Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Thinking without a pencil

with 3 comments

Edsger W. Dijkstra

What’s the shortest way to travel from Rotterdam to Groningen? It is the algorithm for the shortest path, which I designed in about twenty minutes. One morning I was shopping in Amsterdam with my young fiancée, and tired, we sat down on the café terrace to drink a cup of coffee and I was just thinking about whether I could do this, and I then designed the algorithm for the shortest path. As I said, it was a twenty-minute invention…One of the reasons that it is so nice was that I designed it without pencil and paper. Without pencil and paper you are almost forced to avoid all avoidable complexities.

Edsger W. Dijkstra, to Communications of the ACM

Written by nevalalee

November 15, 2015 at 7:30 am

3 Responses

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  1. When traveling in the Netherlands, all signs point to and roads lead to Amsterdam, regardless of the actual geographic direction or location.

    galtz

    November 15, 2015 at 2:04 pm

  2. That complicates the problem!

    nevalalee

    November 22, 2015 at 7:56 pm

  3. Only if one wants to go somewhere else.

    galtz

    November 22, 2015 at 11:44 pm


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