# Wiki to Help Solve Millennium Problems?

#### CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the np-complete dept.

232
MattWhitworth writes *"A new wiki has been set up over at QEDen to try to gather a community to solve the Millennium Problems. The problems are seven as yet unsolved mathematical problems that continue to vex researchers today. What do you think of this effort? Will gathering a community of people help solve problems such as P=NP, or do you think it requires a lot more than a semi-qualified community to approach the problem?"*

## first post (-1, Offtopic)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135649)

## Unsolved Problem (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135651)

The requested URL (science/06/04/15/158257.shtml) was not found.

If you feel like it, mail the url, and where ya came from to pater@slashdot.org.

Why does Slashdot have so much difficulty linking from the front page to its own postings?

## Re:Unsolved Problem (1)

## creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135746)

## Re:Unsolved Problem (1)

## x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135896)

"or some twit fixes the code"haha I read that as "some twix fixes the code", quite an amusing image...

## Please. . . (4, Insightful)

## jd142 (129673) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135652)

## Re:Please. . . (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135676)

## Re:Please. . . (5, Insightful)

## kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135679)

Will gathering a community of people help solve problems such as P=NP, or do you think it requires a lot more than a semi-qualified community to approach the problem?"GIGO.

The

quantityof GI does not effect therealityof GO.The very few people who actually do understand the problems and the underlying issues will eventually stop trying to explain what the real issue is.One very quickly learns the pointlessness of trying to explain to the Unskilled and Unaware of It that it would take about two years of education for them to even understand that they don't understand the issue.

And it only annoys the pig.

KFG

## Re:Please. . . (-1, Offtopic)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135729)

The quantity of GI does not effect the reality of GO.On the contrary, GI certainly effects [purdue.edu] the reality of GO.

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135750)

knewyou were going to show up, and really, I have only one thing to say to you, Sir:Yes, I typed the wrong vowel; and hence the wrong word. Mea Culpa.

KFG

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## EZLeeAmused (869996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135822)

And it only annoys the pig.I think you are referring to mud wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty,

and the pig likes it.## Re:Please. . . (1)

## kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135852)

I think you are referring to mud wrestling with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.No. I am refering to teaching a pig to sing. It wastes your time and only annoys the pig.

KFG

## Re:Please. . . (2, Insightful)

## sangdrax (132295) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135873)

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## defile (1059) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135704)

3/4 of the people will argue about their misunderstanding of the problems involved, the other won't even know what the problems are but think they do. The very few people who actually do understand the problems and the underlying issues will eventually stop trying to explain what the real issue is."Any scientist who cannot explain to an eight-year-old what he is doing is a charlatan"

--Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle

## Re:Please. . . (4, Insightful)

## dsci (658278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135751)

"Any scientist who cannot explain to an eight-year-old what he is doing is a charlatan"

--Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle

Would you not say there is quite a difference from explaining what you are doing to an 8 year old child and giving sufficient information to expect that child to contribute to the work?

For example, I study reaction dynamics and intramolecular energy flow during 'fast' reactions. It is pretty easy for me to explain to children that I study chemical reactions - how things are changed from one thing to another. I could even do some demo's and talk about them in some detail.

But that's a far cry from expecting those children from being able to help me solve Navier-Stokes equations, apply classical thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics to arrive at quantitative models of deflagration explosions.

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## Llywelyn (531070) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135752)

As another person put it, it would take two years of education for most people just to realize that they don't know enough about the subject.

## Re:Please. . . (2, Insightful)

## ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135767)

"Any scientist who cannot explain to an eight-year-old what he is doing is a charlatan" --Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's CradleHave you ever seen any of the threads which pop up on some forums now and again attempting to convince people that 0.9 recurring is equal to 1? It's true, but it's unintuitive - and consequently, people tend to persistently reject the idea, even with varying degrees of proof (from the 1/3 = 0.3 recurring argument, to the demonstration that it follows directly as a result of constructing the set of reals).

Such is the case with most ideas in the sciences - things often contradict what we expect, and people tend to reject them, until they have studied the field enough to see why the arguments leading to them are valid. Heck, even Newton's laws don't line up directly with our everyday experiences until we understand enough to compensate for things like air resistance.

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## 1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135858)

Have you ever seen any of the threads which pop up on some forums ...I learnt the futility of trying to explain simple mathematics. In a peripherally related subject, I was sucked into an interminable thread on whether "The Millennium" began in 2000 or 2001. The "2000" camp basically just followed the odometer argument; the moment the round number appears on the calendar. A significant event (as significant as any numerical symmmetry), but not a "millennium". And closer to home, the inevitable 800-post threads that occur here every time an article with the word "evolution" appears demonstrate that most people do not evaluate evidence but look for those that support their beliefs and try to discredit the rest.

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## x2A (858210) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135940)

*cough*

## Re:Please. . . (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135788)

--Kurt Vonnegut in Cat's Cradle

Sorry but Vonnegut is just wrong. Some things are complicated and cannot be explained to 8 year olds. Take mathematics for example. Most Phds in mathematics cannot be explained to other graduate students working in different branches of mathematics. So how do you expect to explain such things to an 8 year old.

Vonnegut's quote is one of those nice catchy sayings with no basis in fact.

## Re:Please. . . (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135849)

## Re:Please. . . (2, Informative)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135800)

A scientist's work needs to touch on reality at some point. If a scientist doesn't understand why he's doing what he's doing clearly enough to tell an eight year old, then he's lost touch with the purpose of research. Even pure scientific research is explicable. "I'm trying to find out how quickly certain bits of the stuff we're made of stick to each other." At least, that's Vonnegut's contention there. An eight year old won't ask "Why are you spending my tax dollars on this?" so a simple answer will do.

Mathematicians have no such fallback. When studying fourier transformations or the normality of a decimal expansion, the concepts involved touch on our experience nowhere. You could stretch a point and pretend that the point of your fourier research is to fit more songs on her ipod, but you're probably lying there. Some fourier research did that, but yours won't necessarily result in better compression... and that's not actually what you're trying to do. You're no engineer.

Even though I majored in Pure Mathematics, I'm aware that there are mathematicians doing work the very existence of which I'm not educated enough to understand. Any very specialized branch of mathematics forms its own little universe. A very advanced mathematician, asked about his work, will say "You know about the existence of Tupper manifolds? Well it turns out that if their order is prime, they're non-haussman. I'm trying to figure out if non-tupper manifolds are all hausmann or not." (That's all made up, of course.)

Scientists may use mathematics, but science and mathematics are very different fields.

## Please. . .Press / to bail. (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135754)

And then proceed to move to another forum like Kiroshin.

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## 1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135783)

## Re:Please. . . (1)

## penguinbrat (711309) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135844)

## Slashdot editors... illiterate fuckwits (0, Troll)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135656)

## Re:Slashdot editors... illiterate fuckwits (1)

## Musteval (817324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135793)

## Re:Slashdot editors... illiterate fuckwits (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135870)

## Frist Ps0t! (-1, Offtopic)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135657)

## SlashWiki. (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135660)

Just look at how slashdot has helped solve global hunger, or set corrupt governments straight.

## Re:SlashWiki. (1)

## bj8rn (583532) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135831)

tried, have we?## Meanwhile... (3, Funny)

## hunterx11 (778171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135667)

lesssuccessful.## Re:Meanwhile... (1)

## geobeck (924637) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135724)

...and BBSpot [bbspot.com] will set up a Wiki to solve the Y2K problem. 85% of this Wiki will consist of suggestions from people who don't know what the problem was, and think it sill exists. The other 15% will consist of people asking Brian Briggs [bbspot.com] how to contact Ensenam Ayele [bbspot.com] .

## well, (2, Interesting)

## joe 155 (937621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135669)

(sorry about the bad spelling)

well I'm completely unqualified in every sense for these things, but being a political scientist I should be able to have a stab at the last question... Concordat's jury theorum suggests that with more people your chance of getting a right answer increases, say if everyone has about 60% chance of getting it right for example then with a few hundered people that chance should have increased to over 80%... which would lead me to believe yes it will work, still, i tend to think that the more people you have the less productive you are capable of being as people will disagree, and if the two most experienced people disagree then it could polarise the views of the less experienced people and split the project... so basically, it could go either way...

## Re:well, (2, Insightful)

## dsci (658278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135706)

I would think, and this is just a guess, that the qualified pool of people working on those problems is already nearly maxed out. Adding a bunch of folks that don't even 'speak the language,' as another poster mentioned, probably won't increase the odds of a solution very well.

## Re:well, (1)

## topham (32406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135723)

If you look through history you will find that the established scientists were often preventing the release of new ideas. Whether this be from their younger colleagues or from amateurs.

That said, the amateurs likely to be able to contribute to a solution on these problems are already aware of them and Wiki isn't likely to change that significantly. Many subjects are best done with a very small group of people, not a thousand experts, never mind ten-thousand amateurs.

## Re:well, (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135894)

That's not really true. You sometimes get an older scientist who is against a new idea, but they can't prevent the idea spreading. And if the idea is clearly right then any scientist will either accept it or become irrelevant. A good example is Fred Hoyle and big bang theory. He didn't accept it, yet the theory still became popular (because it explains so many observations it can't really be wrong), and Hoyle wasn't taken very seriously towards the end of his career.

The scientific power structure isn't like what you're used to. First off, there

isvery little power. My "boss" can disagree with me but can't stop me publishing. Seniority doesn't equate to being further up the hierarchy, quality of scientific output does. Being at the very top only means you have the ability to control the funding/hiring/firing of a handful of people - you can't supress an idea by not hiring someone, they'll work somewhere else.I know it feels good to paint it as an establishment-versus-righteous-youngsters scenario, but it's not the case. Science in general is set up really well, I'm one of the youngsters and I'm proud of the system we have. This is the benefit of being able to test your ideas by experiment and

objectivelyknowing their merit - we can cut out lots of the power-politics bullshit that plagues corporate (and some other academic) life.## Re:well, (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135742)

The overall intelligence of a committee is equal to the intelligence of the stupidest member, divided by the number of people on the committee.

I leave it to you to figure out the ramifications...

Jack.

## Re:well, (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135925)

## Re:well, (1)

## zolltron (863074) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135865)

Remember solving the problem is not just getting the right answer. For instance, I might declare that I think P=NP, and I have a reasonable chance of being right. What constitutes a solution is also providing a proof. I feel very confident that anyone in this country who has a better than 50% chance of getting a proof of P=NP is already working on the problem, and probably already discussing this issue with others.

-z

## Yes. (-1, Redundant)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135673)

## More likely... (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135675)

## In related news... (5, Insightful)

## MosesJones (55544) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135682)

Lets put it this way, if there was a Wiki on solving complex DNA evolution problems, 50%+ of the posts would be from wackos talking about ID and Creationism.

I hate to break it to people, but Maths and Physics make computing look like a liberal arts degree.

## Re:In related news... (1)

## rbarreira (836272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135700)

I hate to break it to people, but Maths and Physics make computing look like a liberal arts degree.[Insert rant about the diminishing frontiers between maths and computer science here]

## Re:In related news... (1)

## creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135773)

[Insert rant about the diminishing frontiers between maths and computer science here]Let's see... The entire computer department was gutted out this Spring Semester due to low enrollment. The only class I was able to pick up was statistics math. An obvious disconnect here.

Oh, yeah. If you want to learn numerical computation, that class is offered only in the math department.

## Re:In related news... (2, Insightful)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135947)

realfour-year college and gotten a BS in, I don't know, Computer Science maybe?Check out real colleges with real majors and programs, and you will see a lot of courses that connect math and computers. A lot may be taught only in Math departments, but these classes will often be listed as being for CS majors. Do you think that they make real CS majors take as much math as they do for fun?

## Re:In related news... (0, Flamebait)

## dfgchgfxrjtdhgh.jjhv (951946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135786)

if you want to do computer science, do a maths degree.

## Re:In related news... (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135904)

## Re:In related news... (1)

## modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135941)

## Mass Gap in the Yang-Mills equestion... (4, Funny)

## creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135688)

Duke Nukem Foreverwill be released. Once Windows Vista is fully featured andDuke Nukem Foreveris released, the equations should work correctly. The odds of that happening is... like a spaceship being swallowed by a large dog in space.## Re:Mass Gap in the Yang-Mills equestion... (1)

## boojumbadger (949542) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135835)

## Monkeys (3, Interesting)

## wellwatch (588301) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135690)

## Re:Monkeys (1)

## thePig (964303) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135711)

See, Internet already proved this is not the case (for the first one at least)

## Re:Monkeys (1)

## fastgood (714723) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135743)

a million monkeys banging on a million type writersAre there even a million working typewriters remaining? And at the rate things are going, there may not be a million monkeys left soon, either.

## Monkeys Are Now Code Monkeys... (1)

## creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135760)

## Feces (1)

## dino213b (949816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135827)

## Re:Monkeys (1)

## monkeyson (760215) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135839)

## Re:Monkeys (1)

## bj8rn (583532) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135871)

realmonkeys in this parable. If they were real monkeys, they wouldn't by far behave randomly enough. They wouldn't type like "asjfd jk o 94 To be or not to be?" It'd be more like dldskfdslfldlddddddddddddddddddllddldldldldldldldI do wonder, though, how close to the original would a page of text have to be to count as a page of the complete works of Shakespeare? Would even one typo disqualify it, or would it simply have to be identifiable, despite missing a couple of words that can be derived from the context?

## Motivation? (3, Insightful)

## siwelwerd (869956) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135691)

## Re:Motivation? (1)

## Secret Rabbit (914973) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135917)

And there is the case the the referee just doesn't like the person and denies publication under some facade. Then the author would have to either make an appeal to the editor and/or find another journal to try to publish in.

All of this takes a lot of time.

There is also the problem that poeple don't really read eachothers work anymore.

There is also the problem that people don't have the time to read through all of the journals that exist because one of them might have one paper with one good idea in them.

These are pretty much the reasons why a good number of pre-print servers are out there and why this wiki is a decent idea. I just hope that the people who don't have a clue (whether they realize it or not) don't ruin it for everyone else.

## Noble endavor (2, Insightful)

## nandu_prahlad (706343) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135692)

However by involving everyone, including the layman in these fascinating problems will help increase appreciation for the beauty of mathematics amongst the general public and that to me is equal in worth to actually solving these problems.

## I doubt it will work (4, Insightful)

## sydneyfong (410107) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135693)

But then, more people working on it doesn't necessarily improve things. For one, you will expect a very bad noise to signal ratio, where there would be a bunch of smart ass ideas that have already been disproved decades ago, or ideas which are so obviously wrong that no academic would even think of writing a paper for.

Basically the whole thing is based on the assumption that "monkeys banging on typewriters will eventually produce all the works of shakespear". It works in theory, but remember that it takes either an infinite number of monkeys, or infinite time -- whereas you could find a group of talented people to do the same job more effectively.

Expect a dozen claims of "TSP solved in P time!" from this site within a month, and nothing more afterwards.

## Re:I doubt it will work (1)

## gol (635335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135818)

nothing appears to bring out the cranks like mathematics does

## I don't think so, no.. (2, Insightful)

## Ckwop (707653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135695)

Will gathering a community of people help solve problems such as P=NP, or do you think it requires a lot more than a semi-qualified community to approach the problem?Proofs are not really found by committee. This Wiki might be a good way to share research and in that sense it may aid the effort but above and beyond that it's not going to contribute much.

It will take a unique insight and a particularly sharp mind to get to the bottom of these problems.

Simon

## Re:I don't think so, no.. (1)

## RuB1X (707519) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135928)

## solid approach (5, Insightful)

## xiao_haozi (668360) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135707)

## Re:solid approach (1)

## siwelwerd (869956) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135803)

But basic research is basic research,Basic research? A few of these problems are famous for the fact that they've gone unsolved for so long. That's like calling Wiles's proof "basic research".

## Re:solid approach (5, Informative)

## illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135805)

This is going to become an instructional site to teach people (hopefully correctly) what is going on in these fields, nothing more.

## Open devellopment (1)

## kryten_nl (863119) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135710)

## What's the old saying... (0, Redundant)

## Ingolfke (515826) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135715)

## ...eventually, Shakespeare, etc. (1)

## TCQuad (537187) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135892)

10,000 monkeys with 10,000 typewriters...The problem with your analogy is that's a situation in which eventually one copy will be made among the many, many other copies. In a wiki, you need 10,000 monkeys with 10,000 keyboards to write Shakespeare on the same piece of paper.

## IQ is not cumulative (1)

## borgheron (172546) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135717)

GJC

## Think of the trolling opportunities (1)

## tronue16jkxjtATkern. (968599) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135720)

## Not a unique idea... (5, Insightful)

## ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135725)

The important difference there was that this project was only open to those actually actively involved in working on this problem. A public wiki will likely be bogged down by people who don't truly understand the problem or the approaches used to solve them - instead of everyone being able to contribute a little (as is possible in Wikipedia, which effectively just requires a transcription of information) the vast majority of people won't have anything to offer at all. And of course, those that

areactively involved in working on these projects and want to share their work are in all likihood already doing so - with other people in the same field.This project will likely attract those who do not have the particlar interest, time or background to work in a focused fashion on the problem, and consequently I'd be surprised if anything really unique or surprising came out of the project.

## Re:Not a unique idea... (4, Interesting)

## Raindance (680694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135808)

I'd be surprised if anything really unique or surprising came out of the project.I'd agree, with two caveats: this project might attract some math prodigy that isn't working on these problems (Ramanujan, anyone?). Also, this project will help a lot of people learn how to think about the most abstract parts of mathematics.

The possibility of either result would justify this project in my eyes.

## Steps to Profit (-1, Redundant)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135731)

2. Wait for the solutions to be posted

3. Collect the $1 million prize money for each solution

4. ???

5. Profit!!!

## Oh nos! The End Of the World AGAIN! (0, Offtopic)

## TheSpatulaOfLove (966301) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135733)

## Not gonna find any new genius here... (1)

## illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135734)

The other way this website will be useful will be to let everyone see the latest developments in the field. Solving any of the Millenium Problems generally requires getting very very deep into certain fields of mathematics.

This web page could be quite instructional. But that thermometer is going to stay at zero. At least if someone affiliated with that web page does solve one, they would've done it by themselves anyway.

This site could be a great way to teach beginning/amateur computer scientists why they are wrong

"Here's a question. How do we define the power of a computer. Because computing power tends to double every year. Even if this is true, how much does productivity with it change (measured in terms of the entropy of their processing)? If it increases roughly exponentially, then it's possible that P=NP, via observation."

They should really set up a website dedicated to solving how not to get Slashdotted.

## They could contribute (5, Insightful)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135747)

Real researchers are familiar with cranks on newsgroups (James S Harris on sci.math for example) who year in year out claim to have proved this or that famous conjecture. Or, these people send proofs to real researchers, expecting attention when page one of their "proof" contains an error. So my hopes are not high that a community of semi-qualified people could solve the problems, but....

Suppose that this community set about collating and putting in context all of the material related to those problems that exists in the **research level** literature and **expounding** it in an extremely clear way. And suppose that real researchers were interested and joined the effort. This resource could be a HUGE contribution to the effort.

Unfortunately, the only joint efforts in mathematics on the web so far, do not deal seriously with the literature, but approach mathematics at a level of understanding of a first year graduate student. Problems that are well understood by the most brilliant minds on the planet are not going to be solved by people with an understanding as limited as that. It isn't as though some tough problems haven't been solved with elementary methods (the Kayal-Agrawal-Saxena result being a case in point), nor is it true that cranks do not occasionally come up with the goods (de Branges proof of the Bieberbach conjecture being a case in point), but the fact is, these are exceptions to the rule and the vast majority of difficult problems had immensely difficult solutions which took new developments in mathematics over periods of many years before they could be solved. Will a community of non-researchers make developments in modern mathematics? Personally I doubt it.

But, this is a new idea, hasn't been tried, so who knows where it will lead. As a research mathematician, the idea intrests me, and I would be involved if it headed in the right direction and didn't become a place for cranks to meet and fiddle with polynomials over an unspecified ring.

## WikiCaps (2, Funny)

## CRMDmerv. (865529) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135757)

"The title of this article is incorrect..."

-merv.

## Fair & balanced (1)

## mtz206 (664433) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135761)

or do you think it requires a lot more than a semi-qualified community to approach the problem?Gee, that's not a loaded question, eh?

## Why share the credit? (2, Insightful)

## Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135762)

Personally, I don't think the wiki will do any good. Good collaboration requires face-to-face contact. Anything else is really equivalent to the modern email/conference/preprint system in math. After all, who wants to share their million-dollar insight on a wiki only to get scooped? Double-plus-ungood: how do you decide which researcher did the critical part of the problem? It's tough to say now (and mostly irrelevant, but intellectual pissing matches have been with math since at leave Liebnitz vs. Newton), and it would be harder to decide in the mixed-up collaborative world of the wiki.

## While there are critics (2, Insightful)

## zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135764)

So, jokes and criticism aside, the OST (open source thinking) is a good plan. Execution may have some drawbacks, but it has goodness in it.

## Re:While there are critics (1)

## bj8rn (583532) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135921)

## Solutions (4, Funny)

## Ray Radlein (711289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135765)

real>/i> question is, will this Wiki be able to reach its solutions in non-Polynomial time?## How about monkeys? (2, Funny)

## Ossifer (703813) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135780)

## Of course P=NP (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135791)

Now all we need is another Newton to discover the necessary quantum mathematics to describe it.

## Ramanujan (5, Insightful)

## Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135792)

A lot of people on Slashdot are degree-obsessed; at an early age they have bought into the idea that everybody who does not have a formal academic education to at least PhD level is necessarily unable to contribute anything to research. (This is not just the chip on my shoulder talking, but as someone with a degree from Fen Poly who has recruited a fair number of graduates over the years, I know it takes far more than a degree or two to make a scientist, mathematician or even a developer. Curiosity, persistence, the ability to see connections are all important.) Although this Wiki may well fail, it might just bring to light a few more Ramanujans. The world does not consist solely of North Americans, and there are doubtless plenty of educated people in other cultures who do not have access to the networks that bring some people to the fore while others, equally well endowed, may never get an opportunity.

## Re:Ramanujan (1)

## PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135889)

## P vs NP Question (1)

## CaptainTux (658655) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135802)

## Re:P vs NP Question (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135837)

## Re:P vs NP Question (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135841)

## Re:P vs NP Question (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135846)

Assuming there are N students total, and M spots available

To verify a proposal would take 100*99/2 checks against the forbidden list; in general it would take M*(M-1)/2 checks, which is O(M^2), and a lookup table would take O(N^2) memory for constant-time check. Pretty quick.

To find a solution, you'd have to potentially go through (N*(N-1)*...(N-M+1))/(M*(M-1)*...*2*1) different cases, which is not feasible.

## Re:P vs NP Question (0)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135895)

## Re:P vs NP Question (1)

## KnightStalker (1929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135908)

For example, it's within the bounds of the problem to assume that each student is only compatible with, say, two others. With that restriction, it seems much harder, but it's the same problem. You can do an exhaustive search to assign students to rooms, but your search will necessarily take an amount of time bounded by an exponential function of the number of students.

## Re:P vs NP Question (4, Informative)

## Anthony Liguori (820979) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135933)

At first glance, I'm not sure HOW this is an "unsolvable" problem. Would I not just select and group 100 students at random then rearrange the pairs as I found incompatibilities? Can someone clue me in to what I'm missing here?What makes a problem NP is not whether it's solvable but rather how long it takes to solve. The algorithm you propose is a search algorithm. Consider what would happen if your list of incompatible students was so large that within the group of 100 students you randomly choose, there is not a single possible arrangement of pairs. This means you would have to choose another group of 100 students. It's a minor refinement but an important one.

Now consider if that list was so large that there was only a single possible group of 100 that contains an arrangement of pairs that worked. Now consider that within that group of 100, there was only one good possible arrangement. If you're very unlucky, and you choose these set of 100 and arrangement of pairs last, you have to try every possible combination before finding the right one. Okay, so what?

Lets see how many possible answers you'd have to try. Within a group of 100 students, there are 100 choose 2 possible arrangements. There are 400 choose 100 possible choices of 100 students. n choose k is really n! / (k! (n-k)!) where n! is n * (n - 1) *

[400! / (100! 300!)] * [100! / (2! 98!)]

Your standard calculator is not going to be able to solve this one but if you have an arbitrary precision calculator (like bc), you get:

1109718121819397093151989141664840784648478532850

Which is an awfully large number. That number is so large, in fact, that even if you have a computer that could check one possible solution with every electron in the universe, until the Sun supernova's, you'd still not find the answer.

Now, that depends on really bad luck. You can construct problems though that given average luck, you would not find the solution in the lifetime of the universe. This is what cryptography is based on.

Compare this to a standard sorting algorithm. To sort the list [3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 2, 1, 0] given a crappy algorithm like bubble sort requires n*n = 100 computations. You can solve this problem the same way using search though. You merely have to randomly arrange the list in every possible way and check to see if your random arrangement is sorted. There are n! possible arrangements of a list of n elements so there are 10! = 3628800 possible answers to search. You can see that even a crappy algorithm like bubble sort is much better than search.

The difference is even greater with larger lists. A problem that is only solvable via search is considered NP. A problem that is solvable with an algorithm in polynomial time (n*n is a polynomial) is considered P. The N in NP stands for non-polynomial.

So the problem here is whether there exists a polynomial solution for these set of problems that we've labelled NP. What makes this even more significant is that it has been proven that if we find a polynomial solution for one NP problem, we can create solutions for any NP problem. A lot is riding on the lack of existence of a polynomail solution for NP problems. If someone where to prove that there are indeed polynomial solutions to NP problems it would be earth-shattering. After the initial shock, it would also open up a whole new world of mathematics since a lot of things we didn't think were possible to do efficiently became possible.

## Cranks (1)

## frostilicus2 (889524) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135806)

These problems are hard, this is why they are unsolved, and to make any progress requires hugely talented people working solidly on the problem. These people are already involved in research. I do not believe that mathematics lends itself well to a wiki format - its going to end up fragmented and without direction. You need direction in a proof, a proof is made up of many stages, but it also needs a general direction and insight. This will not work. Important results are published in journals - not by a community of amateurs.

The only good that this will have, is in raising awareness of the problems and of mathematics in general - a commendable effort, but not one that will create important new results.

## Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (3, Informative)

## Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15135812)

With over 100,000 web pages, searchable, with posters' email addresses given, and both internal and external hotlinks and citations to hardcopy literature, this has been the leading collaborationware in Mathematics. The Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (or OEIS) recently faced a problem with increasing numbers of clueless postings.

The distinguished panel of editors, under Dr. Neil J. A. Sloane, first added a keyword of "probation." Submissions so tagged, unless okayed by an editor, are deleted after a reasonable time. At my urging, citing the history of Slashdot, they even more recently adopted the keyword "less" -- meaning less than interesting, but better than probation. "Less" sequences stay in the database, but are given minimum priority in searches.

Similarly, MathWorld [wolfram.com] is a form of collaborationware or pseudowiki. Although edited by Dr. Eric W. Weisstein and his staff, it encourages submission by form from anyone, and posts attribution to such submissions, and lists of contributors.

I contend that web-based systems have substantially affected the practice of Mathematics. Social mechanisms such as pioneered by Slashdot contribute to weeding out useless from interesting contributions. As with Wikipedia, one's academic credentials mean nothing here. What matters is the quality of one's submissions, as evaluated by one's online peers.

There also many fine Math blogs, but that's another topic.

-- Jonathan Vos Post [livejournal.com]

## Insight Required (5, Insightful)

## chrisreedy (127131) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135824)

These problems are all incredibly difficult. A lot of very good mathematicians have thought about them, in some cases for over a hundred years. In some cases, even understanding the problem requires an advanced mathematical education. If there was anything approaching an easy solution, it would have been found already. That said

Problems like these always require some insight. Typically, either a way to relate the problem to some other unexpected area, or some new kind of machinery that creates a leverage against the problem.

Personally, I wouldn't expect that from such an effort.

## User Friendly... (1)

## creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135826)

## Let's not forget... (2, Interesting)

## MudX (589181) | more than 8 years ago | (#15135929)