Ramblings & ephemera

Solving the unsolvable problem

Now this is interesting – it definitely says something about our ability to work around restrictions, provided we remain unaware that the restrictions exist in the first place.

One day in 1939, George Bernard Dantzig, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, arrived late for a graduate-level statistics class and found two problems written on the board. Not knowing they were examples of “unsolvable” statistics problems, he mistook them for part of a homework assignment, jotted them down, and solved them. (The equations Dantzig tackled are perhaps more accurately described not as unsolvable problems, but as unproved statistical theorems for which he worked out proofs.) Six weeks later, Dantzig’s statistic professor notified him that he had prepared one of his two “homework” proofs for publication, and Dantzig was given co-author credit on another paper several years later when another mathematician independently worked out the same solution to the second problem. [The Unsolvable Math Problem]

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