Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Eric Grimsom and John Guttag's "Divide and Conquer Methods"

This video delves deeper into divide and conquer algorithms. Some of these algorithms are recursive. Recursion is a way of decomposing a problem into smaller or simpler problems of the same type. We have discussed the base subproblem and the inductive subproblem when applying recursion. A third consideration is composition -- namely, how will simpler subproblems be composed into a solution to the larger problem? Sometimes the decomposition is easy but the composition is hard; sometimes the reverse holds.

The lecturer employs complexity to compare algorithms -- how does the number of steps in a solution to a problem grow as n grows, where n is the number of operations or data elements involved in the inductive step? Formally, that complexity approach is called Big 'O'. The lecturer presents two examples. The message of the video is that designing and implementing algorithms involves tradeoffs: decomposition vs composition tradeoff (merge sort example), and  tradeoff of storage space vs. run-time (hash function example). 

Most of the concepts you encounter in programming languages are related to reuse of algorithms or designs and implementations. These are categorized by complexity (for example the merge sort example has n log n complexity), which helps us decide their appropriateness for certain kinds of problems. The lecture closes with enhancements to the examples using exceptions and assertions (pre and post conditions), covered in unit 4 of our course. They help us handle different expectations that may arise in reusing the algorithms.

Last modified: Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 11:12 AM