P vs. NPAuthor: Gemmi999Word Count:
Not mine.Author's Note:
Set Pre-Series, for the memory challange on Numb3rs FlashFic
Charlie remembers why P vs. NP is so important.
Charlie never told people why he chose P vs. NP as his problem; why it presented such a challenge, and why he would do almost anything to solve it. He never told people what it was, and most people didn’t bother asking. His family certainly never had, they just looked at him, at his glazed-over eyes and his waning-smile and labeled “P vs. NP” as a horrible thing that dragged Charlie away from his family, away from his life.
Which was odd, considering why he’d chosen it.
When his mom was sick, he kept thinking: “If only I can solve P vs. NP and show them why math matters, what it can do and why I do it,”. It became a pinnacle, something to reach for, to hide in, to learn from and to grow addicted too. He forgot about his mom, about his family; all that mattered was the math, the symmetry and beauty of the equations, and what they represented.
They had to drag him out of his stupor when his mom died, drag him away from the elegance of trying to understand why some equations could be solved by computers and why others couldn’t, and what NP was in the middle of the confusion. Don had to slap him, twice, to get him to wake up. His dad looked at him with disappointed eyes and a heavy soul. Charlie looked at the hours and hours of work, and knew remorse.
He loved his mom. He loved his family. Everything he did was for his family, but they didn’t know that. They couldn’t know that. Somebody once said that mathematics was the only science that was nearly entirely a mental discipline. All other sciences worked on physical things: Larry’s physics took place in front of people, it concerned trying to understand gravity and why things fell at an even rate. Biology looked at cells; astronomy looked at the stars: math, though—math looked at everything and tried to relate things to other objects through numbers.
Charlie could still remember when he found out how far-reaching PI was. He’d been 8, and was on a school trip to the zoo. The tour guide was trying to impress the class by explaining that scientists could tell how tall an elephant was from shoulder to foot by looking at the diameter of the foot and multiplying it by 2Pi. He hadn’t known yet that math was everywhere, but after he learned about the elephants he began to look more closely at things he considered everyday.
He began to notice the velocity of rain drops, he’d stop to calculate the angle of the sun’s rays—everything was open to interpretation, everything was beautiful.
But he couldn’t make his family understand, he couldn’t make them see how beautiful the math was, because it was in his head. So he began working on P vs. NP and hoped if he solved it they’d realize what he’d been doing with this life, and that it would have a little more meaning. He wanted to solve it for his mom, for Don. He wanted to point to it and say “see, math is important—even if you can’t understand why,”.
But instead, P vs. NP had become a hide-a-way, a place where he gathered his strength and remembered why numbers had gained such a foothold on his life to begin with. The people he surrounded himself with began to fall away, and all that was left was the purity of the integer, the crisp lines of the parabola. All that was left was what made him, him.
And his family couldn’t understand--didn’t want to understand. He’d wanted to solve P vs. NP because if he did, the community would recognize him, but more importantly, they would give him one of the million dollar prizes. The money didn’t matter to him, but the money would matter to Don, to his father. They would see it and realize how important the math was to the world, and how important the math was to him. They would realize how much math could do.
He forgot about them, when he was in the world of his numbers. But in his defense, he forgot about a lot of things: sleep didn’t seem as important, food seemed like a waste of time, all that mattered was the next step, and what would follow that. He knew if he was too slow, somebody else would solve P vs. NP and that—that was almost too much for him to bare. P vs. NP was his, and nobody else was welcome to it. They could have the six-other millennium problems, they could have all the other fields, the notoriety, the fame. He just wanted P vs. NP, because it would give him his family.
That was, if it didn’t drive them away, first.
Books referenced during the writing of this ficlet include:The Millennium Problems: The Seven Greatest Unsolved Mathmatical Puzzles of Our Time
by Keith Devlin
andThe Joy of Pi
by David Blatner