Indian-origin scientist cracks toughest riddle

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Old 11-Aug-2010
Indian-origin scientist cracks toughest riddle

United States-based Indian-origin IT wizard has claimed to have solved one of the world's most complex and intractable mathematical problems that could transform mankind's use of computers.

Vinay Deolalikar, who works at the research arm of Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto , California, believes he has solved the riddle of P vs NP, one of the seven millennium problems set out by the Massachusetts-based Clay Mathematical Institute as being the "most difficult" to solve.

If his claim is proved correct, Deolalikar stands to earn a whopping &1 million prize, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The P versus NP problem is a major unsolved problem in computer science. Informally, it asks whether every problem with a yes-or-no answer whose solution can be efficiently checked by a computer can also be efficiently solved by a computer.

Deolalikar claims to have proven that P, which refers to problems whose solutions are easy to find and verify, is not the same as NP, which refers to problems whose solutions are almost impossible to find but easy to verify.

Many mathematical calculations involve checking such a large number of possible solutions that they are beyond the current capability of any computer.

However, the answers to some are quick and easy to verify as correct.

P vs NP considers if there is a way of arriving at the answers to the calculations more quickly in the first place. Deolalikar's paper, posted online on Friday, is now being peer-reviewed by computer scientists.

Scott Aaronson, associate professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is so sceptical that he pledged on his blog to pay Deolalikar an additional &200,000 if the solution is accepted by Clay. The P vs NP problem was formalised in 1971 by mathematicians Stephen Cook and Leonid Levin.

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