Feeds

HP boffin claims million-dollar maths prize

Number nerds demand "real" proof

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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."

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.