P != NP

If P = NP, then the world would be a profoundly different place than we usually assume it to be. There would be no special value in “creative leaps,” no fundamental gap between solving a problem and recognizing the solution once it’s found. Everyone who could appreciate a symphony would be Mozart; everyone who could follow a step-by-step argument would be Gauss… — Scott Aaronson

“…And hence P!=NP. QED”, wrote Ryan Brown. He could not believe his eyes. He had finally done it. The efforts of the past 23 years of his life had finally yielded fruit. He had proven the greatest mathematical problem of them all.

As an undergraduate student at MIT in 2011, Ryan came across the problem in his algorithms course. He was fascinated by how such a seemingly straighforward problem had stumped computer scientists for ages. It seemed obvious that you would have to try out all possible combinations in the 3-SAT problem to solve it. Or did it? He dwelled upon the problem, obsessed about it. Finally he decided that he could not be happy doing anything else. Ryan Brown would solve the P-NP problem, and would dedicate his whole life to it, if need be.

As he went from publisher to publisher, his despair grew. At first, he was confident that any journal would be glad, even honoured to publish this momentous result. Imagine his surprise, then, when he was politely declined by not one, but seven consecutive journals. As he went to the eighth publisher, his confidence in the result of the meeting was considerably lower than when he went to the first one. “…And hence, I proved this momentous result.”, Ryan explained to the publisher. The publisher listened patiently, but with a smug look on his face, as if he had already made up a decision. “But what use is it?”, he asked as Ryan finished his monologue. 

The third world war between USA and China broke out in 2018. Nobody could say that they did not expect it. That it wasn’t unexpected did not mean it wasn’t unpleasant, though. For Ryan, it meant that his research would have to halt, or at least slow down. He could not avoid conscription, as his research did not directly benefit the military. He was posted in South America, where he served for 9 months, till he was shot in the leg, and was allowed to return. His passion undeterred, he continued his research as before. However, the war had significantly changed the world’s outlook on research. There was a great degree of pragmatism that had crept into the mindset of the authorities and the researchers alike. Research in theoretical areas and mathematics was dismissed as mere mental amusement, and not deemed worthy of significant efforts or funding. Engineering, which could make missiles, radars and tanks that gave immediate tactical advantage in the war, received hefty funding and approval. Even when the war ended, the attitudes persisted. Ryan’s funding had dropped to a trickle. However, all he needed for his work was access to his books, papers, a blackboard, and his mind – all of which was intact.

“Fine, I’ll publish it”, said the thirteenth publisher Ryan approached, “Don’t expect me to pay you any royalties upfront, though. I doubt if this will earn me anything.” At that point of time Ryan was ready to accept anything – anything to get his idea out into the open, to let the world know that he had done what mathematicians had been struggling with for over 60 years!

“…And hence P!=NP. QED”, wrote Ryan Brown. He could not believe his eyes. He had finally done it. The efforts of the past 23 years of his life had finally yielded fruit. He had proven the greatest mathematical problem of them all.

Ryan Brown’s seminal paper turned out to be not so seminal after all. It didn’t really change the world view at all. Turned out that everyone who could appreciate a symphony was not Mozart after all. Ryan Brown died in 2035, a year after finishing his life’s work.

The world carried on as usual.

The Revolution (Part 1)

My first foray into the world of writing fiction. Comments/criticism would be deeply appreciated, and help improve my writing in the future. 

(From the pen of Jaythan Kaytryn of Escavia)

Escavia was not a large planet, still isn’t. The economy thrived on Kryxium. Everyone on the planet was employed in either the mines, or the purification plants. Our life in the village was idyllic. We worked hard all day. Mining was hard work, but hardly dangerous as it used to be a hundred years ago. The invention of neutrinogentric machinery had removed any threat to human life than mining might pose. In the evening, everyone in the village would gather round a bonfire, and deliberated about the Escavia NeutroBall League, or the latest exploits of Atom – the protector of galaxies (that used to be the most popular televisor show in those days). The traders would come in their spaceships once every year. They would buy the Kryxium, and sell us whatever Escavia could not produce. Space travel used to be very expensive in those days, and nobody in my village had stepped foot on another planet. I suspect hardly twenty people on the whole of Escavia had.

Overall, life on Escavia was good. We didn’t have much, but then we didn’t need much either. And as we knew that everyone in Escavia lived pretty much the way we did, we didn’t(couldn’t) aspire for anything else either.

Till cyberportation was invented. Now, interstellar travel suddenly became cheap, and easily available. Everyone would now want to spend their holidays not on some beach somewhere on Escavia, but at some exotic snowy mountain range in a distant corner of the galaxy. Similarly Escavia too saw a large number of Litharnians, Zeelorcians and Sylverese tourists. Life had changed. As my friends traveled to distant lands, and brought stories from across the galaxy, there was a growing dissatisfaction in my heart. All Zeelorcians now had access to 3D Virtual Reality televisors in their houses, while we were still using the old ones that my grandfather used. On Chinesis, air travel was the norm while here on Escavia we were still using ancient MotorPods to travel. The galaxy had advanced, other planets were rich and had access to these luxuries. Kryxium, while an essential metal in the industry, wasn’t exactly a rare element. Thus we Escavians couldn’t really afford everything that say, the Litharnians could with their precious Neutrinogen manufacturing plants. But was this fair? I worked as hard as any old Litharnian. Why then, was their produce valued more? Why were the Litharnians richer than me and my fellow Escavians? I wasn’t alone feeling dissatisfied with the situation. True, till now we were unaware that such luxuries even existed. We were unaware and blissful in our ignorant lives. However, a child can live without a toy; but not when he knows that his brother possesses it. Can you really blame him for feeling outraged at the injustice? Now that we knew luxuries existed, we couldn’t live without them.

The Escavian youth was like a pile of dry twigs, waiting for a spark to ignite them. This spark came in the form of Gaspard von Avernus. His reputation preceded him. Apparently, he had started off as a farm hand on some agricultural planet in the galaxy, soon risen ranks and had eventually drafted some reforms that had caused the planet to prosper greatly. The day he arrived, there was a great throng of people waiting to listen to him; me amidst them. He was a thin and unimpressive man with a goatee that made him look like an old movie villain. But his eyes had a sparkle and conviction that I had never seen on any person before. And when he spoke, you had to listen to him, mesmerized. If words had force, his would move galaxies. He spoke of inequality, of injustice and how they must be done away with. His idea of a just society was one where the community owned the means of production, and thus no individual had power to subjugate another. He said that the ones that possessed the power would not relinquish it without a struggle. A revolution was needed to overthrow the current system, and install a new, fair one.

I was stirred by his words, as were many others in my village, on my planet, and indeed on several proletariat planets throughout the galaxy. I became a von Avernus disciple, as did countless others throughout the galaxy. The Revolution was about to begin.

(to be continued…..)

(Please rate, if you reached till here, so that I know how many bothered to plod through)