Interview with Lance Fortnow, Author of The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible

Lance Fortnow

Programming is like engineering. You got to use mathematics. You got to use numbers. BUT, you don’t have to be Albert Einstein or René Descartes or Pythagoras or any famous mathematician to be a programmer. You just need a little help, a little motivation to do what you want to do. And today, we will let you know how a book can be a big help to anyone who wants to know how and what to do in learning programming.

Today’s featured author, Lance Fortnow, wrote The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible, bestselling book in Computers & Technology as well as Science & Math category. The Golden Ticket: P, NP, and the Search for the Impossible is about  P-NP, it Mr. Fortnow made it easier for all to understand  P-NP and made a historical background of its development.

Get to know the Author

Name: Lance Fortnow

Background: I graduated from MIT with my Ph.D. in 1989 under Michael Sipser specializing in computational complexity, the mathematical study of efficient computation. After serving as a professor for many years at the University of Chicago and Northwestern, I currently serve as chair of the School of Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Favorite gadget: For now the Google Pixel–my first android phone.

Hobbies: Opera and Baseball



What does your typical workday look like?

No day is typical, I teach, I do research often with undergraduate and graduate students. Mostly I serve as an administrator, making sure my faculty are as successful as they can be.

What, in your opinion, is the current most exciting technological advancement and why?

Machine learning, where a small number of algorithmic methods have such a wide range of applications from spam detection, voice recognition, beating humans in Go and Poker and very soon driving our cars. Basically, if you have data you can learn and predict.

What inspired you to write your book?

There are many popular books about computing but very few about computer science. I wrote a survey article on the P versus NP problem for a CS magazine, Communications of the ACM, that was well-received and heavily downloaded and I expanded that article into a book aimed at a broad audience.

If there’s one chapter in your book people should have read, which one should it be, and why?

The second chapter, “The Beautiful World”, gives a science fiction view of what would happen if in fact we could solve all search problems easily. The chapter gives a window into the power of the P v NP question.

As an author, which book made the most impact on you?

The style I tried to emulate was Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. I tried, and admittedly didn’t match, his ability to discuss deep technical issues with virtually no mathematical equations.

If there’s one subject you’d like to see a book about, what would it be?

I’d like to see more popular science books about different aspects of computer science. For example, everyone has heard about “the cloud” but few understand how it works and how it brings together beautiful ideas from across the computing research community.

What would you like to ask the next author being interviewed?

How do you inspire others to bring interesting ideas in computing to the general public?


It’s a very great experience to have great authors like Mr. Lance Fortnow interviewed. Once again, we would like to say thanks to you Mr. Fortnow for accepting our request. One “thank you” is not enough to show how grateful we are for giving us the opportunity to have you featured on our site. Thank you very much, sir!


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