## Proof of simplest ‘universal computer’ wins UK student $25K

November 14th, 2007 - 2:49 am ICT by adminHe claimed the prize from mathematician Stephen Wolfram who announced in May an award of 25,000 dollars to anyone who could prove that a kind of mathematical calculator called Turing machine was universal.

Some kinds of Turing machines are known to have the qualities of “universal computers”, and they can solve almost any mathematical problem if given enough time and memory.

However, Wolfram wanted someone to find evidence that the simplest possible Turing machine, a cellular automaton that uses just three different symbols in its calculations that he discussed in his 2002 book ‘A New Kind of Science’, was also universal when so far as solving mathematical problems was concerned.

The proof devised by Alex Smith involves showing that the machine is equivalent to another mathematical device, which is already known to be a universal computer.

According to Wolfram, even the simplest possible machine is capable of being a universal computer suggests that equally simple molecular versions could one day form the basis of new kinds of computing.

Smith, who solved the problem during his holidays, was initially sceptical about his chances. He started work on the project after discussing the prize with his mother.

He revealed that his mother was confident that he would be able to crack the problem, as she strongly believed that it was “the kind of thing he is good at”.

Smith knows 20 different programming languages, and he describes six of them as “esoteric”.

Wolfram admitted that he just did not have any idea as to how long he would have to wait for someone to claim the award.

He further said that he was surprised to see Smith’s age and expertise, and not the speed at which he came forward with the solution in June

“We are also at the end of a quest that has spanned more than half a century to find the very simplest universal Turing machine,” New Scientists magazine quoted him as writing on his personal blog. (ANI)

**Related Stories**

- Indian-origin man cracks world's toughest sum - Aug 11, 2010
- Indian-origin scientist 'solves one of world's most complex math problems' - Aug 11, 2010
- Scientists tap baby brainpower for smarter computers - Mar 25, 2012
- Indian education needs more flexibility: Indian American mathematician - Jan 22, 2012
- China makes world's fastest supercomputer - Oct 28, 2010
- Supercomputer to unravel mystery of creation - Feb 02, 2011
- Russian mathematician rejects $1m prize because he considers it unfair - Jul 02, 2010
- Wolfram Alpha Launched - May 19, 2009
- Revolutionary Wolfram 'knowledge engine' goes live - May 19, 2009
- Indian boy solves 350-year Newton math puzzle - May 26, 2012
- Russian Mathematician Decision To Reject Prize Money Surprise All - Jul 02, 2010
- Experiment explains how tiger stripes are formed - Feb 21, 2012
- UK to rebuild world's first room-sized recognisably modern computer - Jan 14, 2011
- Russian Mathematician Rejects Prize For Poincare Conjecture Solution - Jul 02, 2010
- P Vs NP Problem Actually Solved? - Aug 12, 2010

Tags: alex smith, cellular automaton, mathematical calculator, mathematical device, mathematical problem, mathematical problems, mathematician, prize winner, programming languages, sceptical, started work, stephen wolfram, turing machine, turing machines, universal computer, universal computers, university of birmingham