Once Upon an Algorithm: How Stories Explain Computing

  • 10h 48m 16s
  • Martin Erwig
  • Recorded Books, Inc.
  • 2018

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.

In this Audiobook

  • 1 A Path to Understanding Computation
  • 2 Walk the Walk: When Computation Really Happens
  • 3 The Mystery of Signs
  • 4 Detective's Notebook: Accessory after the Fact
  • 5 The Search for the Perfact Data Structure
  • 6 Sorting out Sorting
  • 7 Mission Intractable
  • 8 The Prism of Language
  • 9 Finding the Right Tone: Sound Meaning
  • 10 Weather, Rinse, Repeat
  • 11 Happy Ending Not Guaranteed
  • 12 A Stitch in Time Computes Fine
  • 13 A Matter of Interpretation
  • 14 The Magical Type
  • 15 A Bird's Eye View: Abstracting from Details
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