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Reviews

Film explores moral and political repercussions of proving P equals NP Duncan Geere, Wired

"The themes and issues it addresses have never been more relevant ... Travelling Salesman is an essential watch."

The moral uncertainty of a P = NP world Jacob Aron, New Scientist

"Travelling Salesman’s mathematicians are all too aware of what their work will do to the world, and watching them argue how to handle the consequences offers a thriller far more cerebral than most."

Walking the Tightrope of Morality, Math + Science Jonathan Newman, Examiner

"Simply unbelievably excellent filmmaking. This is a film to seek out."

Review of Travelling Salesman Rachel Thomas, Plus Magazine

"A trip to see this movie might become an obligatory part of all math degrees."

Worldwide
Screening Events

New York. Philadelphia. London. Cambridge. Phoenix. Washington D.C. Glasgow. Tel Aviv. Seoul. Hamburg. Hertfordshire. San Francisco. Athens. College Station. Milwaukee. Nanyang. Edinburgh. Ann Arbor.

Winner Best Feature Film

Silicon Valley Film Festival 2012

Picture Summary

Travelling Salesman is an intellectual thriller about four mathematicians hired by the U.S. government to solve the most elusive problem in computer science history — P vs. NP. The four have jointly created a "system" which could be the next major advancement for our civilization or destroy the fabric of humanity.

The solution's immediate application would be for theoretical computer science. However, its application would soon extend to countless other disciplines. For example, by utilizing the solution to P vs. NP, a hacker could crack advanced encryption codes within seconds—a task that now takes weeks, months, or even years. He could break into La Guardia's air traffic control or China's communication grid. But the mathematical algorithm would also serve as the basis for accelerated biological research, curing diseases such as AIDS and cancer.

We begin the film with the four at a secret location waiting to meet with a high-ranking official of the United States Department of Defense. The group discusses the global implications of their solution, and they agree that they must be extremely careful with who they allow to control their discovery.

The silver-tongued DoD agent soon arrives and presents them each with an offer of 10 million dollars in exchange for their portion of the algorithmic solution. He attempts to deftly address their concerns and sway the opinions of the four.

In the end, only one mathematician speaks out against selling the solution. In pleading his case, he is forced to reveal the dark truth about his portion of the algorithm. As the mathematicians are about to sign documents that will give the U.S. government sole and private ownership of their solution, they wrestle with the moral dilemma of how this volatile discovery will be used. The math is real. The implications are real.

P vs. NP

The Math Behind The Film

The P vs. NP problem is the most notorious unsolved problem in computer science. First introduced in 1971, it asks whether one class of problems (NP) is more difficult than another class (P).

Mathematicians group problems into classes based on how long they take to be solved and verified. "NP" is the class of problems whose answer can be verified in a reasonable amount of time. Some NP problems can also be solved quickly. Those problems are said to be in "P", which stands for polynomial time. However, there are other problems in NP which have never been solved in polynomial time.

The question is, is it possible to solve all NP problems as quickly as P problems? To date, no one knows for sure. Some NP questions seem harder than P questions, but they may not be.

Currently, many NP problems take a long time to solve. As such, certain problems like logistics scheduling and protein structure prediction are very difficult. Likewise, many cryptosystems, which are used to secure the world's data, rely on the assumption that they cannot be solved in polynomial time.

If someone were to show that NP problems were not difficult—that P and NP problems were the same—it would would have significant practical consequences. Advances in bioinformatics and theoretical chemistry could be made. Much of modern cryptography would be rendered inert. Financial systems would be exposed, leaving the entire Western economy vulnerable.

Proving that P = NP would have enormous ramifications that would be equally enlightening, devastating, and valuable...

Press

'Travelling Salesman' movie considers the repercussions if P equals NP by Duncan Geere, Wired

"Mathematical puzzles don't often get to star in feature films, but P vs NP is the subject of an upcoming thriller"

Travelling Salesman, Thriller Set In a World Where P=NP Slashdot

"A movie that features science and technology is always welcome, but is it not often we have one that focuses on computer science. Travelling Salesman is just such a rare movie."

Travelling Salesman - A Movie About P=NP by Alex Armstrong, I-Programmer

"We all know that the P=NP question is truly fascinating, but now it is about to be released as a movie."

ACME Science Podcast Strongly Connected Components #46, ACME Science

"I speak with Timothy about where he got the idea for the movie, how he made sure that the mathematics was correct, and why science movies just may be the new comic book movies."

The Travelling Salesman's Power by Kenneth W. Regan, Gödel’s Lost Letter

"At last someone is taking the position that P = NP is a possibility seriously. If nothing else, the film's brain trust realize that being equal is the cool direction, the direction with the most excitement, the most worthy of a major motion picture."

Podcast: Rolling out the red carpet for the Travelling Salesman by Rachel Thomas, Plus Magazine

"Travelling Salesman is an unusual movie: despite almost every character being a mathematician there's not a mad person in sight."

Production Stills