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Polynomial and Exponential Algorithms

An algorithm is said to run in polylogarithmic time if T(n) = O((log n)k), for some constant k. For example, matrix chain ordering can be solved in polylogarithmic time on aParallel Random Access Machine.



Sub-linear time

An algorithm is said to run in sub-linear time (often spelled sublinear time) if T(n) = o(n). In particular this includes algorithms with the time complexities defined above, as well as others such as the O(n½) Grover's search algorithm.

Typical algorithms that are exact and yet run in sub-linear time use parallel processing (as the NC1 matrix determinant calculation does), non-classical processing (as Grover's search does), or alternatively have guaranteed assumptions on the input structure (as the logarithmic time binary search and many tree maintenance algorithms do). However, languages such as the set of all strings that have a 1-bit in the position indicated by the first log(n) bits of the string may depend on every bit of the input and yet be computable in sub-linear time. The specific term sublinear time algorithm is usually reserved to algorithms that are unlike the above in that they are run over classical serial machine models and are not allowed prior assumptions on the input.[5] They are however allowed to be randomized, and indeed must be randomized for all but the most trivial of tasks.

As such an algorithm must provide an answer without reading the entire input, its particulars heavily depend on the access allowed to the input. Usually for an input that is represented as a binary string b1,...,bk it is assumed that the algorithm can in time O(1) request and obtain the value of bi for any i.

Sub-linear time algorithms are typically randomized, and provide only approximate solutions. In fact, the property of a binary string having only zeros (and no ones) can be easily proved not to be decidable by a (non-approximate) sub-linear time algorithm. Sub-linear time algorithms arise naturally in the investigation of property testing.



Linear time

An algorithm is said to take linear time, or O(n) time, if its time complexity is O(n). Informally, this means that for large enough input sizes the running time increases linearly with the size of the input. For example, a procedure that adds up all elements of a list requires time proportional to the length of the list. This description is slightly inaccurate, since the running time can significantly deviate from a precise proportionality, especially for small values of n.

Linear time is often viewed as a desirable attribute for an algorithm.[citation needed] Much research has been invested into creating algorithms exhibiting (nearly) linear time or better. This research includes both software and hardware methods. In the case of hardware, some algorithms which, mathematically speaking, can never achieve linear time with standard computation models are able to run in linear time. There are several hardware technologies which exploit parallelism to provide this. An example is content-addressable memory. This concept of linear time is used in string matching algorithms such as the Boyer-Moore Algorithm and Ukkonen's Algorithm.



Linearithmic time

A linearithmic function is a function of the form n log n (i.e., a product of a linear and a logarithmic term). An algorithm is said to run in linearithmic time if T(n) = O(n logn).[6] Thus, a linearithmic term grows faster than a linear term but slower than any polynomial in n with exponent strictly greater than 1.

In many cases, the n log n running time is simply the result of performing a Θ(log n) operation n times. For example, binary tree sort creates a binary tree by inserting each element of the n-sized array one by one. Since the insert operation on a self-balancing binary search tree takes O(log n) time, the entire algorithm takes linearithmic time.

Comparison sorts require at least linearithmic number of comparisons in the worst case because log(n!) = Θ(n log n), by Stirling's approximation. They also frequently arise from the recurrence relation T(n) = 2 T(n/2) + O(n).

Some famous algorithms that run in linearithmic time include:



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