in reply to
Re: Re: about Coolness, Impatience and Complexity
in thread about Coolness, Impatience and Complexity
Still, when we talk about "polynomial time", what we really mean is
"polynomial in the length of the problem using a reasonable encoding
scheme." Not "polynomial in the number of entities in the input set,"
though we sometimes ignore the distinction. If the point and the line in
your geometrical computation are specified with 512 bit numbers, that's
a larger problem than if they were only 16 bits. You can't reduce that -
it's information theory.
No, what we mean is "polynomial in the size of the input". That could be
bits if your computational model asks for that. If your computational
model is geometry, then your input might consist of points and lines.
Not bits. Bits don't play part in geometry. They might play a part in an
implementation of the model, but not in the computational model itself.
Yes, this requires a level of abstraction, but that's why we call it
Any physical machine you build is going to have a finite number of bits
of processing power available to it. We can't make computers out of
infinitesimally thin Euclidian line segments. A quantum computer might
be able to consider a virtually unlimited number of possibilities at
the same time, but it has a limited number of qubits and they have to
collapse down into one answer before it can be printed out on the screen.
All true, but not really relevant. If we have an O (f (N))
geometric algorithm (I graduated in the closely related fields of
datastructures and computational geometry, hence bringing up geometry
over and over again) and we want to implement it on a real machine,
we might have to multiply or divide by a factor of log N (or
something else) somewhere to get a running time expressed in the
number of bits of the input. 
But we'll have the same
conversion for another algorithm. Hence, the relation of running time
(and space) complexities in one computational model stay the same in
the other, assuming you use the same implementation. Of course, in a
numbers are limited to 32, 64,
128 or some other number of bits, which is a constant disappearing in
the big-Oh anyway.
If we start talking about machines that are impossible to build, are we
still doing computer science? I don't say this to be facetious, but just
to ask what computer science really is.
Well, it was you who brought up Turing Machine. ;-)
you ever seen a Turing Machine? Not only are they impossible to build,
if they would exist they are quite impractical to do real computation
on. But much of the theory of Computer Science is founded on Turing
Machines. Take away Turing Machines, and Computer Science no longer is
the Computer Science we all know.
Do not forget the words of one of the most famous Computer Scientists
of all times, Edsgar Dijkstra: computer science is as much about
computers as astronomy is about telescopes. Computer Science is
a big misnomer; the French word is much better: Informatique
(I hope I spelled that right), which is described by the French
academy of Science as the science of processing, possibly by using
automata, of information, where information is the is knowledge and
data. I'm sure it sounds a lot better in French. ;-) There are a few
European departments that use the term "Computing Science" when
translating their department to English. I prefer Computing Science
over Computer Science as well.
I'm using a lot of handwaving here. An algorithm
on N numbers each consisting of M bits (and hence having size
N*M) doesn't need to have the same running time when it's run
on an input of M numbers each consisting of N bits (which also
has size N*M).