Doogie, Darwin, Dowry, and the TSP

A couple of teenagers from the U.S. visited the beautiful IIT campus in Madras (Chennai), India in 1989-90. They were not there to attend the popular collegiate cultural festival 'Mardi Gras' as it was known back in those days, but to present a research paper on AIDS. They happened to be brothers, Balamurali Ambati, and Jayakrishna Ambati, who completed medical school at a fairly young age. Per Wikipedia, BA graduated from the Mount Sinai school of medicine at the age of 13, and become a qualified doctor at 17 in 1995.

Today, the Ambani brothers hog the media space in India as they seek to become richer, but for a brief while in the 1990s, the elder Ambati brother got entangled in a 'dowry harassment' scandal. Dowry harassment reports was big news in India, with the per-capita dowry-deaths in line with the number of 'murder for insurance' cases in the US, or the wife-beating cases in Switzerland. Anyway, reports indicate that the case fell apart after the bride's father was recorded on tape trying to extort a few hundred big ones in blackmail money. Unfortunately for the elder brother, it looks like like he had to cool his heels in India until this case was wholly resolved, losing a good two years in the "youngest achiever" race, which has since become an idiotic, even deadly craze in Southern India. This is in contrast with the more comical approach in Northern India and Pakistan, where many kids are 2-5 years older than their official age. If you were that skinny, baby-faced runt in a middle school in Bangalore, he would be that guy with the stubble in the last bench, and the captain of your school's football (soccer) and (field-) hockey teams.

Pardon the digression. Around the time the Ambati brothers visited the IITM campus (A former student reminisces here) to talk about AIDS, they were also the primary authors of this published paper on the traveling salesman problem. The title is exciting, but a tad misleading, in that it hints at a polynomial time algorithm for the NP-Hard TSP. It resembles a randomized heuristic approach based on the theory of natural selection, and appears to possess good computational properties, and has been cited more than once in followup research in this area. On the other hand, I don't think even Doogie did any OR work, real or fictional.

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