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some metric) local choice at each step. It makes a choice that is locally

optimal. However, as this example illustrates, a series of locally optimal

decisions does not always lead to a solution that is globally optimal.

Despite the fact that they do not always find the best solution, greedy algorithms

are often used in practice. They are usually easier to implement and more

efficient to run than algorithms guaranteed to find optimal solutions. As Ivan

Boesky once said, I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good

about yourself. 113

There is a variant of the knapsack problem, called the fractional (or

continuous) knapsack problem, for which a greedy algorithm is guaranteed to

find an optimal solution. Since the items are infinitely divisible, it always makes

sense to take as much as possible of the item with the highest remaining valueto-weight ratio. Suppose, for example, that our burglar found only three things

of value in the house: a sack of gold dust, a sack of silver dust, and a sack of

raisins. In this case, a greedy-by-density algorithm will always find the optimal

solution.

Lets think about another kind of optimization problem. Suppose you had a list

of the prices of all of the airline flights between each pair of cities in the United

States. Suppose also that for all cities, A, B, and C, the cost of flying from A to C

by way of B was the cost of flying from A to B plus the cost of flying from B to C.

A few questions you might like to ask are:

What is the least expensive airfare between some pair of cities involving

no more than two stops?

All of these problems (and many others) can be easily formalized as graph

problems.

A graph114 is a set of objects called nodes (or vertices) connected by a set of

edges (or arcs). If the edges are unidirectional the graph is called a directed

graph or digraph. In a directed graph, if there is an edge from n1 to n2, we refer

to n1 as the source or parent node and n2 as the destination or child node.

University of California at Berkeley Business School. A few months later he was indicted

for insider trading, a charge that led to two years in prison and a $100,000,000 fine.

114 Computer scientists and mathematicians use the word graph in the sense used in

this book. They typically use the word plot to denote the kind of graphs we saw in

Chapters 11-16.

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