Friday, February 11, 2005

Numb3rs review: "Structural Corruption"

Bill Gasarch has a second review of the P vs NP episode over at Lance's place. He speculates as to what the characters might have meant by saying that P vs NP is "unsolvable". My favorite:
Charlie was using proofs that naturalize, which won't work because of the results of Razborov and Rudich (Judd Hirsch: So use unnatural techniques)
Last night's episode dealt with calculations involving the structural integrity of a building. Not much actual math shown in this episode, and there were some curious points:
  • Charlie is a "professor of applied mathematics", and yet in the first episode crazy string theorist wants his help with some calculations. I guess string theory could be viewed as applied math in some circles...
  • When trying to figure out why the dead student had come to him for help with calculations (is he a math prof or a human calculator?), Charlie says "We can only infer that it had something to do with math". Uh, yeah......
  • Charlie, "professor of applied math" and string theorist par excellence, can also mock up a structural integrity demo, with GUI, 3D graphics and all, in one night. Sheesh; give him a job at Google, people...
There was one sequence that sounded like a reference to Benford's Law. Charlie finds out worker names and union IDs have been manufactured, by detecting that the numbers on the IDs follow suspicious patterns. This is actually plausible, in that Benford's law has been used to detect fraud and fake accounting.
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