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In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation

Popular Science

By: William J Cook

272 pages, 19 b/w photos, 113 colour illustrations, 19 b/w line drawings, 2 tables

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Jan 2012 | #195113 | ISBN-13: 9780691152707
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.95 $25/€24 approx

About this book

What is the shortest possible route for a travelling salesman seeking to visit each city on a list exactly once and return to his city of origin? It sounds simple enough, yet the travelling salesman problem is one of the most intensely studied puzzles in applied mathematics--and it has defied solution to this day. In this book, William Cook takes readers on a mathematical excursion, picking up the salesman's trail in the 1800s when Irish mathematician W. R. Hamilton first defined the problem, and venturing to the furthest limits of today's state-of-the-art attempts to solve it.

Cook examines the origins and history of the salesman problem and explores its many important applications, from genome sequencing and designing computer processors to arranging music and hunting for planets. He looks at how computers stack up against the travelling salesman problem on a grand scale, and discusses how humans, unaided by computers, go about trying to solve the puzzle. Cook traces the salesman problem to the realms of neuroscience, psychology, and art, and he also challenges readers to tackle the problem themselves. The travelling salesman problem is--literally--a $1 million question. That's the prize the Clay Mathematics Institute is offering to anyone who can solve the problem or prove that it can't be done.

"In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman" travels to the very threshold of our understanding about the nature of complexity, and challenges you yourself to discover the solution to this captivating mathematical problem.


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Biography

William J. Cook is the Chandler Family Chair and Professor in Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the coauthor of "The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Computational Study" (Princeton).

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