The maths world is all abuzz after HP maths egghead Vinay Deolalikar claimed to have resolved the question of whether P=NP, having apparently proved that it didn’t.
Unfortunately for Deolalikar most of his fellow boffins think he has got his sums wrong.
The P versus NP problem is one of the unsolved problems in computer science. It asks the question “can every problem whose solution can be efficiently checked by a computer can also be efficiently solved by a computer”.
According to Forbes, boffins were quite excited when Deolalikar said that it could be proved it wasn’t.
Now Manindra Agrawal, a computer scientist with the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, is not so sure. Agrawal hit the headlines in 2002 when he solved an ancient Greek maths sum which aimed to tell for sure if a number is prime relatively quickly, without having to check all possible factors of the number. You have to remember that the ancient Greeks did not have television. Or Youtube, for that matter.
Agrawal was interviewed by an Indian journalist and said when he first heard of the Deolalikar proof he was excited. But when the paper lacked “specificity” he was disappointed. Now he thinks that Deolalikar isn’t even close.
Deolalikar appears to have been getting a little shy since his announcement. He has taken drafts of the papers off his Web page. He said that he is writing a new version in response to the many technical objections that have been raised.
But he is not actually showing the new papers to the great unwashed. They will be emailed privately to an unnamed group of interested researchers. So far no one has put their hands up and admitted that they had a copy.