The Schedule Makers

Check out this wonderful short from ESPN on the Cape Code couple who sat at the kitchen table in their Cape Code home and created the Major League Baseball scheduled for decades.

Henry and Holly Stephenson

Henry and Holly Stephenson, the husband and wife team who created the MLB schedule for 25 years.

It’s now done by another company that presumably relies more on algorithms. Although it seems like the mathematics (and the psychology) of scheduling makes it an unsolvable problem, in the sense that no one solution optimizes all the conditions. From a web site on a math course on scheduling at the University of Alabama:

Although the Critical-Path Algorithm is generally better than the Decreasing-Time Algorithm, neither is guaranteed to produce an optimal schedule.   In fact, no efficient scheduling algorithm is presently known that always gives an optimal schedule.  However, the Critical-Path Algorithm is the best general-purpose scheduling algorithm currently known.

If you look for algorithms on the web, you come to this wikipedia page, where the focus is approaches for scheduling tasks in computer processors.  That perhaps sounds dry, but one of the algorithms is called “Credit-based fair queuing” and another is “Brain Fuck Scheduler” I don’t understand either of them, but I now suspect the latter  has been in use by my computer for years; I just didn’t know the term. Its emblem is that spinning beach ball. Somehow I prefer the idea of people like the Stephensons handling the big jobs in the universe and then taking the dog for a walk.

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