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Algorithm history project

qwr

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I am interested in the history of mathematics. For example, you may not have known the Fibonacci numbers were described by Indian mathematicians 2 millennia before Fibonacci, and a form of Gaussian elimination to solve a system of linear equations in Chinese mathematical texts 2 millennia before Gauss. That is what inspired me to try to find out the origins of algorithms. In math many times we can only do with first attested or recorded instance - we'll never know who was really the first person to write down the first couple prime numbers or discover the sune algorithm. New enough algs like the zoomer S move V perm we can be reasonably confident who invented. So my idea is to try to catalogue the earliest known inventors or recorded instances of algs.

Here is an example. I have recently decided to switch to the wide-F V perm. This is probably its origin, given the algorithm was found through computer search (if a computer lists an alg but it is never singled out by the author, it doesn't count)


Robert Yau found out about it, told Antonie Paterakis (according to this video) and it spread from there.



From Jessica Fridrich's site, we can credit certain algs to her, Mirek Goljan, and other speedcubers from around 1981-1983. Here are my observations about the PLLs:
  • Ub: R²U Fs R²Bs U R², in modern notation R2 U (F B') R2 (B F') U R2, is equivalent R2 U S' U2 S U R2.
  • Ab: lefty standard A perm
  • Z: fascinating algs. Ls Ds2 Ls D Ls2 U' Bs2 in modern notation is (L R') (D2 U2) (L R') D (L2 R2) U' (B2 F2) is equivalent to M' S2 M D M2 D' S2
  • H: Ra U² Ra'Fa'U² Fa in modern notation is (R L) U2 (R' L') (F' B') U2 (F B)
  • E: doesn't look like the standard RUD alg
  • T: R B U'B'U B U B²R'B U B U'B' is the standard alg but in the back
  • V: F'U F'U'R'D R'D'R²F'R'F R F is related to modern alg but on different faces. L'U R U'L U L'U R'U'L U²R U²R' can be turned into RUD alg
  • F: none are standard T-perm based alg.
  • Rb: idk enough to talk about these
  • Jb: more move efficient but not as good
  • Y: none look like standard Y-perm
  • Ga?: idk
  • Nb: idk either
 

Christopher Mowla

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I like where you're going with this! I find it great to be able to seek out the first mention of an algorithm that we know of today. But of course we need to also consider all transformations of an algorithm too, otherwise we may miss out identifying the earliest occurrence of the algorithm. (Take when reThinkingTheCube pointed out that Stefan technically found Lucas Parity several years before Lucas did.)

This was actually my main reason for going through the depths that I did when writing up the 4x4x4 parity algorithms speedsolving wiki page (specifically, providing a link to the source).

I am not sure what would come of this "research" that you are potentially planning to do, but at least you can learn to recognize transformations better!
 
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qwr

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This is for fun and idk how much I will do - probably when I am less busy. I think it's better to be inclusive when talking about algorithms and transformations: for example record someone came up with alg x first and it was modified to the popular form x' now. My main problem is that I just don't have knowledge of that many algs.
 

Christopher Mowla

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Yeah, that will be the biggest challenge. This will have to be a community effort (and a several year project, since people are inactive some years and active in others).

You would have to literally put a list of algorithms somewhere that everyone can access, and then people can post a URL (whether web.archive if the page doesn't exist) with a date under whichever algorithm they know the origins of. (And if it's a transformation of the algorithm, they need to show the steps to transform the version of the alg that they found to become the specific version of the alg that you put in the list.)

The earliest date (or the mention of a founder and date) wins . . . until someone else comes along and provides an earlier date.

You can also get popular YouCubers to advertise the project so that perhaps they can get more participants worldwide onboard.
 
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SnowyDay

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That would be a big project but there may be some academic interest in seeing how algs have evolved over time. Particularly as computer processing power improved and the popularity of the cube ebbed and flowed.

For older algs, one could source published books from say 1975 forward; the auction sites like eBay/Amazon in the US or Yahoo in Japan would be helpful.

Universities have access to research and news databases that would be helpful, especially for news after say 1990.

That would require some global efforts and some language skills. Some mobile phones have a camera that does realtime translation of text, overlaying your native language on the image, real-time. Some android phones have this; it's google and it's free so the translation is terrible but it is a great place to start. I don't know if iPhones have this functionality.
 

qwr

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You would have to literally put a list of algorithms somewhere that everyone can access, and then people can post a URL (whether web.archive if the page doesn't exist) with a date under whichever algorithm they know the origins of.
My idea was to append to current speedsolving wiki, which already serves as a community built list of algs.
 

qwr

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Maybe someone can create a bot which searches the web for every possible transformation of an algorithm and view the results that it gives. (Just as a start.)
That's true. I was planning to read through a few primary sources (Fridrich's site, Singmaster's notes, early cubing mailing lists, Pochmann's and Vandenbergh's sites) and pick from there. But often with my projects I never get around to them.
 
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