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Math Trek

The Sudoku solution

Mathematicians use Sudoku to understand a mysterious, powerful algorithm

10:46am, December 23, 2008

You’re under a deadline, but your daughter will never forgive you if you miss her soccer game. Either obligation alone would be no problem, but trying to find the solution that satisfies everyone — or least minimizes their dissatisfaction — makes your stomach churn.

The same problem, it turns out, plagues science. And optics researchers may have found a solution. An algorithm they developed to balance competing constraints (like your daughter’s soccer game and your deadline) has been used to predict how proteins fold, improve radiation treatment for cancer, and even solve Sudoku puzzles.

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