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Minesweeper could explode hard maths problem

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Minesweeper, the Windows OS game accused of wasting almost as much office time as Solitaire, could hold the key to one of the trickiest problems in mathematics research that has baffled all the brainiest boffins for about 30 years.

A one million dollar prize has been offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute to anyone who can find an algorithm that checks the consistancy of a minesweeper board in polynomial time.

It is all a bit clever for us but the general gist of it seems to be that to find such an algorithm would solve the P vs. NP problem - which if you are a Mathematician, you would certainly know about and probably understand.

Richard Kaye, a maths professor at Birmingham University in England, noticed the potential of the game. He said that while he realised there was probably some nice maths behind the game, he had no idea what he was looking for: "I'm always interested in games with maths elements. Maths and games go together brilliantly."

Kaye suggested that the if the game were to be solved it would also have implications for code breaking. ®

For those who actually understand these things and want to know more, there is a bundle of information about the problem and the prize at Clay Mathematics Institute's web site.

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