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In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation Hardcover – January 16, 2012


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Frequently Bought Together

In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation + The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Computational Study (Princeton Series in Applied Mathematics)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (January 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691152705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691152707
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #883,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Fascinating . . . describes the history, personalities, challenges, applications and techniques used to find solutions of the famous 'Traveling Salesman Problem' and related problems."--Pradeep Mutalik, Wordplay blog at New York Times



"The Traveling Salesman Problem, or TSP, might seem to be of purely recreational interest . . . but in fact, as William J. Cook's In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman ably shows, the problem remains a topic of hot interest. . . . [This book is] an excellent place for an interested amateur to get the gist of these big ideas in a down-to-earth discussion. . . . Mr. Cook's affable style means that you're never too far from an enjoyable historical anecdote or an offbeat application of a problem that has interested some of the best minds in applied math for most of a century and that shows no signs of getting stale."--Jordan Ellenberg, Wall Street Journal



"The author, William Cook, writes in an easy to understand style and explores the various algorithms and branches of mathematics used to solve TSP, including the branch of mathematics known as linear programming, which is known to most of us through grade school algebra and word problems. . . . In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman is a thoroughly entertaining nerd-fest for the science minded reader."--Robert Schaefer, New York Journal of Books



"Along with a heady dose of algorithms, Cook also offers a diverting survey of the lore and history of the TSP. . . . The new volume addresses a wider audience [than The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Computational Study], with more pictures and fewer equations, explaining how things are done rather than how to do them, but it covers all the same territory as the larger book. The path through that territory seems reasonably close to optimal."--Brian Hayes, American Scientist



"In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman is a first-hand and a first-class introduction into the evolution of TSP, with chapters devoted to related mathematics and algorithmic topics. TSP is really at the heart of much of the research and development of modern computer science, so the author leads the reader through the past and emerging landscape of relevant research up to the very end of the mapped territory. Reading the book looks like an exciting adventure, with the itinerary mapped for the reader by a master story-teller whose work squarely places him in the forefront of the TSP research."--Alexander Bogomolny, Cut the Knot Insights blog


"Bill takes his readers down a beautiful path covering the history, applications, and algorithms associated with the TSP. It is a fascinating story, and one that shows a researcher who truly loves his research area. . . . Through this book, you'll learn all about the Traveling Salesman Problem and, more broadly, about the different research directions in combinatorial optimization."--Michael Trick's Operations Research Blog


"In his new book, aptly titled In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman, William Cook enlists us to join him on a personal journey through all-things past and present regarding this mammoth of a mathematical problem. . . . I would highly recommend this book to interested readers and high school mathematics teachers, especially those of upper-level coursework. A great deal of mathematics is covered here and the TSP can easily spark debate and inquiry in the classroom."--Christopher Thompson, Loci: Convergence



"In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation, does a wonderful job presenting the history and significance of the TSP and an overview of cutting-edge research. It's a beautiful, visually rich book, full of color photographs and diagrams that enliven both the narrative and mathematical presentation. And it includes a wealth of information."--Math Less Traveled



"This book introduces the TSP, its applications, and computational methods for its solution to a general audience."--Choice



"Cook is spot-on in his delivery of what could be considered by most as an arcane mathematical problem to be solved by only those in the engineering world but like Hawking, peaks interest in a field in which lowly MIT professors could only dream. . . . His witty commentary complements his own casual insertion into the mathematical world and drive to solve the greatest of mathematics' problems. This book is proof that good science writing and mathematics add up."--Robert Terpstra, Business Today Egypt



"The technical details are described with precision, but the inherent mathematical concepts are explained in an informal way so that readers without a deep mathematical background can also follow the story. . . . The book is full of examples, real applications and historical anecdotes, making it really enjoyable to read."--Gregorio Tirado Domínguez, European Mathematical Society



"The book is highly recommended to any one with a mathematical curiosity and interest in the development of ideas."--Haris Aziz, ACM SIGACT News



"[T]here is sufficient mathematical detail to provide a good start to readers interested in a more technical treatment. The style is congenial, breezy, and entertaining; many anecdotes and pop culture references are included. Even seasoned researchers will find the book a truly enjoyable read, and it can serve as an ideal basis for a college level freshman seminar."--Gabor Pataki, INFORMS Journal on Computing



"The author has a solid understanding of the material and tries to present it in an accessible and sometimes entertaining way. . . . I recommend it to anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the TSP and modern developments in solving TSP-like problems."--S. Leigh Nataro, Mathematics Teacher



"[T]his book presents the history and significance of the TSP, and provides an overview of this cutting-edge research in a wonderful way. I recommend it to anybody who is interested in a down-to-earth discussion that provides the most current information on the TSP."--Roberto Baldacci, Interfaces



"This book covers all facets of the TSP and ventures into some very deep theory of complexity and computability. It is written for the general mathematician or scientist but would also be useful to the OR specialist. Overall it is entertaining, richly illustrated and well-referenced. It tells us much about general problem solving as well as the TSP."--Francis McGonigal, Mathematics Today

From the Inside Flap


"A gripping insider's account of one of the great mathematical problems. This book shows how deep mathematical insights can arise from apparently simple questions, and how the results can be applied to that most human of objectives: to achieve a desired outcome in the best possible way. In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman deserves to become an instant classic."--Ian Stewart, author of Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures


"I found this to be a wonderful book on many levels. The writing is informal but precise, and a lot of ground is covered. Cook ties together so many diverse topics and includes informative discussions about the history. I now know a lot more about every aspect of the traveling salesman problem."--Stan Wagon, Macalester College, author of Mathematica in Action


"Cook makes a compelling case for the importance of the traveling salesman problem, revealing that while many brilliant minds have worked on the problem, the next key insight could really come from anyone. Because of his centrality to the research, he writes with a depth of knowledge and experience that few--if any--can surpass. I know of no other book like this."--Mitchel T. Keller, London School of Economics and Political Science



More About the Author

William Cook is a professor of Combinatorics and Optimization at the University of Waterloo, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), and a Fellow of INFORMS. Together with David Applegate, Robert Bixby, and Vasek Chvatal, Cook created the Concorde computer code for the traveling salesman problem.

Customer Reviews

The book requires some concentration but is accessible to any mathematically-inclined college student or bright high school student.
Amazon Customer
I have a few thousand books on recreational mathematics, so it's always fun to find a true gem that is superbly researched, well-illustrated, and well-written.
Ed Pegg Jr
The author also introduces the reader to Linear Programming with well chosen examples and the reader gets a basic grasp of quite technical ideas.
A. Menon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Traveling Salesman Problem is remarkable easy to state: given a set of points with distances between them, find the shortest tour through all the points. Despite its simple statement, the problem of finding good or optimal tours has generated thousands of research papers. The TSP is the standard testbed for discrete optimization: practically every possible approach to optimization can be tried out on the TSP. So research on the TSP has had a tremendous effect on approaches for all sorts of other optimization problems. This paper covers every aspect of this research corpus.

The author is the world's expert on this topic, and is clearly enraptured with this problem. His affection shows through his naming of his favorite heuristic, favorite computational model, and more. The book is wide-ranging and thorough and is written in a consistently engaging, conversational style, even when going very deep into the research literature.

This is not a research book, but it is a book about research. Through the TSP, Cook describes how research is done in a wide variety of subfields. The book requires some concentration but is accessible to any mathematically-inclined college student or bright high school student. For many, it will inspire further interest in algorithms and research.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ed Pegg Jr TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have a few thousand books on recreational mathematics, so it's always fun to find a true gem that is superbly researched, well-illustrated, and well-written. IPotTS:MatLoC is one of those rare books.

When I was a boy, it was a few well-illustrated math books that drew me in. I didn't really understand some of the things in the books, but I wanted to. Then in fifth grade, I was taught about plotting a point, and suddenly the odd graphs in the books made sense.

Various websites such as the Wolfram demonstrations project have dozens of ready-to-run programs dealing with the Traveling Salesman Problem. You have 20 or so cities, and you must plot the ideal route that goes through them all. The authors thorough discuss all the ins and outs of the problem, which is still unsolved. There are many excellent ways to get a really good solution for a given set of 100 random points, but proving that the best solution has been found, by checking all tours, is currently computationally impossible above some number of points.

There is a lot of material in here approachable by anyone. Fun facts, such as a competition for finding the optimal way to drill 318 holes in a circuit board. In the description are the names of the mathematicians and methods, then it's on to the next fun fact. It mentions that the cutting plane algorithm was used, which is wonderfully explained in another chapter.

Highly recommended.

As Marion Harris says in the Left All Alone Again Blues:
No woman knows, if she has a travelin' husband
Just where he goes
Unless she follows on and nails him, trails him ...
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dale Napier on July 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a long-time fan of TSP, with my own variant in progress. I started this book enthusiastically, but it soon became clear that this author is long on enthusiasm and short on details. He discusses various TSP scenarios and team efforts over the last century, but never gets down to brass tacks about actual solution approaches - not a one! Where's the math?! Where are the algorithms? This book does little more than describe the existence of the problem, but except for the cover credit and the person banter that adds nothing, you would never even know he had a mathematical background. The entire value of this could have been reduced to a $3 pamphlet.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Just Sayin' on March 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This may be an authentically five-star book; my math skills make it difficult to follow the argument, so my opinion counts for little regarding content.
The illustrations come through ugly. The poor quality detracts, for me, in a big way.
The book is annoying to navigate. I haven't discovered how to return to where I left off after reading a footnote. This has never before happened to me with a Kindle book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By noel foster on December 27, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am in IT and do data modeling and analytics for a living. I am not highly trained in advanced mathematics, but I found this book very easy to follow from a math perspective. However it is not just a surface level investigation, there is plenty of meat on the bone in describing the mathematical concepts at work. Also this book is as much a history book as a math book, telling the very interesting story of the root of the subject problem from the ancients to the modern computing age. Overall a great book for someone who is somewhat familiar with the subject matter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jack Golding on June 26, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I am amazed by the quality of this book given the price. A hardcover book for $20 which has such beautiful colour illustrations written by one of the best people in the field.

A great read (given I am a CS major!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Aureo M. Zanon Jr. on April 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Those who enjoy the fields of Applied Math and Operations Research will find it an easy and captivating reading.
Download the app and have some extra fun!
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