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On 13 July, the "Science Section" of The New York Times published a feature article based on an 8 July Nature article co-authored by Riccardo Zecchina, staff member of ICTP's Condensed Matter Group. Zecchina's article, which he wrote with colleagues from France (Remi Monasson), the United States (Scott Kirkpatrick and Bart Selman) and Israel (Lidror Troyansky), applied concepts and methods derived from statistical physics-in particular, 'phase transitions'-to the study of extremely difficult multivariable problems lying at the root of computer science. In Nature's "News and Views," also published in the 8 July edition, Nobel Laureate Philip W. Anderson prepared a lengthy comment on the Zecchina, et al., article in which he emphasised the "fascinating and unexpected implications" offered by the authors' novel insights-most notably, that multivariable computational problems may not become gradually more difficult to solve, but instead may move abruptly from easy to impossible to solve in a rapid phase transition, depending on the characteristics of the variables involved. The findings have implications for both computer science and statistical physics of nonlinear materials, and may play a role in the design of new algorithms for real-world applications.

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