n. an algorithm for sorting a list
A sorting algorithm is an algorithm that puts elements of a list in a certain order. The most-used orders are numerical order and lexicographical order. Efficient sorting is important for optimizing the use of other algorithms (such as search and merge algorithms) which require input data to be in sorted lists; it is also often useful for canonicalizing data and for producing human-readable output. More formally, the output must satisfy two conditions:
- The output is in nondecreasing order (each element is no smaller than the previous element according to the desired total order);
- The output is a permutation (reordering) of the input.
Further, the data is often taken to be in an array, which allows random access, rather than a list, which only allows sequential access, though often algorithms can be applied with suitable modification to either type of data.
Since the dawn of computing, the sorting problem has attracted a great deal of research, perhaps due to the complexity of solving it efficiently despite its simple, familiar statement. For example, bubble sort was analyzed as early as 1956. Comparison sorting algorithms have a fundamental requirement of O(n log n) comparisons (some input sequences will require a multiple of n log n comparisons); algorithms not based on comparisons, such as counting sort, can have better performance. Although many consider sorting a solved problem—asymptotically optimal algorithms have been known since the mid-20th century—useful new algorithms are still being invented, with the now widely used Timsort dating to 2002, and the library sort being first published in 2006.
Sorting algorithms are prevalent in introductory computer science classes, where the abundance of algorithms for the problem provides a gentle introduction to a variety of core algorithm concepts, such as big O notation, divide and conquer algorithms, data structures such as heaps and binary trees, randomized algorithms, best, worst and average case analysis, time-space tradeoffs, and upper and lower bounds.
Usage examples of "sorting algorithm".
Danny Hillis did one of the first of those runs years back, to optimize a sorting algorithm.
Were they as naive as we were, hoping for a faster sorting algorithm and better robot vision?