October 24, 2011, 7:30 am

By Robert Talbert

*This is the second installment of a two-part article from guest blogger Ed Aboufadel. Thanks again, Ed, for contributing.*

In Part I, we learned of an instance of the NP-complete problem *subset-sum* [1] that was solved by three lawyers on an episode of the USA Network show Suits [2]. The problem was to go through a set of deposits made to five banks in Liechtenstein and find a subset of deposits, where the total of the deposits was $152,375,242.18. Described as “simple mathematics” by one of the lawyers, the team solved the problem in a relatively short length of time. They couldn’t use a quick approximation algorithm for subset-sum, since they needed the sum to be exactly equal to their target amount. So, were they just lucky, smarter than the rest of us, or did they do something practically impossible?

Consider the following “back of the envelope” calculations. First,…

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October 17, 2011, 7:30 am

By Robert Talbert

*For the next couple of weeks, Math Monday here at the blog will feature a guest blogger. Ed Aboufadel is Professor of Mathematics and chair of the Mathematics Department at Grand Valley State University, where I work. He’ll be writing a two-part series on a neat appearance of an NP-complete problem on network TV, adding yet another data point that mathematics is indeed everywhere. Thanks in advance, Ed! *

On the new USA-network TV series *Suits* [1], Harvey Specter is a senior partner at the law firm of Pearson Hardman, and Mike Ross is his new associate. Mike never went to law school, but he combines a photographic, elephantine memory with near-genius intelligence to fake it well. Harvey is in on the deception, but none of the other partners know. During the eighth episode of the first season of *Suits* (broadcast August 11, 2011), Harvey and Mike, working with Louis Litt, a…

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