The 100 prisoners problem is a mathematical problem in probability theory and combinatorics. In this problem, 100 numbered prisoners must find their own numbers in one of 100 drawers in order to survive. The rules state that each prisoner may open only 50 drawers and cannot communicate with other prisoners. At first glance, the situation appears hopeless, but a clever strategy offers the prisoners a realistic chance of survival. Danish computer scientist Peter Bro Miltersen first proposed the problem in 2003.
- "100 prisoners problem" | 2018-05-03 | 324 Upvotes 121 Comments
The 15-puzzle (also called Gem Puzzle, Boss Puzzle, Game of Fifteen, Mystic Square and many others) is a sliding puzzle that consists of a frame of numbered square tiles in random order with one tile missing. The puzzle also exists in other sizes, particularly the smaller 8-puzzle. If the size is 3×3 tiles, the puzzle is called the 8-puzzle or 9-puzzle, and if 4×4 tiles, the puzzle is called the 15-puzzle or 16-puzzle named, respectively, for the number of tiles and the number of spaces. The object of the puzzle is to place the tiles in order by making sliding moves that use the empty space.
The n-puzzle is a classical problem for modelling algorithms involving heuristics. Commonly used heuristics for this problem include counting the number of misplaced tiles and finding the sum of the taxicab distances between each block and its position in the goal configuration. Note that both are admissible, i.e. they never overestimate the number of moves left, which ensures optimality for certain search algorithms such as A*.
- "15 Puzzle" | 2019-09-29 | 11 Upvotes 1 Comments
A* (pronounced "A-star") is a graph traversal and path search algorithm, which is often used in computer science due to its completeness, optimality, and optimal efficiency. One major practical drawback is its space complexity, as it stores all generated nodes in memory. Thus, in practical travel-routing systems, it is generally outperformed by algorithms which can pre-process the graph to attain better performance, as well as memory-bounded approaches; however, A* is still the best solution in many cases.
Peter Hart, Nils Nilsson and Bertram Raphael of Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) first published the algorithm in 1968. It can be seen as an extension of Edsger Dijkstra's 1959 algorithm. A* achieves better performance by using heuristics to guide its search.
- "A*" | 2019-08-10 | 50 Upvotes 6 Comments
The Abelian sandpile model, also known as the Bak–Tang–Wiesenfeld model, was the first discovered example of a dynamical system displaying self-organized criticality. It was introduced by Per Bak, Chao Tang and Kurt Wiesenfeld in a 1987 paper.
The model is a cellular automaton. In its original formulation, each site on a finite grid has an associated value that corresponds to the slope of the pile. This slope builds up as "grains of sand" (or "chips") are randomly placed onto the pile, until the slope exceeds a specific threshold value at which time that site collapses transferring sand into the adjacent sites, increasing their slope. Bak, Tang, and Wiesenfeld considered process of successive random placement of sand grains on the grid; each such placement of sand at a particular site may have no effect, or it may cause a cascading reaction that will affect many sites.
The model has since been studied on the infinite lattice, on other (non-square) lattices, and on arbitrary graphs (including directed multigraphs). It is closely related to the dollar game, a variant of the chip-firing game introduced by Biggs.
- "Abelian sandpile model" | 2018-08-31 | 66 Upvotes 5 Comments
The Akaike information criterion (AIC) is an estimator of out-of-sample prediction error and thereby relative quality of statistical models for a given set of data. Given a collection of models for the data, AIC estimates the quality of each model, relative to each of the other models. Thus, AIC provides a means for model selection.
AIC is founded on information theory. When a statistical model is used to represent the process that generated the data, the representation will almost never be exact; so some information will be lost by using the model to represent the process. AIC estimates the relative amount of information lost by a given model: the less information a model loses, the higher the quality of that model.
In estimating the amount of information lost by a model, AIC deals with the trade-off between the goodness of fit of the model and the simplicity of the model. In other words, AIC deals with both the risk of overfitting and the risk of underfitting.
The Akaike information criterion is named after the Japanese statistician Hirotugu Akaike, who formulated it. It now forms the basis of a paradigm for the foundations of statistics; as well, it is widely used for statistical inference.
- "Akaike information criterion" | 2018-01-08 | 36 Upvotes 15 Comments
Alan Mathison Turing (; 23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954) was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite these accomplishments, he was not fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime, due to his homosexuality, and because much of his work was covered by the Official Secrets Act.
During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain's codebreaking centre that produced Ultra intelligence. For a time he led Hut 8, the section that was responsible for German naval cryptanalysis. Here, he devised a number of techniques for speeding the breaking of German ciphers, including improvements to the pre-war Polish bombe method, an electromechanical machine that could find settings for the Enigma machine.
Turing played a crucial role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, including the Battle of the Atlantic, and in so doing helped win the war. Due to the problems of counterfactual history, it is hard to estimate the precise effect Ultra intelligence had on the war, but at the upper end it has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.
After the war Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the Automatic Computing Engine. The Automatic Computing Engine was one of the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory, at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers and became interested in mathematical biology. He wrote a paper on the chemical basis of morphogenesis and predicted oscillating chemical reactions such as the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction, first observed in the 1960s.
Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts; the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 had mandated that "gross indecency" was a criminal offence in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES, as an alternative to prison. Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as a suicide, but it has been noted that the known evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning.
In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he was treated". Queen Elizabeth II granted Turing a posthumous pardon in 2013. The Alan Turing law is now an informal term for a 2017 law in the United Kingdom that retroactively pardoned men cautioned or convicted under historical legislation that outlawed homosexual acts.
- "Alan Turing's 100th Birthday - Mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, scientist" | 2012-06-22 | 146 Upvotes 19 Comments
- "Happy Birthday, Alan Turing" | 2011-06-23 | 78 Upvotes 6 Comments
An amplituhedron is a geometric structure introduced in 2013 by Nima Arkani-Hamed and Jaroslav Trnka. It enables simplified calculation of particle interactions in some quantum field theories. In planar N = 4 supersymmetric Yang–Mills theory, also equivalent to the perturbative topological B model string theory in twistor space, an amplituhedron is defined as a mathematical space known as the positive Grassmannian.
Amplituhedron theory challenges the notion that spacetime locality and unitarity are necessary components of a model of particle interactions. Instead, they are treated as properties that emerge from an underlying phenomenon.
The connection between the amplituhedron and scattering amplitudes is at present a conjecture that has passed many non-trivial checks, including an understanding of how locality and unitarity arise as consequences of positivity. Research has been led by Nima Arkani-Hamed. Edward Witten described the work as "very unexpected" and said that "it is difficult to guess what will happen or what the lessons will turn out to be".
- "Amplituhedron" | 2019-02-25 | 55 Upvotes 10 Comments
The ant on a rubber rope is a mathematical puzzle with a solution that appears counterintuitive or paradoxical. It is sometimes given as a worm, or inchworm, on a rubber or elastic band, but the principles of the puzzle remain the same.
The details of the puzzle can vary, but a typical form is as follows:
- An ant starts to crawl along a taut rubber rope 1 km long at a speed of 1 cm per second (relative to the rubber it is crawling on). At the same time, the rope starts to stretch uniformly at a constant rate of 1 km per second, so that after 1 second it is 2 km long, after 2 seconds it is 3 km long, etc. Will the ant ever reach the end of the rope?
At first consideration it seems that the ant will never reach the end of the rope, but in fact it does. (In the form stated above, it would take 8.9×1043421 years.) Whatever the length of the rope and the relative speeds of the ant and the stretching, provided that the ant's speed and the stretching remain steady, the ant will always be able to reach the end given sufficient time. Once the ant has begun moving, the rubber rope is stretching both in front of and behind the ant, conserving the proportion of the rope already walked by the ant and enabling the ant to make continual progress.
- "Ant On A Rubber Rope" | 2013-11-04 | 58 Upvotes 33 Comments
In social choice theory, Arrow's impossibility theorem, the general possibility theorem or Arrow's paradox is an impossibility theorem stating that when voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), no ranked voting electoral system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete and transitive) ranking while also meeting a specified set of criteria: unrestricted domain, non-dictatorship, Pareto efficiency, and independence of irrelevant alternatives. The theorem is often cited in discussions of voting theory as it is further interpreted by the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem. The theorem is named after economist and Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, who demonstrated the theorem in his doctoral thesis and popularized it in his 1951 book Social Choice and Individual Values. The original paper was titled "A Difficulty in the Concept of Social Welfare".
In short, the theorem states that no rank-order electoral system can be designed that always satisfies these three "fairness" criteria:
- If every voter prefers alternative X over alternative Y, then the group prefers X over Y.
- If every voter's preference between X and Y remains unchanged, then the group's preference between X and Y will also remain unchanged (even if voters' preferences between other pairs like X and Z, Y and Z, or Z and W change).
- There is no "dictator": no single voter possesses the power to always determine the group's preference.
Cardinal voting electoral systems are not covered by the theorem, as they convey more information than rank orders. However, Gibbard's theorem extends Arrow's theorem for that case. The theorem can also be sidestepped by weakening the notion of independence.
The axiomatic approach Arrow adopted can treat all conceivable rules (that are based on preferences) within one unified framework. In that sense, the approach is qualitatively different from the earlier one in voting theory, in which rules were investigated one by one. One can therefore say that the contemporary paradigm of social choice theory started from this theorem.
The practical consequences of the theorem are debatable: Arrow has said "Most systems are not going to work badly all of the time. All I proved is that all can work badly at times."
- "Arrow's impossibility theorem" | 2015-06-03 | 97 Upvotes 84 Comments
The art gallery problem or museum problem is a well-studied visibility problem in computational geometry. It originates from a real-world problem of guarding an art gallery with the minimum number of guards who together can observe the whole gallery. In the geometric version of the problem, the layout of the art gallery is represented by a simple polygon and each guard is represented by a point in the polygon. A set of points is said to guard a polygon if, for every point in the polygon, there is some such that the line segment between and does not leave the polygon.
- "The Art Gallery Problem" | 2011-05-15 | 40 Upvotes 1 Comments