"We want to know: is it possible that the system does a particular thing in the future?"

Through Ariadne’s guidance

The modern-day incarnation of an ancient Greek goddess is a software package that provides rigorous, mathematical certainty about problems involving change.

Applying Ariadne

Indeed, the Minotaur using Theseus’ string to escape the maze seems like an outcome the Greek Ariadne would have wanted to rule out. There is no shortage of modern problems for Ariadne’s software counterpart to tackle either.

 “We are currently looking into applying ARIADNE to railway signaling”, says Collins. “You don’t want trains to crash or to run through red signs.” However, the software applies to many types of situations. “ARIADNE provides a very general framework for rigorous analysis of all kinds of problems, and we are constantly working on enlarging the kind of systems we can look at.”

Ariadne’s mathematics

The software’s strength lies in how it embeds confidence in its answers. “The mathematics behind ARIADNE is calculus, the kind that you might study in the first year of university. If you go a bit further in applied mathematics, people get computers to solve these problems. Doing that the usual way introduces tiny errors that blow up to significant mistakes in more complicated problems. For ARIADNE, we take the problems that you see in calculus, but we are developing methods to make sure that we can keep track of the errors. A traditional software tool could say: the answer to your question, for example about the temperature in a building, is roughly 21 degrees. You then know that it might be 21.3, but you can never be sure: it could even be 5 degrees.  ARIADNE can say: the answer is certainly between 20.8 and 21.4.”

Small errors, big mistakes

If the Greek legend reinforces anything else, it is that small mistakes can have grave consequences.

Theseus promised his father that if he survived the encounter with the Minotaur, his ship would hoist white sails for the trip home. However, Theseus was forced to leave Ariadne behind during his journey. This distracted him so much that he sailed home under black sails instead. Struck by grief, Theseus’ father killed himself when he saw the ship enter the harbour, forever unaware of his son’s success.

Wonder what would’ve happened if Ariadne was around to keep an eye on all those potentially dangerous dynamic systems.

The labyrinth in the Basilica of Saint Servatius

The mosaic tile floor of the Basilica of Saint Servatius Bergportaal lays out a true labyrinth. It poses no navigational challenge, but instead offers a spiritual experience to pilgrims. The labyrinth’s path starts in Maastricht, and leads via the world’s most important places of pilgrimage – Aachen, Cologne, Rome, and Constantinople – to Jerusalem.

Basilica of Saint Servatius
Keizer Karelplein 3
6211 TC Maastricht

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