Matthew Cook

From Academic Kids

Matthew Cook was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 1970 and grew up in Evanston, Illinois. His undergraduate studies were at the University of Illinois and the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program. In 1990, Cook went to work for Wolfram Research, makers of the computer algebra system Mathematica. In 1999, Cook went to Caltech for doctoral work in Computation and Neural Systems.

In the 1980s Cook excelled in mathematics, winning national competitions and qualifying as a member of the six-person US team to the International Mathematical Olympiad.

In the 1990s Cook worked as a research assistant to Stephen Wolfram, where among other things he developed a proof showing that the Rule 110 cellular automaton is Turing-complete. Cook presented his proof at the Santa Fe Institute conference CA98. Wolfram Research claimed that by publicly discussing his proof, Cook might be in violation of his NDA, and they blocked the publication of his proof from the conference proceedings. However, in 2002, Wolfram's own book, A New Kind of Science, presented an outline of the proof. Finally, in 2004, Wolfram's journal Complex Systems published Cook's original proof. Rule 110 is an extremely simple system, and the fact that it is Turing-complete is remarkable.

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