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The Shapes of Computations

Gödel's Lost Letter and P=NP

032015_CACMpg33_Interview-Juris-Hartmanis.large

Juris Hartmanis did much to lay the landscape of computational complexity beginning in the 1960s. His seminal paper with Richard Stearns, “On the Computational Complexity of Algorithms,” was published 50 years ago this month, as observed by Lance Fortnow in his blog with Bill Gasarch. It is a great achievement to open a new world, but all the more mysterious that after 50 years so much of its landscape remains unknown.

Today we ask what might determine the unseen topography and how much some recent large-data discoveries may help to map it.

The idea for this post arose from a possibly phantom memory that Juris (co-)wrote a short draft survey on “Shapes of Computations” sometime in 1986–1989 when I was at Cornell. I recall the specific phrase “long and skinny” to describe space-bounded computations. An $latex {ell = O(log n)}&fg=000000$ space-bounded computation can explore all of a polynomial $latex {p(n)}&fg=000000$-sized…

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