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A Pragmatic View of the Four-Color Theorem: A Resurrection of the Most Famous False Proof in History

by

Stan Wagon
Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota

February 2, 1998
4:00 pm
Humanities 019

Refreshments will be served at 3:45 in Humanities 019.


Abstract:

Perhaps the most famous false proof ever is Kempe's 1879 "proof" of the 4-color theorem. That result states that any map in the plane can be colored using 4 colors so that adjacent countries use different colors. There was a hole in Kempe's reasoning and a proper proof was not found until 1976. But what about the question: Can one program a computer to take a given map in the plane and four-color it? I will show how the ideas of Kempe's proof are really not so bad at all, from a computer's perspective: they lead to some nice algorithms for coloring maps.


For additional information, send e-mail to math@union.edu or call (518) 388-6246.
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