Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Combinations revisited

I've been trying to relearn some of the combinatorics I used to know, I redid a nice recursive algorithm (from early university days), with python it looks so beautiful and nice. A simple implementation is below, so nice and simple.



#
# I'm inspired by two algorithms I saw, both are recursive.
#
# Example:
# ((1, 2, 3, 4), 2) - means select 2 out of 3
# should produce (1, 2), (1, 3), (1, 4), (2, 3), (2, 4), (3, 4)
#
# The idea from a recursive perspective is this
# we pick an index - say 1, then we pick the next (n-1) elements
# to go with it
#

def rec_comb(a, i, j, k, n):
 #
 # array a built upto index i
 # selected k at a time of max
 # length n
 #
 if (i == k):
  print a[0:k]
  return
 for l in range(j, n):
  a[i] = l
  rec_comb(a, i+1, l+1, k, n)
 return

def combination(n, k):
 #
 # n (numbers from 1..n), chosen k at a time
 #
 a = [0 for i in range(0, n)]
 rec_comb(a, 0, 0, k, n)
The sample output for ${6 \choose 3}$ is:

[0, 1, 2]
[0, 1, 3]
[0, 1, 4]
[0, 1, 5]
[0, 2, 3]
[0, 2, 4]
[0, 2, 5]
[0, 3, 4]
[0, 3, 5]
[0, 4, 5]
[1, 2, 3]
[1, 2, 4]
[1, 2, 5]
[1, 3, 4]
[1, 3, 5]
[1, 4, 5]
[2, 3, 4]
[2, 3, 5]
[2, 4, 5]
[3, 4, 5]
The output lends itself to a simple and nice iterative algorithm, I'll follow up on.

The interesting follow up to combinatorial generation algorithms is using ranking and unranking. At this point, I think we need a O(n) to identify if two combinations are the same -- given in any order of elements. For example to compare $\{1, 2, 3\}, \{1, 3, 2\}, \{2, 1, 3\}, \{3, 1, 2\}, \{2, 3, 1\}, \{3, 2, 1\}$ we need to identify them and associate the same rank with them. I think for a subset of size $k$, the cost of ranking is $\theta(k)$, but I need to see if there is a better way to do it.


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