## Given problem

Assuming that we encounter the problem such as:

``````Given a sorted (in ascending order) integer array nums of n elements and a target value, write a function to search target in nums. If target exists, then return its index, otherwise return -1.

Example:
Input: nums = [-1,0,3,5,9,12], target = 9
Output: 4
``````

How can we solve this problem in the logarithmic time?

The brute force way to solve an above problem is that we will use the linear search.

``````public int search(int[] nums, int target) {
int len = nums.length;

for (int i = 0; i < len; ++i) {
if (nums[i] == target) {
return i;
}
}

}
``````

In this way, we have the complexity:

• Time complexity: O(n)
• Space complexity: O(1)

In the sequential search way, we can find that it has two branch conditions such as a condition in for loop, and a remained condition in if statement.

So, we can optimize these by only using one condition.

``````public int search(int[] nums, int target) {
int end = nums.length - 1;
int last = nums[end];
nums[end] = target;

int index = 0;
while (nums[index] != target) {
++index;
}

nums[end] = last;
if (index < end) {
return index;
} else if (last == target) {
return end;
}

return -1;
}
``````

To reduce the time complexity of linear search, we will base on the condition of this array is the sorted array. We will use Binary Search to deal with it.

``````public int search(int[] nums, int target) {
int left = 0;
int right = nums.length - 1;

while (left <= right) {
int mid = left + (right - left) / 2;

if (nums[mid] == target) {
return mid;
} else if (target < nums[mid]) {
right = mid - 1;
} else {
left = mid + 1;
}
}

return -1;
}
``````

In this way, we have the complexity:

• Time complexity: O(log(n))
• Space complexity: O(1)

Some steps to solve problems with Binary Search:

• Pre-processing - Sort if collection is unsorted.

• Binary Search - Using a loop or recursion to divide search space in half after each comparison.

• Post-processing - Determine viable candidates in the remaining space.

## When to use

• When we have to search an element in a collection.

If our collection is unordered, we can always sort it first before applying Binary Search.

• When we are given a sorted Array or LinkedList or Matrix, and we are asked to find a certain element, the best algorithm we can use is the Binary Search.

• Binary search is not about sorted array or recursion, which are all very superficial. The essence of binary search is to reduce time complexity by eliminating half of the candidates.

• When we have some trends such as an increased part or an decreased part of an array.

## Source code

1. Iterative version

`````` public static int binarySearch(int[] arr, int k) {
int left = 0;
int right = arr.length - 1;

while (left <= right) {
// int mid = left + (right - left) / 2;
int mid = (left + right) >>> 1;

if (arr[mid] == k) {
return mid;
} else if (k < arr[mid]) {
right = mid - 1;
} else {
left = mid + 1;
}
}

return -1;
}
``````
2. Recursive version

`````` public static int binarySearch(int[] arr, int k, int left, int right) {
if (left > right) {
return -1;
}

// int mid = left + (right - left) / 2;
int mid = (left + right) >>> 1;
if (arr[mid] == k) {
return mid;
} else if (k < arr[mid]) {
return binarySearchRecursive(arr, k, left, mid - 1);
} else {
return binarySearchRecursive(arr, k, mid + 1, right);
}
}
``````
3. Stride version

Another way to implement binary search is to go through the array from left to right making jumps.

• The initial jump length is n/2.
• The jump length is halved on each round: first n/4, then n/8, then n/16, … until finally the length is 1
• On each round, we make jumps until we would end up outside the array or in an element whose value exceeds the target value.
• After the jumps, either the desired element has been found or we know that it does not appear in the array.
`````` public static int binarySearch(int[] arr, int k) {
int pos = 0;
int sz = arr.length;

for (int stride = sz / 2; stride >= 1; stride /= 2) {
while (pos + stride < sz && a[pos + stride] <= k) {
pos += stride;
}
}

if (a[pos] == k) return pos;
return -1;
}
``````

Note:

• With `int mid = (right + left) / 2;`, if right and left variable is large, then the expression of `right + left` can be overflow.

So, we can have some solutions for this problem:

• Use `int mid = left + ((right - left) / 2);`.
• Use `int mid = (left + right) >>> 1;`. This way is only suitable for Java developer.
• With C/C++ developer, we can use `mid = ((unsigned int)left + (unsigned int)right)) >> 1;`.

1. Comparing elements directly with specific condition

In this way, we will use the common format of Binary Search with source code:

`````` int binarySearch(int[] nums, int target){
if(nums == null || nums.length == 0) {
return -1;
}

int left = 0;
int right = nums.length - 1;
while(left <= right){
int mid = left + (right - left) / 2;

if(nums[mid] == target) {
return mid;
} else if(nums[mid] < target) {
left = mid + 1;
} else {
right = mid - 1;
}
}

// End Condition: left > right, exactly right + 1 == left
// No more candidate
return -1;
}
``````

Some features of this variant:

• Most basic and elementary form of Binary Search
• Search Condition can be determined without comparing to the element’s neighbors (or use specific elements around it)
• No post-processing required because at each step, you are checking to see if the element has been found. If you reach the end, then you know the element is not found

Some points in source code to identify:

• Initial Condition: `left = 0, right = length-1`
• Termination: `left > right`
• Searching Left: `right = mid-1`
• Searching Right: `left = mid+1`
2. Comparing an element with the its immediate right neighbor’s index in the array

`````` int binarySearch(int[] nums, int target){
if(nums == null || nums.length == 0)
return -1;

int left = 0, right = nums.length;
while(left < right){
int mid = left + (right - left) / 2;
if(nums[mid] == target){ return mid; }
else if(nums[mid] < target) { left = mid + 1; }
else { right = mid; }
}

// Post-processing:
// End Condition: left == right
// 1 more candidate
if(left != nums.length && nums[left] == target) return left;
return -1;
}
``````

Some features of this variant:

• An advanced way to implement Binary Search.
• Search Condition needs to access element’s immediate right neighbor
• Use element’s right neighbor to determine if condition is met and decide whether to go left or right
• Gurantees Search Space is at least 2 in size at each step
• Post-processing required. Loop/Recursion ends when you have 1 element left. Need to assess if the remaining element meets the condition.

Some points in source code to identify:

• Initial Condition: `left = 0, right = length`
• Termination: `left == right`
• Searching Left: `right = mid`
• Searching Right: `left = mid+1`
3. Comparing an element with its immediate left and right neighbor’s index in the array

`````` int binarySearch(int[] nums, int target) {
if (nums == null || nums.length == 0)
return -1;

int left = 0, right = nums.length - 1;
while (left + 1 < right){
// Prevent (left + right) overflow
int mid = left + (right - left) / 2;
if (nums[mid] == target) {
return mid;
} else if (nums[mid] < target) {
left = mid;
} else {
right = mid;
}
}

// Post-processing:
// End Condition: left + 1 == right
// 2 more candidates
if(nums[left] == target) return left;
if(nums[right] == target) return right;
return -1;
}
``````

Some features of this variant:

• An alternative way to implement Binary Search
• Search Condition needs to access element’s immediate left and right neighbors
• Use element’s neighbors to determine if condition is met and decide whether to go left or right
• Gurantees Search Space is at least 3 in size at each step
• Post-processing required. Loop/Recursion ends when you have 2 elements left. Need to assess if the remaining elements meet the condition.

Some points in source code to identify:

• Initial Condition: `left = 0, right = length-1`
• Termination: `left + 1 == right`
• Searching Left: `right = mid`
• Searching Right: `left = mid`

## Wrapping up

• Understanding about what the problem is that we can apply Binary Search.

• Use smoothly some variants of Binary Search.

Refer:

https://leetcode.com/explore/learn/card/binary-search

Guide to competitive programming: Learning and improving algorithms through concepts