Ok here's the exercise: find me a data structure which can accept random key/value inserts and which I can query faster than O(log_{2}(n)). I might be wrong on this one but I don't think one exists. I know what you're thinking... Hashtables. Well think again, remember CS101? Hashtables have a big O of n. Hashtables, while they're on average really fast have a worst case of N. There is an easy way to remember this in case you're asked in an interview. Think of a chained hashtable with a very bad hash function where every key is added to the same entry. This will result in all the keys in the same chain giving a search performance of O(n). So what else have we got? Arrays are O(1), but they're not suitable for random key/value inserts. Well unless you have infinite memory. Anything involving a list (Linked, Arrays and vector lists) is slow with O(n). So the only thing remaining is tree structures. A binary tree is actually also O(n). Think of inserting a sequence of numbers 1100 in ascending order... you'll also end up with a sort of linked list. Balanced binary tree, on the other hand, is a different animal. This guarantees searches in O(log_{2}(n)). There are various flavours of these, such as AVL and redblack trees all of which make good reading on Wikipedia. Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selfbalancing_binary_search_tree Still, my claim that you can't search faster than O(log_{2}(n)) stands. So what about faster tree structures? Things such as Btrees where nodes can have more than 2 children? Ok. So let's ignore the important mathematical fact that O(log_{x}(n)) = O(log_{y}(n)) as practically speaking log_{100}(n) will be a bit faster than log_{2}(n). However, again practically speaking, a Btree with order x does not have a performance of log_{x}(n), it is still log_{2}(n). Shocker! The height of a Btree might be log_{x}(n), but this does not reflect its search performance. To understand this, you need to consider what happens in each node. In a Btree (or any other higher order tree structure), you need to store a list of keys and pointers to the children. Here's a picture of what Btree nodes look like: As you see the keys can be stored in an ordered fashion at each node. This lets us do a quick binary search on each level hop. And the performance of this binary search is? Yes log_{2}(x). If x is the order of the tree, this gives us: height of tree: log_{x}(n) performance of each key node search: log_{2}(x) total performance: log_{x}(n) * log_{2}(x) simplifying: log(n)/log(x) * log(x)/log(2) log(n)/log(2) log_{2}(n) TADA!
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AuthorJames Cutajar is a software developer, with interests in high performance computing, algorithms design and distributed data structures. Archives
April 2020
