Donald Knuth: Algorithms, TeX, Life, and The Art of Computer Programming

Donald Knuth is one of the greatest and most impactful computer scientists and mathematicians ever. He is the recipient in 1974 of the Turing Award, considered the Nobel Prize of computing. He is the author of the multi-volume work, the magnum opus, The Art of Computer Programming. He made several key contributions to the rigorous analysis of the computational complexity of algorithms. He popularized asymptotic notation, that we all affectionately know as the big-O notation. He also created the TeX typesetting which most computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, and scientists and engineers use to write technical papers and make them look beautiful.

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Episode Links:
The Art of Computer Programming (book set)

Here’s the outline of the episode. On some podcast players you should be able to click the timestamp to jump to that time.

00:00 – Introduction
03:45 – IBM 650
07:51 – Geeks
12:29 – Alan Turing
14:26 – My life is a convex combination of english and mathematics
24:00 – Japanese arrow puzzle example
25:42 – Neural networks and machine learning
27:59 – The Art of Computer Programming
36:49 – Combinatorics
39:16 – Writing process
42:10 – Are some days harder than others?
48:36 – What’s the “Art” in the Art of Computer Programming
50:21 – Binary (boolean) decision diagram
55:06 – Big-O notation
58:02 – P=NP
1:10:05 – Artificial intelligence
1:13:26 – Ant colonies and human cognition
1:17:11 – God and the Bible
1:24:28 – Reflection on life
1:28:25 – Facing mortality
1:33:40 – TeX and beautiful typography
1:39:23 – How much of the world do we understand?
1:44:17 – Question for God