Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Three interesting points on Princeton architecture

The bumps and shapes on top of the free-standing arcade outside of Frist Campus Center are not just random pieces of architectural flair, but are actually the tops of the letters of the words "FRIST CAMPUS CENTER." Due to disputes between the town, university and the architects, the signage was reduced to what we see now.

Frist Campus Center

Revealing the Letters

(Images courtesy of me.)

In theoretical computer science, "P=NP" is an unverified identity that has kept computer scientists scratching their heads for a number of years. To make up for my severe lack of expertise in this field, my friend Dan O'Shea did a quick write up of the significance of P=NP:

Dan explains: "P=NP is widely considered the most important, unsolved question in computer science today. The question essentially asks whether a large class of problems labeled NP currently considered mathematically intractable are indeed tractable. The labels P and NP essentially describe how quickly the amount of time and memory required to solve a particular problem (say, sorting a list of N numbers) grows with the size of the problem (here, N). While P problems aren't necessarily easy, they tend to be significantly more manageable than NP problems. Many fields and applications, including the encryption that protects your personal information on the internet, rely on how impossibly time-consuming some NP problems are to solve. If P indeed equals NP, then many problems currently considered intractable could be solved efficiently. Consequently, the question has enormous real-world significance, and the Clay Mathematics Institute has offered a $1 million Millennium Prize to anyone who answers the question with proof."

To honor this seemingly insurmountable, theoretical obstacle, the Computer Science Building has a pattern of bricks on the side that reads "P=NP?" in 7-bit ASCII values:

x 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 x
x 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 x
x 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 x
x 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 x
x 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 x

Here are the images:

Computer Science Building

Close up of the brick pattern

Apparently, if the question is ever answered, the question mark can be removed.

Thanks to Dan O'Shea over at djoshea.com for filling the blanks with his computer science expertise.

This information courtesy of Princeton's Department of Computer Science, photos courtesy of me.


(Note: looks like some of these images aren't available if you're not on the Princeton network. I'll look into it and hopefully have the links fixed soon.

When it was constructed in 1951, Corwin Hall stood near the corner of Washington Road and Prospect Ave. To make way for the construction of Roberston Hall, which would be the new Woodrow Wilson School, Corwin Hall was moved to its current location at the back of Skudder Plaza, behind the fountain. Mudd Manuscript Library's blog has an interesting post with the following video of the move in action:

From the air

From the side (that's Frick Lab in the background)

These photos and facts can be found in links on this page: Corwin Hall Buildling Highlights

(part of An Interactive Campus History)


  1. Yep, I always tell my tours about the Frist Campus Center blocks.. Didn't know about the comp sci building, that's neat. And my dad, an ancient '64er, has told me how the WWS was also moved in on wheels, like Corwin Hall was moved out.

  2. I'm actually disappointed that some people didn't know about the Frist Campus Center thing. I mean, sit on the lawn in front of Woolworth for about 20 minutes, and you can't miss it. Look up, sheeple!