Problems that don't have solutions.

Professor Rick Thomas

This talk starts by examining the following quotation: "Put the right kind of software into a computer, and it will do whatever you want it to. There may be limits on what you can do with the machines themselves, but there are no limits on what you can do with software." The main aim of the talk is to debunk this myth. There are problems which, by their very nature, cannot be solved by a computer (or, at least, by any computer yet devised). This is an area known as "computability" and it is clearly important for people to have an awareness of this issue as there is no point investing resources in trying to solve problems for which there is no solution. The idea of the talk is to give a gentle introduction to the subject so that people can get a flavour as to what the issues are. The talk may be of interest to mathematics students to see that there are problems for which no method to solve them exists or to computer science students to see that there are problems for which there are no programs which can solve them.

  • Approximate length: 50 minutes
  • Equipment required: overhead projector
  • Target audience: AS or A level students studying Mathematics or Computer Science


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