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Math Trek

Jazzing Up Euclid's Algorithm

4:29pm, August 12, 2002

Earlier this year, the journal Computing in Science & Engineering (CISE) published a list of the top 10 algorithms of the century (see http://computer.org/cise/articles/Top_Algorithms.htm).

"Computational algorithms are probably as old as civilization," Francis Sullivan of the Institute for Defense Analyses' Center for Computing Sciences in Bowie, Md. noted in an editorial in the January/February issue of CISE. Ancient tablets bearing Sumerian cuneiform, for example, feature descriptions of procedures for reckoning in base 60.

"Algorithms have advanced in startling and unexpected ways in the 20th century," Sullivan continued. "The algorithms we chose. . .have been essential for progress in communications, health care, manufacturing, economics, weather prediction, defense, and fundamental science. Conversely, progress in these areas has stimulated the search for

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