Algorithms specify the way computers process information and how they execute tasks. Many recent technological innovations and achievements rely on algorithmic ideas – they facilitate new applications in science, medicine, production, logistics, traffic, communi¬cation and entertainment. Efficient algorithms not only enable your personal computer to execute the newest generation of games with features unimaginable only a few years ago, they are also key to several recent scientific breakthroughs – for example, the sequencing of the human genome would not have been possible without the invention of new algorithmic ideas that speed up computations by several orders of magnitude. The greatest improvements in the area of algorithms rely on beautiful ideas for tackling computational tasks more efficiently. The problems solved are not restricted to arithmetic tasks in a narrow sense but often relate to exciting questions of nonmathematical flavor, such as:
How can I find the exit out of a maze?
How can I partition a treasure map so that the treasure can only be found if all parts of the map are recombined?
How should I plan my trip to minimize cost?
Solving these challenging problems requires logical reasoning, geometric and combinatorial imagination, and, last but not least, creativity – the skills needed for the design and analysis of algorithms. In this book we present some of the most beautiful algorithmic ideas in 41 articles written in colloquial, nontechnical language. Most of the articles arose out of an initiative among German-language universities to communicate the fascination of algorithms and computer science to high-school students. The book can be understood without any prior knowledge of algorithms and computing, and it will be an enlightening and fun read for students and interested adults.