Friday, March 10, 2006

My Life Has Been Forever Changed

Seed: Microscopy And The Art of Sudoku:

One day, while wrapping his brain around a Sudoku grid, Elser realized that the tension set up in the puzzle was the same as what he had been trying to solve with his algorithm to render images from diffraction microscopy.

In order to analyze the light waves created during diffraction microscopy, scientists must know the amplitude of the waves and the phase angles at which the light was collected. If these two separate conditions are not met, the image will come back as "noise," according to Elser.

"What will happen in all cases—except when you have a correct phase—is that these waves will combine and they will give you something that you know right away can't be this object," said Elser.

But diffraction microscopy is not the only function that has two sets of independent constraints. Sudoku puzzles are arranged so that the digits 1 through 9 must appear nine times throughout a nine-by-nine grid. The second constraint is that all nine digits must be used within each of the six three-by-three blocks.

It seems sort of sad and pathetic that I can sit here, reading the article and nodding intellectually at the microscopy problem he's dealing with, when I suddenly sit up and shout "Holy Crap! AND it can solve sudoku?!?!?"

Sigh. We are composed of our obsessions.


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