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Questions tagged [algorithms]

An algorithm is a sequence of well-defined steps that defines an abstract solution to a problem. Use this tag when your issue is related to design and analysis of algorithms.

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309
votes
11answers
282k views

Why is quicksort better than other sorting algorithms in practice?

In a standard algorithms course we are taught that quicksort is $O(n \log n)$ on average and $O(n^2)$ in the worst case. At the same time, other sorting algorithms are studied which are $O(n \log n)$ ...
159
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3answers
17k views

Is there a system behind the magic of algorithm analysis?

There are lots of questions about how to analyze the running time of algorithms (see, e.g., runtime-analysis and algorithm-analysis). Many are similar, for instance those asking for a cost analysis ...
122
votes
14answers
18k views

Why can I look at a graph and immediately find the closest point to another point, but it takes me O(n) time through programming?

Let me clarify: Given a scatterplot of some given number of points n, if I want to find the closest point to any point in the plot mentally, I can immediately ignore most points in the graph, ...
115
votes
4answers
156k views

How to convert finite automata to regular expressions?

Converting regular expressions into (minimal) NFA that accept the same language is easy with standard algorithms, e.g. Thompson's algorithm. The other direction seems to be more tedious, though, and ...
105
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13answers
13k views

How to fool the “try some test cases” heuristic: Algorithms that appear correct, but are actually incorrect

To try to test whether an algorithm for some problem is correct, the usual starting point is to try running the algorithm by hand on a number of simple test cases -- try it on a few example problem ...
99
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2answers
32k views

BIT: What is the intuition behind a binary indexed tree and how was it thought about?

A binary indexed tree has very less or relatively no literature as compared to other data structures. The only place where it is taught is the topcoder tutorial. Although the tutorial is complete in ...
91
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5answers
8k views

What are the reasons to learn different algorithms / data structures serving the same purpose?

I have been wondering about this question since I was an undergraduate student. It is a general question but I will elaborate with examples below. I have seen a lot of algorithms - for example, for ...
90
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3answers
24k views

How does one know which notation of time complexity analysis to use?

In most introductory algorithm classes, notations like $O$ (Big O) and $\Theta$ are introduced, and a student would typically learn to use one of these to find the time complexity. However, there are ...
82
votes
2answers
59k views

Quicksort Partitioning: Hoare vs. Lomuto

There are two quicksort partition methods mentioned in Cormen: ...
78
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8answers
53k views

Graph searching: Breadth-first vs. depth-first

When searching graphs, there are two easy algorithms: breadth-first and depth-first (Usually done by adding all adjactent graph nodes to a queue (breadth-first) or stack (depth-first)). Now, are ...
73
votes
6answers
16k views

How can we assume that basic operations on numbers take constant time?

Normally in algorithms we do not care about comparison, addition, or subtraction of numbers -- we assume they run in time $O(1)$. For example, we assume this when we say that comparison-based sorting ...
67
votes
4answers
16k views

What is the novelty in MapReduce?

A few years ago, MapReduce was hailed as revolution of distributed programming. There have also been critics but by and large there was an enthusiastic hype. It even got patented! [1] The name is ...
62
votes
3answers
11k views

In-place algorithm for interleaving an array

You are given an array of $2n$ elements $$a_1, a_2, \dots, a_n, b_1, b_2, \dots b_n$$ The task is to interleave the array, using an in-place algorithm such that the resulting array looks like $$...
61
votes
9answers
6k views

Are there any problems that get easier as they increase in size?

This may be a ridiculous question, but is it possible to have a problem that actually gets easier as the inputs grow in size? I doubt any practical problems are like this, but maybe we can invent a ...
59
votes
5answers
10k views

Is zero allowed as an edge's weight, in a weighted graph?

I am trying to write a script that generates random graphs and I need to know if an edge in a weighted graph can have the 0 value. actually it makes sense that 0 could be used as an edge's weight, ...
58
votes
8answers
4k views

Algorithmic intuition for logarithmic complexity

I believe I have a reasonable grasp of complexities like $\mathcal{O}(1)$, $\Theta(n)$ and $\Theta(n^2)$. In terms of a list, $\mathcal{O}(1)$ is a constant lookup, so it's just getting the head of ...
53
votes
8answers
166k views

What is a the fastest sorting algorithm for an array of integers?

I have come across many sorting algorithms during my high school studies. However, I never know which is the fastest (for a random array of integers). So my questions are: Which is the fastest ...
52
votes
7answers
20k views

Is a Turing Machine “by definition” the most powerful machine?

I agree that a Turing Machine can do "all possible mathematical problems". But that is because it is just a machine representation of an algorithm: first do this, then do that, finally output that. ...
51
votes
4answers
51k views

What is tail recursion?

I know the general concept of recursion. I came across the concept of tail recursion while studying the quicksort algorithm. In this video of quick sort algorithm from MIT at 18:30 seconds the ...
49
votes
4answers
5k views

Why polynomial time is called “efficient”?

Why in computer science any complexity which is at most polynomial is considered efficient? For any practical application(a), algorithms with complexity $n^{\log n}$ are way faster than algorithms ...
48
votes
3answers
22k views

Why is binary search faster than ternary search?

Searching an array of $N$ elements using binary search takes, in the worst case $\log_2 N$ iterations because, at each step we trim half of our search space. If, instead, we used 'ternary search', we'...
48
votes
12answers
35k views

How to verify number with Bob without Eve knowing?

You need to check that your friend, Bob, has your correct phone number, but you cannot ask him directly. You must write the question on a card which and give it to Eve who will take the card to Bob ...
46
votes
2answers
7k views

Order of growth definition from Reynolds & Tymann

I am reading a book called Principles of Computer Science (2008), by Carl Reynolds and Paul Tymann (published by Schaum's Outlines). The second chapter introduces algorithms with an example of a ...
44
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7answers
65k views

Minimum spanning tree vs Shortest path

What is the difference between minimum spanning tree algorithm and a shortest path algorithm? In my data structures class we covered two minimum spanning tree algorithms (Prim's and Kruskal's) and ...
44
votes
3answers
46k views

Longest path in an undirected tree with only one traversal

There is this standard algorithm for finding longest path in undirected trees using two depth-first searches: Start DFS from a random vertex $v$ and find the farthest vertex from it; say it is $v'$. ...
43
votes
2answers
68k views

Find median of unsorted array in $O(n)$ time

To find the median of an unsorted array, we can make a min-heap in $O(n\log n)$ time for $n$ elements, and then we can extract one by one $n/2$ elements to get the median. But this approach would take ...
41
votes
6answers
4k views

Dealing with intractability: NP-complete problems

Assume that I am a programmer and I have an NP-complete problem that I need to solve it. What methods are available to deal with NPC problems? Is there a survey or something similar on this topic?
40
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3answers
38k views

Why does Dijkstra's algorithm fail on a negative weighted graphs? [duplicate]

I know this is probably very basic, I just can't wrap my head around it. We recently studied about Dijkstra's algorithm for finding the shortest path between two vertices on a weighted graph. My ...
39
votes
1answer
7k views

What is the difference between an algorithm, a language and a problem?

It seems that on this site, people will often correct others for confusing "algorithms" and "problems." What are the difference between these? How do I know when I should be considering algorithms and ...
39
votes
7answers
3k views

Explaining the relevance of asymptotic complexity of algorithms to practice of designing algorithms

In algorithms and complexity we focus on the asymptotic complexity of algorithms, i.e. the amount of resources an algorithm uses as the size of the input goes to infinity. In practice, what is ...
38
votes
3answers
15k views

Deciding on Sub-Problems for Dynamic Programming

I have used the technique of dynamic programming multiple times however today a friend asked me how I go about defining my sub-problems, I realized I had no way of providing an objective formal answer....
37
votes
3answers
14k views

Why is the Mersenne Twister regarded as good?

The Mersenne Twister is widely regarded as good. Heck, the CPython source says that it "is one of the most extensively tested generators in existence." But what does this mean? When asked to list ...
36
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5answers
101k views

How to come up with the runtime of algorithms? [duplicate]

I've not gone much deep into CS. So, please forgive me if the question is not good or out of scope for this site. I've seen in many sites and books, the big-O notations like $O(n)$ which tell the ...
35
votes
6answers
49k views

The math behind converting from any base to any base without going through base 10?

I've been looking into the math behind converting from any base to any base. This is more about confirming my results than anything. I found what seems to be my answer on mathforum.org but I'm still ...
35
votes
3answers
38k views

Factorial algorithm more efficient than naive multiplication

I know how to code for factorials using both iterative and recursive (e.g. n * factorial(n-1) for e.g.). I read in a textbook (without been given any further ...
34
votes
2answers
10k views

Why is the log in the big-O of binary search not base 2?

I am new to understanding computer science algorithms. I understand the process of the binary search, but I am having a slight misunderstanding with its efficiency. In a size of $s = 2^n$ elements, ...
34
votes
3answers
7k views

Worst case $O(n \ln n)$ in place stable sort?

I am having trouble finding good resources that give a worst case $O(n \ln n)$ in place stable sorting algorithm. Does anyone know of any good resources? Just a reminder, in place means it uses the ...
33
votes
3answers
37k views

Algorithm that finds the number of simple paths from $s$ to $t$ in $G$

Can anyone suggest me a linear time algorithm that takes as input a directed acyclic graph $G=(V,E)$ and two vertices $s$ and $t$ and returns the number of simple paths from $s$ to $t$ in $G$. I have ...
33
votes
1answer
8k views

Do you get DFS if you change the queue to a stack in a BFS implementation?

Here is the standard pseudocode for breadth first search: ...
33
votes
0answers
446 views

Finding an $st$-path in a planar graph which is adjacent to the fewest number of faces

I am curious whether the following problems has been studied before, but wasn't able to find any papers about it: Given a planar graph $G$, and two vertices $s$ and $t$, find an $s$-$t$ path $P$ ...
32
votes
4answers
3k views

How to measure “sortedness”

I'm wondering if there is a standard way of measuring the "sortedness" of an array? Would an array which has the median number of possible inversions be considered maximally unsorted? By that I mean ...
32
votes
3answers
41k views

What exactly is polynomial time? [duplicate]

I'm trying to understand algorithm complexity, and a lot of algorithms are classified as polynomial. I couldn't find an exact definition anywhere. I assume it is the complexity that is not exponential....
32
votes
2answers
9k views

Is there a difference between top-down and bottom-up dynamic programming?

Is there a fundamental difference between top-down and bottom-up dynamic programming? In particular, is there a problem which can be solved bottom-up but not top-down? Or is the bottom-up approach ...
32
votes
2answers
1k views

How asymptotically bad is naive shuffling?

It's well-known that this 'naive' algorithm for shuffling an array by swapping each item with another randomly-chosen one doesn't work correctly: ...
32
votes
2answers
2k views

Are there improvements on Dana Angluin's algorithm for learning regular sets

In her 1987 seminal paper Dana Angluin presents a polynomial time algorithm for learning a DFA from membership queries and theory queries (counterexamples to a proposed DFA). She shows that if you ...
31
votes
3answers
3k views

Will hardware/implementation affect the time/space complexity of algorithms?

I’m not even a CS student, so this might be a stupid question, but please bear with me... In the pre-computer era, we can only implement an array data structure with something like an array of ...
31
votes
4answers
4k views

What is dynamic programming about?

Sorry in advance if this question sounds dumb... As far as I know, building an algorithm using dynamic programming works this way: express the problem as a recurrence relation; implement the ...
31
votes
5answers
3k views

Finding interesting anagrams

Say that $a_1a_2\ldots a_n$ and $b_1b_2\ldots b_n$ are two strings of the same length. An anagramming of two strings is a bijective mapping $p:[1\ldots n]\to[1\ldots n]$ such that $a_i = b_{p(i)}$ ...
30
votes
8answers
7k views

Is it a problem to be a programmer with no knowledge about computational complexity?

I've been assigned an exercise in my university. I took it home and tried to program an algorithm to solve it, it was something related to graphs, finding connected components, I guess. Then I made ...
30
votes
3answers
31k views

Floyd's Cycle detection algorithm | Determining the starting point of cycle

I am seeking help understanding Floyd's cycle detection algorithm. I have gone through the explanation on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycle_detection#Tortoise_and_hare) I can see how the ...