Get Your Free Audiobook

Once Upon an Algorithm

How Stories Explain Computing
Written by: Martin Erwig
Narrated by: Walter Dixon
Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins
Categories: Science & Math, Technology

After 30 days, Audible is ₹199/mo. Cancel anytime.

OR

Publisher's Summary

How Hansel and Gretel, Sherlock Holmes, the movie Groundhog Day, Harry Potter, and other familiar stories illustrate the concepts of computing.

Picture a computer scientist, staring at a screen and clicking away frantically on a keyboard, hacking into a system, or perhaps developing an app. Now delete that picture. In Once Upon an Algorithm, Martin Erwig explains computation as something that takes place beyond electronic computers, and computer science as the study of systematic problem solving. Erwig points out that many daily activities involve problem solving. Getting up in the morning, for example: You get up, take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. This simple daily routine solves a recurring problem through a series of well-defined steps. In computer science, such a routine is called an algorithm.

Erwig illustrates a series of concepts in computing with examples from daily life and familiar stories. Hansel and Gretel, for example, execute an algorithm to get home from the forest. The movie Groundhog Day illustrates the problem of unsolvability; Sherlock Holmes manipulates data structures when solving a crime; the magic in Harry Potter's world is understood through types and abstraction; and Indiana Jones demonstrates the complexity of searching.

Along the way, Erwig also discusses representations and different ways to organize data; "intractable" problems; language, syntax, and ambiguity; control structures, loops, and the halting problem; different forms of recursion; and rules for finding errors in algorithms. This engaging book explains computation accessibly and shows its relevance to daily life. Something to think about next time we execute the algorithm of getting up in the morning.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (P)2018 Tantor

What members say

No Reviews are Available
Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Jack Frasier
  • 02-08-18

didn't quite cut it for me

it seemed like a lot of comparisons with pop culture that fell short of enlightening about computer algorithms. very little was made clearer with the analogies.

1 person found this helpful

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Some Guy
  • 17-08-19

Very broad introduction to algorithms, doesn’t explain anything in detail

Doesn’t explain anything in detail. Covers things on a surface level, but I only imagine this being useful for someone who’s never come across the ideas (ie time and space complexity) before.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Paul J Jeffries
  • 27-02-19

Very good

Very good, some algorithms you could use to improve some tasks you do e.g. sorting exam scripts if you are a teacher