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Analytics Magazine

Thinking Analytically: The Traveling Spaceman Problem

May/June 2011

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By John Toczek

The Traveling Spaceman Problem
Figure 1:
Nine-galaxy universe.

When confronted with complex business analytics problems that beg for mathematical modeling, the reactive first response is, “Show me the data.” However, based on one of the recurring themes that came out of the recent INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research held in Chicago, the proper first response is, “Tell me about your business.”

Table 1: Coordinates for nine galaxies.
Table 1: Coordinates for nine galaxies.

Questions:

  1. Starting (and ending) at galaxy “a,” in what order should you visit each galaxy to minimize the traveled distance?  You must visit each galaxy and you cannot visit any galaxy more than once.
  2. What is the total distance traveled?

Hints:

  1. Larger galaxies indicate that they are closer to your viewpoint.
  2. This problem can be solved using AMPL.

Send your answer to ThinkingAnalytics@gmail.com by July 15. The winner, chosen randomly from the correct answers, will receive an “Analytics: Driving Better Business Decisions” T-shirt.

John Toczek is a risk analyst for ARAMARK Corporation in the Decision Support group. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering at Drexel University (1996) and his Master of Science in Operations Research from Virginia Commonwealth University (2005).

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE DIGITAL VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE

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