Computer science professor uses lessons he teaches to set a new flight record in Elite Dangerous


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!

source: UT Dallas website, thanks to Kim for the tip!

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Honestly, elite dangerous has some of the coolest “feeling” flight of any game i’ve played. I’ve got a giant Thrustmaster HOTAS flight stick I bought for BF III when it came out. Used it for ED when it came out and thought the flight was pretty flipping awesome.The first time I used the hyper-jump was incredible.

Sadly the game has no depth at all. It’s huge and pretty but there’s basically no game-play. Still, sometimes I’ll drag out my flight stick and fire up ED just to fly around and feel cool.


I do understand what you’re saying, but I do disagree about the depth. Yes, E:D isnt the typical kind of game with a huge storyline you follow, a story you can complete, no real leveling etc.
If you want, you can just spend your pilot-life being some kind of a trucker dude, trading on the outskirts of the bubble to amass money while totally ignoring what is going on, if you do enjoy that kind of gameplay… trading, finding good traderoutes, earning money for better ships, running from NPC pirates interjecting you, or other players doing the same, or just enjoying the flying while, I dunno, listening to podcasts, audiobooks or watching something.

However, there is a lot of stuff you can do, and a variety too. You can work on your flying skills and become a really really good pilot who can easily take on harder enemies (NPC or players), optimizing your ship, deciding on whether you wanna fly a huge weapon platform or a small, very fast ship, even holding yourself against a whole squad (once you get into switching of flight assist for more advanced maneuvers, you can do some amazing stuff). YOu can unlock the engineers and tune your weapons and components. You can head out into the dark to look for systems that were never scanned, and if you do find new worlds, your name will be attached to them as the one who found them, for everyone to see.

There are big player-run events such as those long journeys to faraway systems. There are groups like the Fuel Rats, who enjoy saving pilots who ran out of fuel, using a very cool organisational structure.

Then there are events where new things happen, and players get involved to figure out just WHAT is happening. When the first player was suddenly interjected by a Thargoid, when no patch note said that “yeah, patch x.x, now there are aliens”… well, the player was suddenly interjected and scanned by a strange alien ship. Imagine you are flying around, there are some rumors that the Thargoids MIGHT come back… some alien barnacle-type things have appeared on planets, with many players trying EVERYTHING to find out what the deal is about them. And so you fly around, and suddenly, your systems are switched off and you see this absolutely strange ship scanning you and then disappearing.

Months later, the bubble is overrun by alien ships, systems are being taken over if players dont organize and fight back.

I have played the game a lot, even though I usually do so for only a few weeks at a time, and yes, you WILL have to LOOK for activities, have a steep learning curve at first, and a lot of it depends on players working together. Its quite unlike other MMOs, with a lot of guidance or a very clear story one can follow, but I totally disagree that there is no depth. I know, matter of taste, matter of opinion! =)


Maybe my impression is wrong, but afaik most of that is behind paywall expansions. I bought ED when it first came out and aside from space-trucking and fighting some pc/npc ships, there wasn’t that much else to do. Can I, with the base game I paid for only, enjoy most of that content competitively, or would I be that hopelessly outclassed guy in the non upgradeable vanilla-era ship?

Tbh: any game where the “you can do this while you watch Netflix or read a book” doesn’t really scream enjoyable GAMEPLAY, whether it’s ED or Eve.


Well, if you consider an expansion a paywall, then yes. However, isnt that the case with EVERY MMO? If you don’t purchase the xpacs, you cant progress further, cant access new content.
If you bought, say, WOW with no xpacs, there is a limit of stuff you can do, but there is a hard limit.
The xpac gives you quite a bit of stuff to do, whether its planetary landings, engineers, whatever.
You surely CAN beat players that use engineer mods if you are a good pilot, but I really do recommend to get Frontier.

Regarding watching Netflix… I was referring to stuff like travelling or some of the trade hauling (even though, when you are interdicted by NPCs, other players or Goids, you might wanna pause that show).

When hunting Thargoids, doing combat zones etc, I doubt you’ll want to focus on a movie while doing so.
However, when you travel far with tons of jumps, I guess its nice to do something on the side. Which, again, isnt that different from other games, really.
When I play WOW and, say, farm resources, I might watch some Netflix while doing so. I even do it while leveling an alt as that is not that immersive or difficult really. When I fly around with, say, my blacksmith/miner, gatheing ore, I really enjoy listening to an audiobook or watching a show while doing so.

In E:D, sure… if you go to Colonia with tons of jumps, some distraction is nice. However, doing that isnt mandatory. There will be some longer journeys youll want to make, eg. to unlock some of the engineers, but if you prefer to do stuff like smuggling, hunting Goids, doing PVE or PVP, it should be quite entertaining.
Stuff like the se long journeys with endless jumps… I dunno, its just my opinion, but its pretty immersive or makes you actually realize just how BIG the universe you are flying in is. Yeah, it can be tough to do a journey with hundreds or thousands of jumps, but then again, it would be incredibly boring if you could jump from one end of the universe to the next in one jump.


360+ words to say “yeah, all the interesting stuff is behind the expansion”.

My point wasn’t to trash your beloved game, it was to simply say the basic game is pretty dull.


360+ words and you still misunderstood me. No, not ALL of the interesting stuff is behind a paywall. Just like with every MMO, you have a base game with some content, and more content is part of expansions. I am not sure that “paywall” is the right term for an expansion, but lets not mince words.

With the base game, you already have access to a ton of stuff. You cant do planetary landings or get to the engineers, plus some other things. Still, you can fly the different ships and work on mastering them and combat itself. You can engage in PVP and PVE, work on reputations, Elite ranks, take part in community goals, do missions, earn a ton of credits trading, explore etc. All that is available in the base game. If you wanna go beyond that, yes, you’ll need the expac, but isn’t that true for almost every MMO?

Also, ED is not “my beloved game”. I like it, and I have enjoyed playing it, but I am not some kind of fanboi who defends it no matter what. I do agree that it has some flaws and definitely isnt for everyone.
Still, I disagreed to the OP about it having no depth, and laid out my reasons why. Doesnt mean its “my beloved game”. Its just a game I like, even though I know it has flaws.


“In Space…no one can hear you snore…” ;)

That’s about as exciting as watching paint dry.


Yeah, I’ll just have to take his word for it rather than watch the hour and a half flight myself.

Reginald Atkins

That’s rather awesome, but the more I hear about this game the more I’m convinced I’m not smart enough to play it. I mean.. I could draw your portrait and make it look like a photo but do what he did, hell even come close… it’s so far beyond me the unit of measure doesn’t exist yet.


But you can get by just fine in the game without shaving a few minutes off your flight time :P


He’ll get a line of students next year, I bet. And probably an article in history books how he’s the author of the most commonly used algorithm to calculate the optimal route for a starship to get Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.

p.s. Outside of “Rogue One” – modern Star Wars movies are a pile of steaming poo, just like Predator and Terminator series with half-(or completely)dead actors.

Patreon Donor

that’s fantastic!