Thursday, August 12, 2010

Deolalikar's Paper and Public Science

It has made it to Indian press; see, for example, Samanth Subramanian (Mint), Shyam Ranganathan (The Hindu). Nature News calls the P vs. NP problem "the sexiest problem in computer science."

Through a magical process of self organization, the action and excitement -- critical and technical scrutiny of the paper, as well as opinion mongering -- have shifted to Richard Lipton's blog where he has posted a response from Deolalikar on a specific issue flagged by the community of mathematicians and computer scientists. The back-and-forth among the commenters there has been pretty intense -- with over 450 comments spread over four posts in the last four days!

The Polymath wiki page on this paper is also getting updated, with participation from such renowned mathematicians as Terry Tao.

As I said, this is Public Science at its best. As a commenter at Lipton's blog put it:

This member of the community at large can’t understand a word you say, but is nevertheless fascinated by every new post and comment. Seeing the review process unfold in public has rekindled my long-dormant interest in mathematics. ...

Don’t infer from the paucity of experts who can contribute to the public conversation that you might as well confer entirely in private; on the contrary, public discussion is an immense service to the community. Thank you.