Tag: oberlin

# Turning the Traveling Salesman problem into Art

Robert Bosch is a professor of Natural Science at the department of Mathematics of Oberlin College and has found a creative way to elevate the travelling salesman problem to an art form.

For those who aren’t familiar with the travelling salesman problem (wiki), it is a classic algorithmic problem in the field of computer science and operations research. Basically, we want are looking for a mathematical solution that is cheapest, shortest, or fastest for a given problem. Most commonly, it is seen as a graph (network) describing the locations of a set of nodes (elements in that network). Wikipedia has a description I can’t improve on:

The Travelling Salesman Problem describes a salesman who must travel between N cities. The order in which he does so is something he does not care about, as long as he visits each once during his trip, and finishes where he was at first. Each city is connected to other close by cities, or nodes, by airplanes, or by road or railway. Each of those links between the cities has one or more weights (or the cost) attached. The cost describes how “difficult” it is to traverse this edge on the graph, and may be given, for example, by the cost of an airplane ticket or train ticket, or perhaps by the length of the edge, or time required to complete the traversal. The salesman wants to keep both the travel costs, as well as the distance he travels as low as possible.

Wikipedia

Here’s a visual representation of the problem and some algorithmic approaches to solving it:

Now, Robert Bosch has applied the traveling salesman problem to well-know art pieces, trying to redraw them by connecting a series of points with one continuous line. Robert even turned it into a challenge so people can test out how well their travelling salesman algorithms perform on, for instance, the Mona Lisa, or Vincent van Gogh.

Just look at the detail on these awesome Dutch classics: