“Million dollar maths puzzle sparks row” – Because it wouldn’t be interesting with a row?

The BBC reports “Million dollar maths puzzle sparks row“. This is about, if you have not heard, the possible proof by Deolalikar of P ≠ NP. (For a discussion of this see Math Less Travelled or Lipton.)

The interesting thing about it is the complete lack of ‘row’. This is simply a case of a proof which has not yet been verified. It doesn’t really make sense to me why the BBC would feel the need to inject this pointless (and amongst serious people, non-existence) ‘row’ angle to it.

Aaronson is quoted in the article saying that if the proof also proves things which have already been proven false, then that is a problem. This is of course obvious and hardly worth saying, so I suppose he decided to say it because it was quite newspaper friendly and something anybody can understand. It brings back unhappy memories for me because it was also one Marilyn vos Savant’s objections to Wile’s proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, in her absolutely stupid book.

I just think it is a shame that something so exciting can only be reported in the context of “controversy in science”. After having just finished Bad Science, I’m not particularly surprised, as this was one of the threads which span throughout the book. At least the BBC expert really is an expert! And I suppose, at least it was covered at all.

How about other news agencies? Google lists the articles here.

The Telegraph’s article is fairly good, doesn’t mention any row, and even links directly to the paper which I think is a good touch. It also involves a nice example.

That seems to be all in terms of British or American newspapers to have picked it up at this point. New Scientist has it, and it’s article as comparable to the Telegraph’s. It notes “Complexity theorists have given a favourable reception to Deolalikar’s draft paper, but when the final version is released in a week’s time the process of checking it will intensify”, where the link to Lipton is in the original.

So, the BBC is uniquely bad so far. Let’s wait for The Daily Mail to get hold of it though!


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