I came home from work on Wednesday a bit too tired to go for a run and a bit too energetic to sit and watch TV. So I decided to pace around my place while reading a good book. The question was did I have a good book to read. I had been reading sci-fi type books earlier this month and wanted a break from that, so I looked in my mailbox and noticed that I had just received my copy of “The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible“. At the time, I was of the mindset that I had just gotten off of work and really didn’t want to be reading a text book as if I was still at work. But I decided to give it a try and at least make it through the first few pages and if it got to be overwhelming, I’d just put it down and do something else.
About three hours later I was finishing the final pages of the book and impressed that the author (Lance Fortnow) was able to treat complexity theory the same way that I see physics professors speaking about quantum physics and the expanding universe on shows like “the Universe” and “Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman” where complex topics are spoken about with everyday terminology. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Dr. Fortnow on shows like “The Colbert Report” or “The Daily Show” introducing the topics in this book to a wider audience.
Below is the review I left on Amazon.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a light enough read to finish in one sitting on a weeknight within a few hours, but also showed its importance by being able to connect the dots between the P = NP problem to issues in health care, economics, security, scheduling and a number of other problems. And instead of talking in a "professor-like" tone, the author creates illustrative examples in Chapters 2 and 3 that are easy to grasp. These examples form the basis for much of the problems addressed in the book.
This is a book that needed to be written and needs to be on everyone's bookshelf, particularly for those asking questions like "what is mathematics" or "what is mathematics used for". This book answers those questions, and towards the end gives examples (in plain English) of the different branches of mathematics and theoretical computer science, without making it read like a text book.
Also, here is a link to the blog that Lance Fortnow and William Gasarch run called “Computational Complexity”, and here is a link to the website of the book, “The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible”