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The user 4chan, using the example of an anime, solved a part of a mathematical problem that has been worked on for 25 years.

Academics do not know who to refer to: there seems to be a solution, but officially – no.

Frame from the anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

On October 23rd, mathematician Robin Houston told on Twitter about the unusual intersection of 4chan and mathematics: one of the users, using the example of anime, solved part of a complex task that scientists have been working on since 1993. The result aroused interest among mathematicians of the whole world, but they cannot identify an anonym from image boards, writes The Verge.

The story began in September 2011, when the author of one of the threads on 4chan asked a question: how to see the 14 episodes of the anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, so that during the viewing all possible combinations of episodes meet? The fact is that the series has a non-linear plot – the story of time travel can be viewed in different ways, combining episodes. On the TV series, they did not come out in chronological order, after which the fans began to build their own chronologies.

One of the user 4chan provided an answer to the question from the thread. And, as it turned out, at the same time he helped to understand the problem, on the solution of which mathematicians have been working for 25 years. In The Verge noted that the task is related to combinatorics (“Building superpermutations and minimal injective strings”) – finding the minimal bar of permuting the sets in one “string”. Anonymous was able to find the “most elegant” way to deal with it.

Example: there are only three series. They can be viewed in the following order: 123, 132, 213, 231, 312, 321. The essence of the problem is to find a “string” containing all possible combinations: “123121321”. If you watch the series in this order, then all possible “orders” of viewing will be taken into account.

[123] 121321

12312 [132] 1

1231 [213] 21

1 [231] 21321

12 [312] 1321

123121 [321]

Mathematician from the University of Marquette Jay Pantone (Jay Pantone) initially skeptical about the evidence with 4chan, but then translated the solution into a more scientific format for other mathematicians. According to him, the decision was confirmed, although it does not solve the whole problem. Pantone and Houston work in a group of mathematicians who are trying to combine formulas with 4chan and other advances in this field to completely solve the 1993 problem.

Houston added on Twitter that the finalization of 4chan’s thoughts is also needed to be recognized in the mathematical community: it is not published in scientific journals, and therefore is not referenced.


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