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People, Problems, and Proofs: Essays from Gödel's Lost Letter: 2010 Hardcover – December 27, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2013 edition (December 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3642414214
  • ISBN-13: 978-3642414213
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

People, problems, and proofs are the lifeblood of theoretical computer science. Behind the computing devices and applications that have transformed our lives are clever algorithms, and for every worthwhile algorithm there is a problem that it solves and a proof that it works. Before this proof there was an open problem: can one create an efficient algorithm to solve the computational problem? And, finally, behind these questions are the people who are excited about these fundamental issues in our computational world.

In this book the authors draw on their outstanding research and teaching experience to showcase some key people and ideas in the domain of theoretical computer science, particularly in computational complexity and algorithms, and related mathematical topics. They show evidence of the considerable scholarship that supports this young field, and they balance an impressive breadth of topics with the depth necessary to reveal the power and the relevance of the work described.

Beyond this, the authors discuss the sustained effort of their community, revealing much about the culture of their field. A career in theoretical computer science at the top level is a vocation: the work is hard, and in addition to the obvious requirements such as intellect and training, the vignettes in this book demonstrate the importance of human factors such as personality, instinct, creativity, ambition, tenacity, and luck.

The authors' style is characterized by personal observations, enthusiasm, and humor, and this book will be a source of inspiration and guidance for graduate students and researchers engaged with or planning careers in theoretical computer science.

About the Author

Richard Lipton is the Storey Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology; previously he held faculty positions at Yale University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Princeton University. His research is focused primarily on the theory of computation, where he has made seminal contributions. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an ACM Fellow, and a Guggenheim Fellow. Kenneth Regan is a professor of computer science at The State University of New York at Buffalo. His research interests include computational complexity. He is an international chess master and an expert on investigating cheating in chess.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard A. DeMillo on May 30, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This excellent book is the second in a series of edited essays based on Richard Lipton's (and now Ken Regan's) enormously popular mathematical blog called Godel's Lost Letter. The "geniuses" I am referring to in the title of this review include not only the authors, who definitely qualify, but even more importantly to the wonderful cast of characters that are the center of these gems of science writing. I generally avoid mathematics books with titles like this one because they tend to to be dry recitations of who proved what--devoid of technical challenges and usually humorless--prose style and technical content slanted I would imagine to the 9th graders who will lift entire paragraphs to complete homework assignments. Nothing of that sort here. People play a key roles in these essays, but part of the delight in reading this book is discovering who gets mentioned.

In a wonderful chapter about the role of amateurs, for example, screen actress Hedy Lamarr takes center stage (it turns out that she holds a patent useful for protecting WWII torpedoes from radar detection). Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Frank Ryan makes an appearance. Ryan somehow managed to balance an NFL career with a full-time tenure track position in the mathematics department at Case Western Reserve University, where Lipton was an undergraduate. Ryan had a unique approach to teaching complex analysis. I won't spoil the rest of the story.

The topics are far-flung in this collection, ranging from mathematical logic to quantum mechanics. Not surprisingly, there is a noticeable tilt toward computation. Every essay is accessible at many levels. Mathematical experts and novices will find themselves challenged (in fact most of the essays end with a section called "Open Problems.").
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