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The Art of Computer Programming, 3rd Edition, Volume 2: Seminumerical Algorithmsby Donald E Knuth
O dear Ophelia!
I am ill at these numbers:
I have not art to reckon my groans.
—Shakespeare, "Hamlet", Act II, Scene 2, Line 120
The algorithms discussed in this book deal directly with numbers; yet I believe they are properly called seminumerical, because they lie on theborderline between numeric and symbolic calculation. Each algorithm not onlycomputes the desired answers to a numerical problem, it also is intended toblend well with the internal operations of a digital computer. In many casespeople are not able to appreciate the full beauty of such an algorithm unlessthey also have some knowledge of a computer's machine language; the efficiencyof the corresponding machine program is a vital factor that cannot be divorcedfrom the algorithm itself. The problem is to find the best ways to make computers deal with numbers, and this involves tactical as well as numerical considerations. Therefore the subject matter of this book is unmistakably a part of computer science, as well as of numerical mathematics.
Some people working in "higher levels" of numerical analysis will regard thetopics treated here as the domain of system programmers. Other people working in"higher levels" of system programming will regard the topics treated here asthe domain of numerical analysts. But I hope that there are a few people left who will want to look carefully at these basic methods. Although the methods reside perhaps on a low level, they underlie all of the more grandiose applications of computers to numerical problems, so it is important to know them well. We are concerned here with the interface between numerical mathematics and computer programming, and it is the mating of both types of skills that makes the subject so interesting.
There is a noticeably higher percentage of mathematical material in this book than in other volumes of this series, because of the nature of the subjects treated. In most cases the necessary mathematical topics are developed here starting almost from scratch (or from results proved in Volume 1), but in several easily recognizable sections a knowledge of calculus has been assumed.
This volume comprises Chapters 3 and 4 of the complete series. Chapter 3 isconcerned with "random numbers": It is not only a study of various ways togenerate random sequences, it also investigates statistical tests forrandomness, as well as the transformation of uniform random numbers into othertypes of random quantities; the latter subject illustrates how random numbersare used in practice. I have also included a section about the nature ofrandomness itself. Chapter 4 is my attempt to tell the fascinating story ofwhat people have discovered about the processes of arithmetic, after centuriesof progress. It discusses various systems for representing numbers, and how toconvert between them; and it treats arithmetic on floating point numbers,high-precision integers, rational fractions, polynomials, and power series, including the questions of factoring and finding greatest common divisors.
Each of Chapters 3 and 4 can be used as the basis of a one-semester collegecourse at the junior to graduate level. Although courses on "Random Numbers"and on "Arithmetic" are not presently a part of many college curricula, Ibelieve the reader will find that the subject matter of these chapters lendsitself nicely to a unified treatment of material that has real educationalvalue. My own experience has been that these courses are a good means ofintroducing elementary probability theory and number theory to collegestudents. Nearly all of the topics usually treated in such introductorycourses arise naturally in connection with applications, and the presence ofthese applications can be an important motivation that helps the student tolearn and to appreciate the theory. Furthermore, each chapter gives a fewhints of more advanced topics that will whet the appetite of many students forfurther mathematical study.For the most part this book is self-contained, except for occasional discussions relating to the
Preface to the Third EditionWhen the second edition of this book was completed in 1980, it represented thefirst major test case for prototype systems of electronic publishing called
In this new edition I have gone over every word of the text, trying to retainthe youthful exuberance of my original sentences while perhaps adding some moremature judgment. Dozens of new exercises have been added; dozens of old exercises have been given new and improved answers. Changes appear everywhere, but most significantly in Sections 3.5 (about theoretical guarantees of randomness), 3.6(about portable random-number generators), 4.5.2(about the binary gcd algorithm), and 4.7(about composition and iteration of powerseries).
The Art of Computer Programming is, however, still a work in progress. Research on seminumerical algorithms continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. Therefore some parts of this book are headed by an "under construction" icon, to apologize for the fact that the material is not up-to-date. My filesare bursting with important material that I plan to include in the final, glorious, fourth edition of Volume 2, perhaps 16 years from now; but I must finish Volumes 4 and 5 first, and I do not want to delay their publication any more than absolutely necessary.
I am enormously grateful to the many hundreds of people who have helped me togather and refine this material during the past 35 years. Most of the hard work of preparing the new edition was accomplished by Silvio Levy, who expertly edited the electronic text, and by Jeffrey Oldham, who converted nearly allof the original illustrations to
When a book has been eight years in the making,
there are too many colleagues, typists, students,
teachers, and friends to thank.
Besides, I have no intention of giving such people
the usual exoneration from responsibility for errors which remain.
They should have corrected me!
And sometimes they are even responsible for ideas
which may turn out in the long run to be wrong.
Anyway, to such fellow explorers, my thanks.
—Edward F. Campbell, Jr. (1975)
`Defendit numerus,' there is safety in numbers
is the maxim of the foolish;
`Deperdit numerus,' there is ruin in numbers
of the wise.
—C. C. Colton (1820)
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