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In Pursuit of the Traveling Salesman by William J. Cook

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3: The Salesman in Action

Because my mathematics has its origin in a real problem doesn’t make it less interesting to me—just the other way around.

—George Dantzig, 1986.1

The name itself announces the applied nature of the traveling salesman problem. This has surely contributed to a focus on computational issues, keeping the research topic well away from perils famously described in John von Neumann’s essay “The Mathematician”. “In other words, at a great distance from its empirical source, or after much ‘abstract’ inbreeding, a mathematical subject is in danger of degeneration”. Indeed, a strength of TSP research is the steady stream of practical applications that breathe new life into the area.

Road Trips

In our roundup of TSP applications, ...

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