'Travelling Salesman', Thursday 14 March 2013


Travelling Salesman poster

Date: Thursday 14 March 2013, 6.30 pm

Venue: Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Clarkson Road, Cambridge CB3 0WA

Tickets: £5.50 each - book tickets online here.

Event open to ages 16+

As part of the Cambridge Science Festival, we're screening the award-winning indie film Travelling Salesman, a gripping, dialogue-driven thriller exploring the potential consequences of solving the P vs NP problem.


Travelling Salesman is an intellectual thriller which imagines that four brilliant mathematicians discover a solution to one of the major unsolved problems in mathematics, P vs NP, with profound implications for computer science and cryptography. Offered $10 million dollars by the US government for exclusive access to their work, they must grapple with the practical and moral repercussions as they make a life-changing decision. (Find out more about the mathematical background in our article about the Travelling Salesman problem.)

Travelling Salesman uses the mathematical context to explore issues of ethics, moral responsibility, and intellectual freedom versus patriotic duty. It has won several awards including Best Feature Film at the 2012 Silicon Valley Film Festival. Offering a rare chance to see the film ahead of a confirmed date for general release, this screening forms part of the Cambridge Science Festival and takes place on Pi Day.

Entry is by ticket only (£5.50 each - book tickets online here). The running time of the film is 80 minutes, and there will be a short introduction by Rachel Thomas, Editor of Plus. Suitable for ages 16+

Read Plus's film review and listen to a podcast with director Timothy Lanzone on Plus or see the official Travelling Salesman website.

"It's not often the very first person you meet in a movie is a mathematician. The second, third and fourth people on screen also being mathematicians is even rarer. But Travelling Salesman is a rare movie: not only are almost all of the characters mathematicians, the central plot also hinges on the solution of one of the most important problems in mathematics. This tense thriller ... has all the vital ingredients for an edge-of-your-seat film: hidden identities, surly government agents, threats of violence, moral dilemmas and a potential global catastophe.... It was very impressive to see such a sophisticated mathematical concept used with such imagination and integrity on the screen. ... And at the heart of this story was that mathematics now underpins so much of our lives, meaning that mathematical discoveries could have a dramatic impact on the world, leading to new advances or to potential catastrophe and all the moral dilemmas that entails." Plus

"It is not often that espionage thrillers feature a round of peer review, but this early scene is a natural fit for Travelling Salesman, a film based on the premise that the biggest unsolved problem in computer science has been cracked. ... P = NP ... is a great premise that writers Andy and Timothy Lanzone use to explore the theme of scientific hubris. Travelling Salesman’s mathematicians are all too aware of what their work will do to the world, and watching them argue how to handle the consequences offers a thriller far more cerebral than most." New Scientist