Many times in a sandbox game, you have to make your own fun and set your own challenges. One such challenge in Elite: Dangerous is charting the fastest route from Earth to the first human colony Colonia — a trip that takes 22,000 light years to complete. Dr. Kevin Hamlen of the University of Texas at Dallas took up the challenge, using a graph theory problem and other lessons he teaches in his class to set a new record.
Dr. Hamlen plotted the course by downloading star map data and writing code to determine the most effective course. The data that needed to be crunched is massive — 1.3 million known neutron stars to be precise — and required Dr. Hamlen to use a number of tricks in order to write the code without the analytical aid of a larger computer. The final algorithm took him four hours to write.
The effort ended up paying off, with Dr. Hamlen making the journey in 1 hour, 38 minutes and 11 seconds, beating the original flight record by a whopping 12 minutes. What’s more, Dr. Hamlen has already beaten his original time by using additional computer science theories he teaches to refine his algorithm for a final flight time of 1 hour and 29 minutes. For those who need visual proof, you can see Dr. Hamlen’s flight embedded below. Congratulations CMDR!