Computer Science & Electrical Engineering

The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible

The computer science problem whose solution could transform life as we know it


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Mar 27, 2013
41 halftones. 41 line illus.
Computer Science & Electrical Engineering
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The P-NP problem is the most important open problem in computer science, if not all of mathematics. Simply stated, it asks whether every problem whose solution can be quickly checked by computer can also be quickly solved by computer. The Golden Ticket provides a nontechnical introduction to P-NP, its rich history, and its algorithmic implications for everything we do with computers and beyond. Lance Fortnow traces the history and development of P-NP, giving examples from a variety of disciplines, including economics, physics, and biology. He explores problems that capture the full difficulty of the P-NP dilemma, from discovering the shortest route through all the rides at Disney World to finding large groups of friends on Facebook. The Golden Ticket explores what we truly can and cannot achieve computationally, describing the benefits and unexpected challenges of this compelling problem.

Awards and Recognition

  • One of’s 2013 Best Science Books
  • One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2013
  • Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Popular Science & Mathematics, Association of American Publishers