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• July 5, 2016

What is an Algorithm, Alex?

al·go·rithm[al-guh-rith-uhm] Show IPA
noun
a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, as for finding the greatest common divisor.
Origin:
1890–95; variant of algorism, by association with Greek arithmós number.

An algorithm will set the rules that define a series of actions to an end. There are music playing algorithms (pandora, slacker, itunes) that play music according to the algorithm you set, such as popular songs, songs by title, by artist. There are sorting algorithms where you can sort your desktop icons by date modified, title or type.
Dynamic Programming Algorithms: This class remembers older results and attempts to use this to speed the process of finding new results.
Greedy Algorithms: Greedy algorithms attempt not only to find a solution, but to find the ideal solution to any given problem.
Brute Force Algorithms: The brute force approach starts at some random point and iterates through every possibility until it finds the solution.
Randomized Algorithms: This class includes any algorithm that uses a random number at any point during its process.
Branch and Bound Algorithms: Branch and bound algorithms form a tree of subproblems to the primary problem, following each branch until it is either solved or lumped in with another branch.
Simple Recursive Algorithms: This type of algorithm goes for a direct solution immediately, then backtracks to find a simpler solution.
Backtracking Algorithms: Backtracking algorithms test for a solution, if one is found the algorithm has solved, if not it recurs once and tests again, continuing until a solution is found.
Divide and Conquer Algorithms: A divide and conquer algorithm is similar to a branch and bound algorithm, except it uses the backtracking method of recurring in tandem with dividing a problem into subproblems.

The most baffling and mysterious modern algorithm is the google algorithm. The Holy Grail of sorting. Their sorting system is renowned for its ability to arrange data relevant to search terms and sift through irrelevant data and sites to present users with remarkably relevant information that pertains to their search terms. In a controversial lawsuit launched by google, they accused their main competitor, bing.com of lifting search terms and directly mimicking the google algorithm rather than generating a search-term algorithm of their own. Google launched a sting operation by generating nonsensical search terms or mispelled search terms, such as torsoraphy, that generated identical lists of webpages on both search engines. FOUND, but since google and bing a both protective of their search algorithms, google is stuck in a bind with bing. “So,” says Bing, “What you gonna do about it?” In order to expose bing, google would need to reveal their algorithm sources to uncover their search results. Match point for bing. But the tourney is not over.

You will encounter algorithms everyday and have probably set your own algorithms into motion without even knowing its name or type. Use this student generated video to help categorize algorithms. Hopefully, it will help you identify algorithms in your everyday life.