5.4 Computability
This section under major construction.
In David Hilbert's famous 1900 address to the International Congress of Mathematics, he asserted:
Take any definite unsolved problem, such as the question as to the irrationality of the EulerMascheroni constant γ, or the existence of an infinite number of prime numbers of the form 2^{n}+1. However, unapproachable these problems may seem to us and however helpless we stand before them, we have, nevertheless, the firm conviction that their solution must follow by a finite number of purely logical processes.
Now that we have a clear notion of an algorithm (the Turing machine),
we will see that some computational problems cannot be
solved, regardless of the amount of resources available.
If an algorithm exists to solve a particular problem,
that problem is said to be solvable; otherwise
the problem is unsolvable.
We give several natural examples of unsolvable problems.
Unsolvable problems arise in many areas including:
cellular automata, chaos theory, combinatorics, operations
research, statistics, physics, compiler theory, knot theory,
logic, set theory, and topology.
Note that unsolvability is a very strong statement about a problem 
it says not only that scientists have not discovered an algorithm for the
problem, but that such a discovery is impossible.
Halting problem. The halting problem is the most famous of all unsolvable problems, and it was the first one classified as such. The input to the halting problem is a Turing machine and its input. The goal is to determine whether or not that Turing machine will ever reach the halt state. This is more difficult than it appears because very simple Turing machines, often referred to as busy beavers, may perform remarkably complex actions. An Nstate busy beaver is a Turing machine defined on N states over the binary alphabet (0 and 1) that when started with an all zero tape, leaves as many 1's on the tape as possible before halting. Finding busy beavers for even modest size values of N is a surprisingly daunting task. The following 8state Turing machine leaves 4,098 ones on the tape and halts after 47,176,870 steps.
However, it is not a busy beaver. In fact, Marxen and Buntrock have an 8state Turing machine (when converted to our Minsky style notation) that leaves over 10^{47} ones on the tape after more than 10^{95}, and an astonishing 9state Turing machine that leaves over 10^{865} ones on the tape, and halts after over 10^{1730} steps.
Halting problem in Java.
We can recast the Halting problem in terms of the Java
programming language. Here, the goal is to write a program,
say Halt.java
, that determines whether or not some
static method, say mystery
, goes into an infinite
loop on some specific input x
.
This would be a powerful debugging tool.
We've all written programs that go into infinite loops.
The possibility of an infinite loop in your code
usually signifies a bug.
An infinite loop in a commercial piece of software could
lead to angry customers, or worse.
It would sure be nice if the Java compiler could warn us if our function
might go into an infinite loop. To see why this is such a daunting
task, consider program Perfect.java.
It searches for an odd
perfect number:
a number that equals the sum of its proper divisors (e.g., 28 is perfect since
28 = 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14).
Does the program halt (assuming we never run into overflow
problems)? If so, how long do we have to wait until we can conclude
that it is in an infinite loop? We can type in the code and see what happens.
If the program terminates, we can safely answer yes. The main obstacle
is determining when to say no. Suppose we do stop the program at some point
(Ctrlc) and answer no. Maybe if we had left the program running just a bit longer
it would have halted on its own. Despite intensive research, no one knows whether
Perfect.java terminates. Mathematicians have proved that it will not terminate
until n is at least 10^{300}.
This is an
extreme example, but it highlights the fact that there is no easy
way to tell whether a given program will terminate just by looking at it.
In contrast, the program Cube.java searches for
a positive integervalued solution to 313(a^{3} + b^{3}) =
c^{3}.
It turns out that Cube.java does halt (assuming we never run into overflow
problems), but not until c is greater than 10^{1000}.
Indeed, we could pose mathematical problems like Fermat's Last
Theorem in the same way (see Exercise XYZ).
If the halting problem were solvable, then mathematics would be easy.
The halting problem is unsolvable. We sketch below a mindblowing proof that no algorithm to solve the halting problem exists or could ever exist. The idea behind the proof is inspired by the following paradox. Is the following statement true or false? This sentence is false. The essence of this paradox is caused by selfreference. The TM "formalizes an old argument about why you can never have perfect introspection: because if you could, then you could determine what you were going to do ten seconds from now, and then do something else." (Scott Aaronson) The crucial idea in our Halting proof is to feed a program itself as input.
Barber's Paradox. Suppose Barry is a Barber who claims that he shaves all (and only those) people in the town who do not shave themselves, and that Barber lives in the town and is cleanshaven. Does Barry shave himself? We can prove by contradiction that such a barber cannot exist.... We now apply the same logic reasoning to Java programs...
Informal proof. Since the Java programming language is equivalent to Turing machines, it suffices to show that we can't write a Java program to solve the halting problem. We consider programs that take some arbitrary input (say from stdin). We denote the result of a program P run with input x by P(x). We use the mathematical technique of proof by contradiction, or reductio ad absurdum. Suppose, for the sake of contradiction, that there exists such a halting program Halt(P, x). (We will show that this leads to an obvious contradiction, and therefore, we must conclude that no such program exists.) It takes two inputs: a program P and its input x. Program Halt(P, x) outputs yes if P(x) halts, and no otherwise. Note that by our hypothesis, Halt(P, x) itself always halts for any pair of inputs.
Now, the fun begins. Create a new program Strange(P) that takes as input a single program P. This new program calls the halting program with P as both inputs, i.e., Halt(P, P). [Refer back to Turing machine that creates a copy of its input.] It may seem odd to take a program as input, but this is rather common. Compilers do exactly this; they read in a Java program as input, and output a machine language program. As Marvin Minsky observes, you don't need to worry much about why we'd want to perform such an introverted computation. But, you can gain some intuition by considering a computational biologist who wants to create a complete description of their own genome! There is nothing at all absurd about this.
Now, we design the program Strange(P) so that it promptly halts if Halt(P, P) outputs no. Otherwise, we make Strange(P) go into an infinite loop. In Java, the code for Strange(P) might look like:
if (Halt(P, P) == true) while (true) // infinite loop ;
In summary
 If P(P) does not halt, then Strange(P) halts.
 If P(P) halts, then Strange(P) does not halt.
 If Strange(Strange) does not halt, then Strange(Strange) halts.
 If Strange(Strange) halts, then Strange(Strange) does not halt.
A poetic proof.
Here's a poem that proves the undecidability of the halting problem in verse! In the poetic proof, the program Strange() is replaced by Q().Diagonalization argument. This proof is an example of a diagonalization argument: we imagine a 2D grid with the rows indexed by programs P, the columns indexed by inputs x, and Halt(P, x) is the result of running the halting program on P(x). The diagonal entries correspond to Halt(P, P). The essence of the proof is determining which row corresponds to the program Strange. The contradiction arises because we constructed Strange to differ with each row in the grid (specifically on each diagonal entry).
Consequences. As part of the correctness proof of any deterministic algorithm, we must argue that it terminates after a finite number of steps. There are important classes of programs where it's easy to tell, but the undecidability of the halting problem precludes a general rule or formula. Each proof of correctness may require an entirely new idea (e.g., the odd perfect number program), and there is no way to (fully) automate the process.
Why debugging is hard? The following are undecidable.
 Selfhalting problem. Given a program that takes one input, does it terminate when given itself as input?
 Totality problem. Given a program that takes one input, does it halt on all inputs. 3x+1 problem.
 Program equivalence problem. Given two program that takes one input each, do they produce the same result on every input.
 Dead code elimination. Will a particular piece of code ever get executed?
 Variable initialization. Is a variable initialized before it is first referenced?
 Memory management. Will a variable ever be referenced again?
Other unsolvable problems. Here are some more example of unsolvable problems:
 Rice's theorem. Metatheorem that says any nontrivial property of input/output of a Turing machine is undecidable. Nontrivial means some programs have that property and some don't. Does a Turing machine halt on all inputs? For infinitely many inputs? For no inputs? On at least two input strings of different lengths? Is set of strings accepted is a regular language? Do two Turing machines halt for exactly the same inputs?
 Chaitin's number. What is the probability that a Turing machine M will halt on a random input?
 Hilbert's tenth problem. To gain some historical perspective, we relay the famous story of Hilbert's tenth problem. In 1900, David Hilbert addressed the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris and posed 23 problems as a challenge for the upcoming century. Hilbert's tenth problem was to devise a process according to which it can be determined by a finite number of operations whether a given multivariate polynomial has an integral root. For example, the polynomial f(x,y,z) = 6x^{3}yz^{2} + 3xy^{2}  x^{3}  10 has an integral root since f(5,3,0) = 0, whereas the polynomial f(x,y) = x^{2} + y^{2}  3 does not have one. The problem dates back two thousand years to Diophantine, and it arises in diverse areas including: physics, computational biology, operations research, and statistics. At the time, there was no rigorous definition of an algorithm; consequently the existence of unsolvable problems was not even contemplated. In the 1970's Hilbert's 10th problem was resolved in a very surprising way: Yuri Matiyasevich proved that it is unsolvable. That is, it is impossible to create a program (say, in Java) that will read in an arbitrary multivariate polynomial as input, and return the appropriate yesno answer! The problem is decidable if there is only one variable, but is undecidable even if there are 13 variables.
 Roots of a function of one variable. Hilbert's 10th problem is decidable if it is a function of a single variable. However, if we allow trigonometric functions, then the problem becomes undecidable again. Given a rational function f(x) of a single variable x comprised of polynomial (addition, multiplication, composition) and sine terms, does there exist an x* such that f(x*) = 0? Richardson's theorem is slightly weaker but more famous and earlier  it assumes f(x) is a function built from rational numbers, π, ln 2, the variable x, addition, multiplication, composition, sine, exponential, and absolute value functions. Reference: Paul Wang.
 Definite integration. The rootfinding problem can be leveraged to show that definite integration is also undecidable. Given a definite integral of a function f(x) involving only polynomial and trigometric functions, is the integral of f(x) from ∞ to +∞ convergent (does the limit exist)? Hence we can't expect a symbolic algebra package (Maple or Mathematica) to always tell us the answer when we type in a definite integral. Undecidable even f(x) = [(x^{2} + 1)g^{2}(x)]^{1}, where g(x) is a rational function involving polynomials and sine terms.

Post's correspondence problem.
The following unsolvable puzzle involving strings
was first analyzed by Emil Post in the 1940's.
The input to the problem is N different card types.
Each card type contains two strings, one on the top, one on the
bottom. The puzzle is to arrange the cards so that the
top and bottom strings are the same (a yes instance)
or to report that it's impossible (a no instance).
You are allowed to use an arbitrary number
of each card type.
Here's a yes instance of the problem
with 4 card types:
and a corresponding solution that uses cards 1, 3, 0, 2, and a second copy of card 1.
The top string and bottom string are each abababababa. Here's a no instance with 4 cards:
Why is it a no instance? In a yes instance, the top and bottom leftmost characters of the leftmost card in the solution must match. In this example, no card's leftmost top and bottom characters match. Hence, there is no possible way to line the cards up appropriately. In general, such a simple explanation may not exist. Here's a challenging 11 card instance created by Andrew Appel.
Incredibly, it is impossible to write a Java program that reads in a sequence of N card types, and is always able to correctly report whether or not such an arrangement is possible. Of course, on some inputs (like the two above) the program may be able to return the correct answer. But, on some inputs the program is doomed to fail. Note that if you were restricted to using only one card of each type, then the problem could be solved by trying all possibilities, since the number of possibilities would be finite (although very large). Solvability refers to whether a computation can be done at all, not how much time it would take.
 Program equivalence problem. The program equivalence problem is to identify whether or not two programs produce identical output, given the same input. Clearly a grader in an introductory computer science class would appreciate such a program. More significantly, this would be immensely useful in testing a new program (e.g., a new, but intricate, sorting algorithm) by comparing it to a welltested and bugfree version (e.g., bruteforce search). Again, this problem is unsolvable.

Uninitialized variables.
The Java compiler sometimes complains that you may be accessing
a local variable before it has been initialized. The
programmer can sometimes guarantee that a variable is initialized,
but the compiler is not "smart" enough to realize it.
In the example below, a will be initialized to 17 because
the length of an array is always nonnegative.
public static void main(String[] args) { int a; if (args.length >= 0) a = 17; int b = a * a; }
Why can't the compiler figure this out on its own? In this case, it could. But in general, determining whether a variable has been initialized in undecidable. The compiler acts conservatively, using "sufficient" but not "necessary" tests.
 Optimizing compilers (Reference: Appel paper). An optimizing compiler is a compiler that analyzes your program, removing any useless code and variables. Deadcode elimination: does control flow ever reach this point in program? Register allocation: starting from this point, can value in register x affect the result of the computation? Load/store scheduling: are these two references aliased (can they contain pointers to the same memory location)?
 Data compression. Given a string s, find the shortest (measured in number of characters) program that will output s. This problem is of fundamental importance in information theory and data compression. It is a formal statement of Occam's Razor  find the simplest explanation that fits the facts. The Mandelbrot set is a beautiful example of a complex picture that can be generated with a simple program. It would be nice to have a formal method that guarantees to find such a concise description.
 Virus recognition. Informally, Fred Cohen defines a computer virus as a program that is able to infect other programs by modifying them to include a possibly evolved copy of itself. He also provides a rigorous definition involving Turing machines, and shows that that determining whether or not a given program is a virus is unsolvable.
 Ambiguity in grammar. Given a context free grammar, is it ambiguous?
 Matrix mortality problem. Given a finite set of NbyN matrices with integer elements, can they be multiplied in some order (possibly repeating the same matrix more than once) to yield the zero matrix? (Undecidable already for a set of 15 or more 3by3 matrices, or a set of two 45by45 matrices.)
 Polygonal tilings. Given a polygon, not necessarily regular or convex, is it possible to tile the whole plane with copies of that shape? Yes for rectangle, right triangle, or hexagon.
 Wang tilings. Given a set of Wang tiles can you arrange copies of the tiles to cover the infinite plane?
 Selfassembly of infinite ribbons. Selfassembly = "process by which objects autonomously come together to form complex structures." Reference. Applications to circuit fabrication, DNA computing, nanorobotics. Given a set of tiles, can you arrange copies of the tiles to form an infinite ribbon?
 Group theory. Testing whether a finitely presented group is commutative an undecidable problem. Testing whether it is finite, free, or simple are also undecidable problems.
 Topology. Testing whether two polyhedra (represented by their triangulations) are homeomorphic is undecidable. Testing whether two two nManifolds (using Poincare's and Veblen's definition) are homeomorphic is undecidable for n > 3.
 Queueing theory. (Gamarnik) Is a homogeneous random walk in dimension d stable? Arriving jobs must be processed along some path in a graph. Jobs wait in a buffer if the processor is busy. Interarrival times and processing times are known. Scheduling policy is stable if there is a fixed upper bound on the number of parts in the system at all times. Is a generalized priority scheduling policy stable?
 Control theory. Global asymptotic stability of certain discrete time dynamical systems (hybrid systems, piecewise affine systems) in control theory (Blondel, Henzinger).
 Wave equation. Reference: PourEl and Richards. The solution u(x, y, z, t) to the wave equation in three dimensions is unique determined by the initial conditions and du/dt at time t = 0. Even if the initial data are computable values, the solution can attain a noncomputable value at a computable point in spacetime. Can't numerically solve some differential equations.
 Dynamical systems. Reference: Christopher Moore. Given a generalized shift Φ, is Φ chaotic?
Implications. The existence of unsolvable problems has profound consequences in both computation and philosophy. First, it says there are some languages that cannot be recognized by any computer. That is, all computers have intrinsic limitations. These problems can be of enormous practical significance, including Hilbert's 10th problem. We must work within the limitations of computers by recognizing and avoiding unsolvable problems. Second, the whole assertion that logic can solve any problem is intrinsically false. If the human brain operates equivalently to a machine, then according to the ChurchTuring thesis, the human brain would be no more powerful than a Turing machine. Hence, humans would be incapable of solving problems like the Halting problem. Humans may have fundamental limitations, just like computers. Others would view this differently. Rosenbloom concludes man can never eliminate the necessity of using his own cleverness, no matter how cleverly he tries.
Intuitively, computability tells us that to determine what a program actually does, you have to run the program.
Computable numbers. One of Turing's main interests was in defining computable number  those numbers whose digits can be described by a mechanical process. For example, it is possible to write a Turing machine that leaves the digits of π (3, 1, 4, 1, 5, etc) on some designated (writeonce) part of the tape. Even though π is irrational, after a finite number of steps the first N digits are printed on the special part of the tape. Other examples of computable numbers include all integers, all rational numbers, sqrt(2), all algebraic numbers, sin(10), and erf(.4), the zeros of the Bessel function, etc. This includes pretty much all numbers that arise in scientific computing.
Countable and uncountable numbers. A decision problem is a subset of strings over the some alphabet. There are countably many Turing machines (like the integers), but uncountably many decision problems (like the real numbers). Hence, virtually all decision problems are undecidable. This argument establishes the existence of undecidable problems, but does not construct any specific one like our proof of the undecidability of the halting problem. Similarly, there are only a countably infinite number of computable numbers, but uncountably many irrational numbers. Thus, most irrational numbers are not computable. Fortunately, the problems and numbers we encounter most often in science and engineering are decidable. Of course, this may be because those are exactly the ones with which we know how to cope!
Godel's incompleteness theorem. Turing undecidability result was anticipated by one of the most shocking blows that shook the very foundations of mathematics. In 1931, Kurt Godel proved that the most widely accepted mathematical formalization of the natural numbers (Principia Mathematica) was either incomplete (not every true statement could be proved true) or was inconsistent (some false statements could be proved true). Godel's incompleteness theorem applies to any formal mathematical system rich enough to include Peano's axioms of arithmetic.
Negative results. One of the distinguishing features of computer science that sets it apart from other sciences is the concept of "lower bounds" and "negative results." We see this with undecidability. We will also see it with NPcompleteness and its derivatives, and lower bounds for sorting. Some of the great achievements in the social and physical sciences have dealt with impossibility results. There is Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics, Arrow's impossibility theorem in economics, and Carnot's theorem in thermodynamics. In mathematics, there is Abel's impossibility theorem for finding the roots of 5th degree polynomials, the impossibility of trisecting an angle with a straightedge and compass, proving Euclid's Parallel Postulate and the existence of nonEuclidean geometry, the irrationality of the square root of 2, Lindenman's proof that π is transcendental. Outside of mathematic logic (e.g, Goedel's theorem), there are few disciplines with formal methodologies for proving such negative results.
Exercises
Creative Exercises
 (Hopcroft, Motwani, and Ullman.)
For each of the two instances to the PCP, either find a solution or
argue why no such solution is possible.
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 a aba b bb abb ba bab bbabaa ba ab ba b bb bab abb babaab
Answer: A solution to the first instance is bababaababb (202113). The second instance has no solution. Observe that all cards have at least as many b's on the bottom as on the top. We must start with card 1, which has one more b on the bottom than on the top.
 Solvable instance of PCP. The PCP problem is undecidable even if the only allowable symbols are 0 and 1. Devise an algorithm that determines whether a PCP problem is a yes instance assuming that the only allowable symbol is 1. Hint: requires some number theory.
 3x + 1 function.
It is not always easy to tell whether or not
a specific function terminates on all inputs, even if
the function is only a few lines long.
For example, consider whether or not
the following Collatz function
terminates for input
x
.void mystery(int x) { while (x > 1) { if (x % 2 == 1) x = 3*x + 1; else x = x / 2; } }
On many inputs, including 8 and 7, the program terminates:
mystery(8): 8 4 2 1 mystery(7): 7 22 11 34 17 52 26 13 40 20 10 5 16 8 4 2 1
At first glance, this appears like a simple problem. To determine whether or not a program terminates on any specific input, it is tempting to run the program with the given input and see what happens. If the program terminates, we can safely answer
yes
. The main obstacle is deciding when to stop and sayno
. Suppose we do stop the program at some point and answerno
. Maybe, if we had left the programming running just a bit longer, it would have terminated. There is no way to know for sure.  196 problem. Given a positive integer, reverse the digits and add it to the original number. Repeat until you get a palindrome. For example, if we start with 5280, the reverse is 825, so the next number is 5280 + 825 = 6105. The next number is 6105 + 5016 = 11121. The last number is 11121 + 12111 = 23232 since it is a palindrome. This reverse and add algorithm terminates quickly for most integers. Nobody knows whether it terminates for 196, although it is known not to terminate in the first 9 million iterations.
 Fermat style problem. Is there a positive integervalued solution to 313(a^{3} + b^{3}) = c^{3}? Write a program Cube.java that enumerates all integers a, b, and c and checks for a solution to the equation. Does the program halt (assuming no overflow)? Answer: yes, but don't wait around since the smallest counterexample has more than 1,000 digits!
 Fermat's last theorem. In 1XYZ Fermat conjectured that that there are no positive integers a, b, c, and n such that a^{n} + b^{n} = c^{n} for n > 2. Write a program Fermat.java to search for a counterexample and terminate if it finds one. Enumerate over all tuples a, b, c, and n in increasing order of c^{n}. In 19XY Andrew Wiles proved Fermat's last theorem, which implies that Fermat.java will never terminate, assuming no overflow.
 Quine. A quine is a program that when executes prints itself as output. Write a Java program Quine.java that is a quine. Reference. Here is a list of quines in many languages.
 Pangram.
Write a computer program to create true sentence of the form
"This computergenerated pangram contains _ a's, _ b's, ... "
where the blanks are replaced by English words for the numbers.
This computergenerated pangram contains six a's, one b, three c's, three d's, thirtyseven e's, six f's, three g's, nine h's, twelve i's, one j, one k, two l's, three m's, twentytwo n's, thirteen o's, three p's, one q, fourteen r's, twentynine s's, twentyfour t's, five u's, six v's, seven w's, four x's, five y's, and one z.
Reference: here
 Selfhalting problem. Selfhalting problem: given a program that takes one input, does it terminate when given itself as input? Prove that this problem is undecidable by following a similar argument as for the halting problem.
 Totality problem.
The totality problem is to decide whether an arbitrary Turing
machine halts on all inputs. Such a program would enable us
automatically detect for the possibility of infinite loops in our Java programs.
Prove that the totality problem is undecidable by showing that you
could solve the halting problem if you had a program TOTALITY(P)
that returns true or false depending on whether
the Turing machine P halts on all inputs.
Solution: suppose we want to solve the halting problem, e.g., to know whether the Turing machine Q halts on input x. Create a new machine P that takes an arbitrary input, ignores it, and runs Q on x. Now, P halts on all inputs if and only if Q halts on input x. Thus, we could use P to solve the halting problem.
 Program equivalence problem.
Prove that the program equivalence problems in undecidable.
Program equivalence problem:
given two programs P and Q, do they produce the same result
for all possible input values.
Such a program means that an optimizing compiler cannot
guarantee to find the optimally efficient program since there
may be better versions, but the compiler can't be sure that
they are equivalent.
Solution: We will restrict attention to Turing machines with no output  either they halt or don't halt. We can easily construct a Turing machine Q that always halts and outputs nothing. Then PEQ(P, Q) outputs true if and only if P halts for all possible input values. Thus, if we had a subroutine PEQ(P, Q) we could solve the totality problem, which is undecidable. Hence PEQ(P, Q) is as well.
 Busy beavers and computability. The busy beaver function B(n) is defined to be the maximal number of ones that an nstate Turing machine over the binary alphabet can leave on an initially blank tape, while still halting. The functions B(n) is not computable: it is not possible to write a computer program that will take in an integer n and return B(n). Jeffrey Shallit's handout provides a rigorous proof of this statement.
 A consequence.
Our proof of the undecidability of the Halting problem uses a Turing machines
whose input is a representation of itself.
In fact, the Halting problem is undecidable even if the input to the Turing machine
is blank (all 0's). Such machines are called Blank Tape Turing Machines.
Furthermore, the problem is undecidable even if we only allow
a two symbol alphabet (0 and 1).
We leverage the noncomputability of B(n) to establish this fact.
For the sake of contradiction, let's assume that we can decide whether or not any Turing machine M halts when started with a blank tape. Given such a decider, we'll show how to compute B(n).
INPUT: integer n FOREACH nstate Turing machine M  Check whether or not M halts when started with a blank tape  If it halts, run M until it halts and count how many 1's it leaves on the tape OUTPUT: the maximum number of 1's left on the tape by any machine
This procedure will terminate since there are only finitely many nstate Turing machines (and we can enumerate them in an orderly manner), and we only simulate the actions of those Turing machines that halt. This procedure computes B(n) since all nstate Turing machines that halt are considered. This construction implies that we have a method for computing B(n). Since computing B(n) is undecidable, our original assumption that we could decide whether a Turing machine halts must be invalid. Thus, it is impossible to write a computer program to decide whether a Turing machine will halt, even if the Turing machine begins with an empty tape and it works over the binary alphabet.
 Amoeba growth. Suppose that you start with one amoeba in a jar. Every minute, each amoeba turns into 0 (dies), 1 (does nothing), 2 (splits into two), or 3 (splits into three) amoeba with probability 25%. What is the probability that the amoeba population eventually goes extinct? Write a Java program to simulate this experiment. How do you know when to stop and conclude that the population will not die out? Answer: using probability theory, can compute that extinction probability = sqrt(2)  1. Using Java, no easy answer.
 60minute halting problem. Is it possible to write a program that takes as input another program and its input and determines whether or not it will halt in less than 60 minutes (say on a machine that performs one machine instruction per second)?
 Pell's equation. Pell's equation is to find an integer solution (x, y) to the equation x^2  Dy^2 = 1, where D is a positive integer. Find the small positive integer solution to x^2  991y^2  1 = 0. Answer: x = 1, y = 0 is a trivial solution, but the smallest positive position is x = 379516400906811930638014896080, y = 12055735790331359447442538767.
 Archimedes cattle problem. Following problem arose in the solution of Archimedes cattle problem, a numerical problem that defied mathematicians for over 200 years until advent of the computer age. Find smallest positive integral solution to x^2  4729494y^2 = 1. Answer: x = 109931986732829734979866232821433543901088049, y = 50549485234315033074477819735540408986340.