Producing combinations, part four

Last time I showed how to use an immutable stack of Booleans to act as flags indicating whether a particular element of a sequence should be chosen as one of the combinations of exactly k elements. A reasonable criticism of this approach is that when you have a stack containing, say, thirty flags, each of which is a managed object and contains a Boolean and a reference, then we’ve overspent by a large factor; thirty bits could fit into a single int.

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Producing combinations, part three

All right, we have an immutable stack of Booleans and we wish to produce all such stacks of size n that have exactly k true elements. As always, a recursive algorithm has the following parts:

  • Is the problem trivial? If so, solve it.
  • Otherwise, break the problem down into one or more smaller problems, solve them recursively, and aggregate those solutions into the solution of the larger problem

Let’s start with a signature. What do we have? integers n and k. What do we want? A sequence of Boolean stacks such that the size is n, and there are k bits turned on. We therefore require that n and k both be non-negative, and that n be greater than or equal to k. Continue reading

Producing combinations, part two

Last time we saw that producing all the subsequences of a given size k from a given sequence of size n is essentially the same problem as computing all the sequences of n Booleans where exactly k of them are true. How do we do that?

An approach that I often see is “enumerate all sequences of n Booleans, count the number of on bits, and discard those which have too many or too few”. Though that works, it’s not ideal. Suppose we are seeking to enumerate the combinations of 16 items chosen from a set of 32. There are over four billion possible combinations of 32 bits, and of those over three billion of them have more or fewer than 16 true bits, so that’s a lot of counting and discarding to do. We can do better! To do so, we’ll use a combination of all my favourite techniques:

  • Immutable data structures
  • Abstract classes with derived nested classes
  • Recursion

Long-time readers of this blog will have seen me use these techniques before, but for new readers, a quick introduction is in order. Continue reading

Producing permutations, part seven

Last time on FAIC I generated a “random” permutation of a deck of cards and gave you the first five cards, and challenged you to determine what the next five cards were. David Poeschl (of the Roslyn team!) was the first to get a possible order and, with the additional hint that the sixth card was the three of hearts, Joel Rondeau found the correct solution, which is below. Both used brute-force algorithms.

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Producing permutations, part six

Last time in this series I presented an algorithm for generating a random number, and the time before I presented an algorithm that turns such a number into a permutation, so we can put them together to make an algorithm that returns a random permutation:

static Permutation RandomPermutation(int size, Random random)
  return Permutation.NthPermutation(size, RandomFactoradic(size, random));

Is this actually a correct algorithm for generating a random permutation? Give it some thought.

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Producing permutations, part four

Last time on FAIC I implemented a short algorithm that produces a sequence containing every permutation of a given size, such that the sequence is a Hamiltonian tour of the vertices of the n-dimensional permutohedron. That is, the shape you get when you make each vertex have the coordinates of a permutation, and an edge connects two permutations that differ only by a swap of adjacent items.

Since we have an algorithm that produces the same order every time, we can number each ordering; it is convenient to do so starting with zero and going to n!-1. What I’d like is an algorithm which given size, the number of items in the permutation, and index, an integer between zero and size!-1, gives back the indexth permutation of length size, without having to calculate all of them.

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