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While you’re kicking your heels at home wondering how remote working is supposed to fill eight hours of a day without endless meetings, here’s a problem for the mathematicians in the shipping sector to get their heads around, courtesy of the wonderful Smithsonian Magazine. It describes the ‘knapsack problem’, which pervades almost every aspect of our lives, and one which containership stowage planners wrestle with on a daily basis. It belongs to a class of “non-deterministic polynomial time” problems that exist in mathematics, which “force a computer to go through many steps to arrive at a solution, and the number increases dramatically based on the size of the inputs – for example, the inventory of items to choose from when stuffing a particular knapsack”.


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