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[Computational Complexity] Math Terms used in real life-good or bad?

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  • GASARCH
    Paul Beame s comment on my last blog ASK THE ALGORITHM, and one email comment that I got from someone who was hesitant to post since she thought people would
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 5, 2007
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      Paul Beame's comment on my last blog ASK THE ALGORITHM, and one email comment that I got from someone who was hesitant to post since she thought people would ask if she was on crack, made the point that even if the ad campaign is misleading about what an algorithm is, it gets the word and concept out there, and this is all to the good. I tend to agree.

      This raises the question: if a math or CS term is getting out there, even incorrectly, does it help the field? How incorrect? How much does it help? Examples:
      1. On 24, season two, there was a line `we can't break in, its been Huffman coded!' This makes no sense mathematically but it raises awareness of security issues.
      2. On NUMB3RS there are too many examples to count, but I'll pick my favorite: In Season one there was an episode where they claimed that once you solved the Riemann Hypothesis you could factor numbers and break various security systems EASILY. That is, the time from the proof being completed to the code cracking the systems would be less than an hour. While this is absurd, it does let people know that computer security can use some high powered math.
      3. On a radio station I heard the DJ say
        Here at WCOZ we have an axiom, thats like a saying man, that weekends should be seven days long!
        I don't think this helps people understand what an axiom is.
      4. A commercial once said
        And to prove we have the lowest prices in town we will give you a free camera for just visiting our store!
        Not the sense of rigor I want to instill in my students


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      Posted By GASARCH to Computational Complexity at 6/05/2007 11:17:00 AM
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