Here’s an interesting article that provides five examples of unanswered problems in Computer Science. It’s a listing of some of the problems in Computer Science that deeply interest the author of the post. The issues he lists are the more theoretical ones, the problems and traits that come about because Computer Science is so rich not just in application, but in mathematical and scientific theory as well. These kinds of problems require setting hypotheses and running experiments designed to unravel their mystery.
For Computer Science majors, these kinds of problems suggest that there is another side to the field that is at least as interesting as all the practical application they’ve been mastering. This side is well worth studying, because open-ended and unsolved problems sometimes yield insights that later spawn innovation. Once purely theoretical concerns from switching theory, for example, inspired the design of the Internet as a network of interconnected routers that forward traffic toward its destination along a path that approaches the optimal. As another example, consider that obscure lessons about Galois fields and number groups from abstract algebra became the basis of modern cryptography, particularly for the Advanced Encryption Standard, the de facto standard for encrypting data today.
These examples should also inspire young mathematicians. Math majors should take pride in the fact that they are mastering the language that underpins these fantastic characteristics of Computer Science and that help Computer Scientists express and understand them. As it is for the natural sciences, mathematics is the language through which the science of computing finds expression.
Computer Science exhibits the same dichotomy one observes in Physics. There are physicists who are theoreticians who explore issues that, for now, would seem to have little practical import but are worth pursuing because they are questions in search of answers. The unanswered questions often prove to be tomorrow’s technology drivers. For this reason, theoretical physicists and empirical physicists complement each other. The same is true in Computer Science.
The theory is beautiful and mind-blowing. Once applied, it begins to transform the world. Theory plus practice yields wow.