Feeds

HP boffin claims million-dollar maths prize

Number nerds demand "real" proof

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Update An HP mathematician claims to have solved one of computer science's thorniest problems and thus bagged a $1m prize for his million-watt brainpower. Fellow number-boffins, however, are saying otherwise.

The million-dollar challenge, one of seven thrown down by the Clay Mathematics Institute (CMI) in its Millennium Prize series, is known as the P vs NP Problem.

It essentially involves figuring out whether or not there are computing problems that have solutions that can be quickly checked after they have been reached, but that are far too complex and multifaceted to be solved without a computer needing, oh, just about forever to arrive at said solution.

Or, as CMI mathematician Steven Cook explains: "The P versus NP problem is to determine whether every language accepted by some nondeterministic algorithm in polynomial time is also accepted by some (deterministic) algorithm in polynomial time."

Got it? Good.

HP's Vinay Deolalikar not only understands Cook's summation, but believes he's found the answer — which, by the way, can be succinctly summed up as "No" — and by doing so has earned the CMI's million-dollar prize.

If you're of a mathematical bent, you'll find Deolalikar's 116-page explanation of his proof, "P ≠ NP" (PDF), a jolly read.

According to the BBC, however, not all number-nerds are impressed by Deolalikar's reasoning. Scott Aaronson, an MIT comp-sci guy, says that before he and others buy into Deolalikar's resolution of the P versus NP problem, the HP boffin's proof must first pass "a sanity test."

Aaronson's definition of such a test is brief and to the point: "[Deolalikar's proof] had better not also prove something that we know to be false." Citing other mathematicians' concerns, Aaronson said the ball is in the HP math man's court: "Everyone agrees, if he can't answer this, the proof is toast."

The Reg is rooting for Deolalikar. After all, there are still five more million-dollar challenges out there that Aaronson and his peeps can take on: the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture that puzzled Stieg Larsson's heroine Lisbeth Salander, the Hodge Conjecture, Navier-Stokes Equations, Riemann Hypothesis, and the Yang-Mills and Mass Gap problem.

The seventh Millennium Prize challenge, the resolution of the Poincaré conjecture, has already been met, earning Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman a cool 30.4m rubles ($1m).*

Missed your chance. ®

Bootnote

For the mathematically lightweight or middleweight, mathematician Ian Stewart provides an explanation of the P vs NP Problem using the familiar computer game Minesweeper. Trust us, Stewart's gloss is far more comprehensible to the layman than Deolalikar's P ≠ NP.

* Update

Reg reader "Stan" has brought to our attention that although Grigori Perelman did, indeed, solve the Poincaré conjecture, he refused not only the $1m prize from the CIM, but also the prestigious Fields Medal, which Stan referred to as "the Nobel prize equivalent in the world of mathematics."

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.