In the Beautiful World, my science fiction chapter of The Golden Ticket
where P = NP in a strong way, I predicted that we could predict weather accurately enough to know whether it will rain about a year into the future. Besides putting Novosibirsk on the wrong side of Moscow, my weather prediction prediction has drawn the most ire from my readers.
Here was my thinking: Weather forecasting comes down to modeling. Find a good model, use the current initial conditions and simulate the model. P = NP can help dramatically here by making what should be the hardest part, finding the right model, easy. P = NP would help create much better models and should lead to far more accurate and deep forecasts than before. A year ahead prediction of weather didn't seem out of the realm of possibility.
As my readers point out, one cannot put in all of the initial conditions which would involve too much data even if we could get it, and small random events, the so-called butterfly effect
, could dramatically change the weather in even a short period of time. Dean Foster, a Penn statistician, wrote me a short piece
giving an analogy to a game of pool over time changed by the gravity generated by a single proton.
So how far can you predict the weather if P = NP? A month? Of course we'll probably never find out since I doubt P and NP are the same. In retrospect I shouldn't have put in such an aggressive weather forecasting because it detracts from other great things that happen if P = NP such as curing cancer.