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In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman by William J. Cook

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1: Challenges

It grew out of the trio’s efforts to find solutions for a classic mathematical problem—the “Traveling Salesman” problem—which has long defied solution by man, or by the fastest computers he uses.

—IBM Press Release, 1964.1

An advertising campaign by Procter & Gamble caused a stir among applied mathematicians in the spring of 1962. The campaign featured a contest with a $10,000 prize. Enough to purchase a house at the time. From the official rules:

Imagine that Toody and Muldoon want to drive around the country and visit each of the 33 locations represented by dots on the contest map, and that in doing so, they want to travel the shortest possible route. You should plan a route for them from location to location which will result ...

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