Trees And Heaps For Xmas - A Programmer At Xmas
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 24 December 2020

'Tis that time of year when it is OK to use the word 'tis. Programmers are a funny lot, keen and eager to program, but they too are forced to stand away from the keyboard and stop coding. Why exactly? Well there are festive treats to open and consume and Xmas is a CS problem in its own right.

And more realistically, the family would disown them if they coded through the 25th. Set free from the lexicographic abstraction, who could blame a programmer's mind from wondering the essentially programming nature of the holiday:



More cartoon fun at xkcd a webcomic of romance,sarcasm, math, and language

Then there is the question of how exactly do the elves solve the travelling santa problem, or TSP? Presumably they have a cloud computer running for most of the year. This is just one of the many difficult, if not NP Hard, problems that are embedded in the core of xmas.

The present assignment problem is closely related to the knapsack problem and then there is the Christmas cake cutting problem...

When you start looking CS is everywhere in xmas.

Of course this is just part of the story - because CS is just everywhere and not just at xmas. If Billy had been better trained in programming and computer science he would at least know the cost of removing the root present. How many other tragedies could be avoided if we just insisted that algorithms were a part of life and a part of the school curriculum.

And when it's all over we can start the GC algorithm and hope it defrags the house in O(1).

If it doesn't there is always a Roomba to try...

Happy programming year.



  •  Mike James is the author of The Programmer’s Guide To Theory which, as its subtitle "Great ideas exlpained" suggests, sets out to present the fundamental ideas of computer science in an informal and yet informative way.

  • This book is one of our team's recommendations for books you might like to relax with over the festive season, see Holiday Reading 2020, in our Programmer's Bookshelf section.


More Information


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 December 2020 )