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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Simplest Possible Universal Turing Machine

"And although it will no doubt be very difficult to prove, it seems likely that this Turing machine will in the end turn out to be universal."

So I wrote on page 709 of A New Kind of Science (NKS).

I had searched the computational universe for the simplest possible universal Turing machine. And I had found a candidate--that my intuition told me was likely to be universal. But I was not sure.

And so as part of commemorating the fifth anniversary of A New Kind of Science on May 14 this year, we announced a $25,000 prize for determining whether or not that Turing machine is in fact universal.

I had no idea how long it would take before the prize was won. A month? A year? A decade? A century? Perhaps the question was even formally undecidable (say from the usual axioms of mathematics).

But today I am thrilled to be able to announce that after only five months the prize is won--and we have answer: the Turing machine is in fact universal!

Alex Smith--a 20-year-old undergraduate from Birmingham, UK--has produced a 40-page proof.

I'm pleased that my intuition was correct. But more importantly, we now have another piece of evidence for the very general Principle of Computational Equivalence (PCE) that I introduced in A New Kind of Science.

We are also at the end of a quest that has spanned more than half a century to find the very simplest universal Turing machine.

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Posted by Ajay :: 9:59 AM :: 0 comments

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