in moving from a world where P ≠ NP to the “beautiful” world where P = NP) in language and illustrations which make it easy for the non-technical among us to easily comprehend. And in doing this, he creates a timeline of mathematical history that starts the 9th century mathematician whose nane in Latin (Algoriti) gave us the name algorithms for the computational procedures, to the relative present and IBM’s Charles Bennett et al, and their research into quantum teleportation.
P = NP or P ≠ NP is an captivating conundrum and The Golden Ticket makes it available to the layman in an enjoyable, easy-to-read style that returns a lot for the investment one makes in the reading of it.