I guess it’s not easy to get journalism and algorithm together. Finally here’s comes a documentary about algorithms, made by BBC – The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms.
It’s intended for general public, so it’s just a gentle introduction. From Euclid’s algorithm to find greatest common divisor to different sorting algorithms to traveling sales man problem to matching algorithm and eventually to machine learning. The algorithms are well illustrated and explained. It’s just enough to expose the audience to the world of algorithm without intimidating them. More importantly, from what I can see, there’s no misconceptions that are commonly seen in introductions of algorithms made by mass media (except maybe the comparison between bubble sort and merge sort is overly simplified and didn’t take memory consumption into consideration).
One interesting scene in the documentary: President Obama was in an interview and was presented a typical computer science question:
“What is the most efficient way to sort a million 32-bit integers?”
After some hesitation, he actually answered:
“I think Bubble Sort would be the wrong way to go.”
Not bad for a president, I must say. Some say it is staged. But it’s still funny to see how Mr. President tried to circumvent the real question with a safe correct answer. You can see the interview here on YouTube.