Q* = Q + A* ?

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Recent buzz over "Q*" started with stories about 10 days ago. A recent Wired article explains:

Last week, after briefly deposed CEO Sam Altman was reinstalled at OpenAI, two reports claimed that a top-secret project at the company had rattled some researchers there with its potential to solve intractable problems in a powerful new way.

“Given vast computing resources, the new model was able to solve certain mathematical problems,” Reuters reported, citing a single unnamed source. “Though only performing math on the level of grade-school students, acing such tests made researchers very optimistic about Q*’s future success.” The Information said that Q* was seen as a breakthrough that would lead to “far more powerful artificial intelligence models,” adding that “the pace of development alarmed some researchers focused on AI safety,” citing a single unnamed source.

That article goes on to speculate that

The name may be an allusion to Q-learning, a form of reinforcement learning that involves an algorithm learning to solve a problem through positive or negative feedback, which has been used to create game-playing bots and to tune ChatGPT to be more helpful. Some have suggested that the name may also be related to the A* search algorithm, widely used to have a program find the optimal path to a goal.

We'll find out eventually where the name comes from, and whether the hype is justified.

My question: What other conventional names for algorithms (or similar things) are single capital letters (perhaps with a non-alphabetic extension like "*")?

These are names for sets rather than algorithms, but in formal language theory, there's Σ* for the set of all strings over an alphabet Σ, and L* for the closure of a language L…

Update — Sampling the alphabet a bit further, and relaxing the category to include programming languages, there's C, and its offshoots C++ and C#. Also R, previously known as S.




  1. Philip Taylor said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 8:54 am

    Not an algorithm but "similar things" — Student’s T-test, the Riemann–Siegel Z function ?

  2. Cervantes said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 10:40 am

    Many statistical tests have one letter names: r (usually not capitalized), F, T as Philip says. These can indeed be classified as algorithms. Many other kinds of functions have one letter names, whether Greek or Roman. This is commonplace in mathematics. Not sure if that's really what you're asking, seems too obvious.

  3. unekdoud said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 11:43 am

    Since the context is computing: P vs NP.

    Before a certain single-letter social network name, there was FB which bought over IG and WA. And the popular platform YT was used to push G+.

  4. Coby said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 2:08 pm

    There is the H-theorem in thermodynamics, where the H is actually capital eta, but it's usually called the aitch-theorem.

  5. AntC said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 4:56 pm

    there's C, …

    The C (programming language) was derived from (a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B_(programming_language)">B, which was a shortening of BCPL, which was 'Basic CPL' some say, but others say 'Basically Chris's Programming Language', 'Chris' = Christopher Strachey.

    The BCPL compiler could optionally produce 'O-code', a high-level assembly language to be interpreted on an abstract machine, where 'O' = Object.

    β-reduction, α-renaming, η-expansion ?

    ξ-notation in Wittgenstein's Tractatus

  6. /df said,

    December 3, 2023 @ 7:41 pm

    I see your O-code and raise you UCSD Pascal's p-code.

    And https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_programming_languages reveals, in case there was any doubt, that not having an eponymous programming language is exceptional for letters of the alphabet.

  7. bks said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 8:12 am

    P, F1, F2 in Mendelian genetics:

  8. KeithB said,

    December 4, 2023 @ 9:33 am

    There is the "Q" of a filter in electronics.

  9. Rod Johnson said,

    December 5, 2023 @ 5:05 pm

    Not an algorithm, but: N, as in "what's your N?" (Number of data points)


    ℝ (set of real numbers)?

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