Traveling Salesman Problem Lectures

This week I was able to attend 2 lectures by Professor William J. Cook, Chandler Family Professor, ISyE, Operations Research, Georgia Institute of Technology at Furman University’s 2011-2012 Donald H. Clanton Visiting Mathematician Program. 

Exact Solutions in Linear and Integer Programming

This lecture treats the problem of finding exact rational solutions.  While the details of the mathematical theory cannot be covered in a one hour lecture, Professor Cook was able to help the audience (me at least) understand the difficulties inherent in the computer’s limited numeric precision, the large number of calculations involved each with its inherent possible losses, and a number of approaches to reducing or at least managing these errors. With David L. Applegate, Robert E. Bixby, and Vasek Chvátal, William J. Cook is co-author of The Traveling Salesman Problem: A Computational Study

In Pursuit of the Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation

This lecture is  more accessible by the non-mathematician.  Professor Cook outlines the history and origins of the problem: How to minimize the length of the trip a salesman must make to visit all of the required cities.  The complexity of this problem grows super-exponentially with each added point. With delightful illustrations, pictures, and explanation he makes this problem come alive and helps us understand why the Traveling Salesman Problem is important not just to travelers but in genetics, manufacturing and astronomy.

Professor Cook’s book In Pursuit of the Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation be available in January, 2012.

If you have an opportunity to hear Professor Cook speak, do not miss it. You will enjoy his knowledge and excitement in mathematics.

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