$25k prize for solving computing's 'simplest' problem

Wolfram Research, the creator of Mathematica, is to award a $25,000 prize to the first person or group to solve a 70-year-old puzzle at the very core of modern computing.

The prize will go to whoever can prove, or disprove that a very simple theoretical computer, stipulated by Stephen Wolfram, can act as a universal computer – in other words, emulate any other possible computer.

The problem was originally laid down in 1937 by Alan Turing, and paved the way for the computer revolution. He created the Turing machine – an abstract model of a computer – and showed that a 'universal Turing machine' could in effect perform any computation.

Since then, there has been a fight to find the simplest universal Turing machine. In the '60s the simplest found had seven states and four colours – 28 operations in total. The prize was announced on the fifth anniversary of Stephen Wolfram’s book A New Kind of Science, which proved a machine with just two states and five colours is universal.

But Wolfram wants the prizewinner to go one better and prove that a machine with only two states and three colours is a universal Turing machine, making it the simplest possible.

The prize is open to anyone, has no closing date, and will be judged by a committee with nine members, including Stephen Wolfram.

Twitter icon
Google icon icon
Digg icon
LinkedIn icon
Reddit icon
e-mail icon

For functionality and security for externalised research, software providers have turned to the cloud, writes Sophia Ktori


Robert Roe looks at the latest simulation techniques used in the design of industrial and commercial vehicles


Robert Roe investigates the growth in cloud technology which is being driven by scientific, engineering and HPC workflows through application specific hardware


Robert Roe learns that the NASA advanced supercomputing division (NAS) is optimising energy efficiency and water usage to maximise the facility’s potential to deliver computing services to its user community


Robert Roe investigates the use of technologies in HPC that could help shape the design of future supercomputers