Laboratory for New Media 11th Exhibition
“The Art of 1064 -Understanding Vastness-”

Laboratory for New Media Permanent Exhibition periodically updates contents of exhibitions to introduce the various possibilities of expression provided by information science and technology. The 1064 indicated in the title is a massive number - a ‘one’ followed by 64 zeros. However, if we try to find optimal combinations in real systems such as train connections or electrical grids, the number of possibilities can easily be this large. Ultra-fast algorithms are useful in efficiently calculating the optimal solution when there is an almost infinite number of combinations. In this exhibition, you gain first-hand experience of the “art” of this technology, and see how it will affect our future.

First, we must count! (Novice level)

What kind of devices will enable us to count everything without duplicates or omissions? Humans and computers count in different ways, and some hints can be found in the way that computers see and count using only zeros and ones. It is important to actually count everything, and not just search for answers to our current questions. If we can count (or list) all possibilities, then we can quickly answer new questions by searching for the new answers. We may even notice hidden things which we have previously overlooked.

See the explosive power of combinations! (Student level)

Just a slight increase in the number of things to be counted results in a colossal increase in the number of possible combinations that can be formed, a phenomenon called “combinatorial explosion.” Imagine counting 1064 combinations. This would take about 1039 years, even if we had a computer capable of counting 1017 objects every second, but it is said that only about 13.7 billion (108) years have passed since the beginning of the universe. At this rate, it is unlikely we could finish counting before the universe came to an end.

Total number of routes that do not pass by the same place twice

Time with class ! Let's count!

Learn the secret of “compression”! (Elementary level)

If you look carefully at a tree diagram of a massive number of possible combinations, you will notice several things. Many parts of the tree have the same form, and many parts give the same result regardless of which path is taken. This is where we can utilize our intuition and flexibility. By using our ingenuity, we can compress what looks like a truly colossal number of combinations into just a few hundred-millionths of the original size, allowing us to tackle problems which were previously considered utterly impossible.

Break down the mysterious “compression”! (Assistant instructor level)

Now, we will experience how the tree diagram of possible combinations is actually transformed through the process of “compression.”

The future world that is being created by “compression” (Grand master level)

Studying combinations and compression in familiar games or in arranging tiles on a floor, has helped develop new medicines and ways to deal with disasters. Human intelligence has enabled the rapid expansion of the domains that can be tackled by computers, and there is no doubt that this will result in considerable changes in our way of life. Perhaps the things that you have learned from this exhibition will serve as hints, as we move step by step into a future where calculations and expressions which were previously considered impossible become possible for the first time.

Term August 1 (Wed.), 2012 – April 15(Mon.), 2013
Exhibitors JST ERATO Minato Discrete Structure Manipulation System Project

  • The JST ERATO Minato Discrete Structure Manipulation System Project is one of the Strategic Basic Research Programs led by the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), an independent administrative agency. The project researches “algorithm technology” that enables mathematical condensation and efficient processing of complicated computations. It aims to build a technical platform for processing large-scale practical problems in various fields.
    JST ERATO Minato Discrete Structure Manipulation System Project

  • Shinichi Minato (Research Director, ERATO / Professor, Laboratory for Algorithmics, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, Hokkaido University / Ph.D, Engineering)

    NTT Laboratories (1990 - 2004), Visiting Scholar at Stanford University (1997), Associate Professor at Hokkaido University (2004), Professor at Hokkaido University (2010 to present)