## Root Finding

### March 14, 2014

Finding the roots of an equation is an important operation in mathematics, and there are many algorithms for finding roots numerically. We will study two of those algorithms in today’s exercise, and perhaps we will look at other algorithms in future exercises.

Let’s begin with the rules of the game. We are given a univariate function *f*(*x*) and want to find one or more values of *x* such that *f*(*x*) = 0. The function could be a polynomial, or could use trigonometric or exponential functions, or integrals, or any other mathematical operation.

The bisection algorithm starts with two points *lo* and *hi* that bound the root; thus, one of *f*(*lo*) and *f*(*hi*) is positive and the other is negative. The algorithm is iterative; at each step, the midpoint *mid* = (*lo* + *hi*) / 2 is found, the function *f*(*mid*) is evaluated at the midpoint, and then it replaces either *lo* or *hi*, whichever has the same sign. Iteration stops if *f*(*mid*) = 0 or if the difference between *lo* and *hi* is sufficiently small.

The *regula falsi* method is similar, but instead of calculating the center midpoint it calculates the midpoint at the point where a line connecting the current *lo* and *hi* crosses the axis. The method dates to the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians.

Both methods work only when the function *f* is continuous, with no discontinuities between *lo* and *hi*.

Your task is to write functions that find roots by the bisection and *regula falsi* methods. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Caesar Cipher

### March 11, 2014

I was asked about a caesar cipher the other day, and suggested that my questioner search for caesar cipher here at Programming Praxis. To my surprise, I discovered that we have never done a caesar cipher (we did the ROT13 cipher, but not a general-purpose caesar cipher), so I apologized to my friend and wrote today’s exercise.

A caeser cipher, named after Julius Caesar, who either invented the cipher or was an early user of it, is a simple substitution cipher in which letters are substituted at a fixed distance along the alphabet, which cycles; children’s magic decoder rings implement a caesar cipher. Non-alphabetic characters are passed unchanged. For instance, the plaintext PROGRAMMINGPRAXIS is rendered as the ciphertext SURJUDPPLQJSUDALV with a shift of 3 positions.

Your task is to write functions that encipher and decipher text using a caesar cipher. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Combined N±1 Primality Prover

### March 7, 2014

We have seen the *n*−1 primality prover in one previous exercise and the *n*+1 primality prover in another previous exercise. In today’s exercise we combine the two tests. There are two versions, one using a factoring bound and one without. The basic idea of both provers is to express *n* − 1 = *f*1 * *r*1 and *n* + 1 = *f*2 * *r*2 with *r*1 and *r*2 odd, gcd(*f*1, *r*1) = gcd(*f*2, *r*2) = 1 and the prime factorizations of *f*1 and *f*2 known, then perform various tests if the partial factorizations are sufficient. This is often called the BLS primality prover because the 1975 paper by John Brillhart, Derrick Lehmer and John Selfridge proves all the necessary theorems.

For the unbounded version of the test, factor *n*−1 and *n*+1 by any convenient method until max(*f*1**f*1**f*2/2, *f*1**f*2**f*2/2) > *n*. Then *n* is prime if all the factors of *f*1 and *f*2 are prime and the following conditions hold:

Condition 1: For each prime

pdividingf1 there is an integer a such thata^(n−1) = 1 (modn) and gcd(a^((n−1)/p)−1,n) = 1. A differentamay be used for each primep.

Condition 2: For each prime

pthere is a Lucas sequenceU(P,Q) with discriminantD=P^2 – 4Q0 and the jacobi symbol (D/N) = −1 such thatU(n+1) = 0 (modn) and gcd(U((n+1)/p),n) = 1. The same discriminantDmust be used for each primep, butPandQmay vary. GivenPandQ, a newP‘ andQ‘ with the sameDcan be calculated asP‘ =P+ 2 andQ‘ =P+Q+ 1.

The bounded version is similar. Factor *n*−1 and *n*+1 by trial division until max(*b***f*1+1, *b***f*2−1) * (*b***b***f*1**f*2/2 + 1) > *n*, where *b* is the smallest number that is known to be a factor of neither *r*1 nor *r*2; if you’re clever, you can perform the two trial divisions simultaneously, looking for remainders of either 0 or 2 when dividing *n*+1 by the current prime. Then *n* is prime if Condition 1 and Condition 2 and the following additional conditions hold:

Condition 3: There is an integer

asuch thata^(n−1) = 1 (modn) and gcd(a^((n−1)/R1)-1, n) = 1.

Condition 4: There is a Lucas sequence

U(P,Q) with the same discriminantDas in Condition 2 above such thatU(n+1) = 0 (modn) and gcd(U((n+1)/R2),n) = 1.

In practice, it is common to write a single program that includes both versions. First perform trial division up to some convenient limit, using the bounded formula to determine if you have enough factors. If that is unsuccessful, use some other method (Pollard rho or elliptic curves work well, because they are good at finding small factors of large numbers) to find more factors, recursively prove any such factors prime, and continue until you have enough.

Your task is to implement the BLS primality prover. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Learn A New Language

### March 4, 2014

In today’s exercise you are challenged to write a program in a language you’ve never used before. We’ve done this before, and it’s fun; the idea is to get you out of your comfort zone, so you’re thinking about programming, not just blindly following habit.

Your task is to write a program in a language you’ve never used before. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Profiling

### February 28, 2014

I was reading Jon Bentley’s book *More Programming Pearls* the other day; it’s a superb book, and I re-read it every few years. In the first chapter Bentley uses a profiler to improve a small function to identify prime numbers by trial division; in today’s exercise, we will do the same.

Your task is to use a profiler to improve a program you have written; depending on the facilities provided by your language, you may have to write your own profiler. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Crossing Hands

### February 25, 2014

The hands of an analog clock occasionally cross as they revolve around the dial.

Your task is to write a progam that determines how many times the hands cross in one twelve-hour period, and compute a list of those times. When you are finisehd, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Anagrams Within Words

### February 21, 2014

We have a little programming puzzle today:

Given two words, determine if the first word, or any anagram of it, appears in consecutive characters of the second word. For instance,

catappears as an anagram in the first three letters ofactor, butcardoes not appear as an anagram inactoreven though all the letters ofcarappear inactor.

Your task is to write a function to determine if an anagram is present in a word. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Two Interview Questions

### February 18, 2014

It’s been a while since we had any interview questions. We have two today, since they are so simple:

1) Given a number

n, find the smallest 3-digit number such that the product of its digits is equal ton. For example, givenn= 100, the solution is 455.

2) Given two arrays, one with

nitems and one withn+2 items including the same items as the array withnitems plus two additional items, find the two additional items. Assume none of the items are duplicates.

Your task is to write solutions to the two interview questions given above. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Reservoir Sampling, Improved

### February 14, 2014

[ Today's exercise was written by guest author Paul Hofstra, who holds a PhD in Theoretical Nuclear Physics from the Free University in Amsterdam and is now retired from a major oil company. Guest authors are always welcome; contact me at the link in the menu bar if you are interested in writing for Programming Praxis. ]

Reservoir sampling is a method to get a random sample of size *n* from a stream of *a priori* unknown (and possibly very large) size. Jeffrey Scott Vitter gives several interesting algorithms for solving this problem; the algorithm that we used in a recent exercise is his Algorithm R, and he also gives Algorithm X and Algorithm Z. Algorithm R begins by placing the first *n* input items in an array called the reservoir, then for each succeeding input item chooses a random number that determines if the new item should replace one of the items in the reservoir. Algorithm X and Algorithm Z are faster because, instead of generating a random number for each input item, they use the random numbers to determine how many input items to skip; in the algorithms stated below, *s* is the number of items to skip and *t* is the number of items already processed. The expected number of skipped items is *t* / (*n* − 1) − 1. The probability function for the number of skipped records is *f*(*s*) = (*n* / (*t* − *n*)) · ((*t*−*n*)^{s+1}) / (*t* + 1)^{s+1}) and the distribution function for the probability *S* ≤ *s* is *F*(*s*) = 1 − ((*t* + 1 − *n*) ^{s+1}) / (*t* + 1)^{s+1}), where *a*^{b} = *a* (*a* + 1) … (*a* + *b* − 1).

For Algorithm X, generate a uniform random number *r* between 0 and 1 and determine *S* as the lowest value for which *F*(*S*) ≥ *r*. Then skip *S* records, swap the next record with a record in the reservoir, and continue until the input is exhausted.

Algorithm Z improves Algorithm X by rejection sampling. Two new functions *g* and *h* and a constant *c* are defined so that *h*(*s*) ≤ *f*(*s*) ≤ *c* *g*(*s*), where *c* does not depend on *s*. The functions are as close to *f* as possible, and the integral of *g*(*G*) has a simple inverse, making *h*(*s*) much faster to calculate than *f*(*s*). Now calculate X = *G*^{−1}(*random*) and *S* = ⌊*X*⌋. The rejection method rejects *s* if a random number *r* > *f*(*S*) / (*c* *g*(*X*)). To avoid the expensive calculation of *f*(*S*), *r* is first compared to *h*(*S*) / (*c* *g*(*X*)), and *S* is accepted if *r* is smaller; otherwise, *f*(*S*) must be calculated and compared. The calculations of *h*, *g* and *c* are: *h*(s) = *n* / (*t* + 1) · ((*t* − *n* + 1) / (*t* + *s* − *n* + 1))^{n+1}, *g*(*s*) = *n* / (*t* + *s*) · (*t* / (*t* + *s*))^{n}, *G*^{−1}(*y*) = *t*((1 − *y*)^{−1/n} − 1), and *c* = (*t* + 1) / (*t* − *n* + 1). Since this is fastest when t is large, Vitter recommends using Algorithm X when *t* ≤ *T* · *n* with *T* = 22.

Your task is to write functions to implement Algorithm X and Algorithm Z. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.

## Years, Months, Days

### February 11, 2014

I was watching the Olympic Games this weekend, and one of the commentators remarked that one of the athletes was the youngest ever to accomplish some goal, aged so many years, so many months, and so many days, which was a few days younger than the previous youngest athlete. That didn’t matter so much to me, but it did suggest today’s exercise.

Your task is to write a function that, given two dates, returns the difference between them in years, months and days. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.