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:

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.

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.

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.
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

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