In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman: Mathematics at the Limits of Computation
What is the shortest possible route for a traveling salesman seeking to visit each city on a list exactly once and return to his city of origin? It sounds simple enough, yet the traveling salesman problem is one of the most intensely studied puzzles in applied mathematics--and it has defied solution to this day. In this book, William Cook takes readers on a mathematical excursion, picking up the salesman's trail in the 1800s when Irish mathematician W. R. Hamilton first defined the problem, and venturing to the furthest limits of today's state-of-the-art attempts to solve it. He also explores its many important applications, from genome sequencing and designing computer processors to arranging music and hunting for planets. In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman travels to the very threshold of our understanding about the nature of complexity, and challenges you yourself to discover the solution to this captivating mathematical problem.
From the Back Cover A gripping insider's account of one of the great mathematical problems. This book shows how deep mathematical insights can arise from apparently simple questions, and how the results can be applied to that most human of objectives: to achieve a desired outcome in the best possible way. In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman deserves to become an instant classic. --Ian Stewart, author of Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures I found this to be a wonderful book on many levels. The writing is informal but precise, and a lot of ground is covered. Cook ties together so many diverse topics and includes informative discussions about the history. I now know a lot more about every aspect of the traveling salesman problem. --Stan Wagon, Macalester College, author of Mathematica in Action Cook makes a compelling case for the importance of the traveling salesman problem, revealing that while many brilliant minds have worked on the problem, the next key insight could really come from anyone. Because of his centrality to the research, he writes with a depth of knowledge and experience that few--if any--can surpass. I know of no other book like this. --Mitchel T. Keller, London School of Economics and Political Science