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Dive into algorithms: a Python adventure for the intrepid beginner
Tuckfield B., No Starch Press, San Francisco, CA, 2021. 248 pp. Type: Book (978-1-718500-68-6)
Date Reviewed: Apr 10 2023

While writing this review, I faced a troubling problem: how to get my crying four-month-old to sleep. This is the kind of problem humans should be able to solve, right? (Considering the endless nights that I have spent awake, this might not be the case for me.) If only there was a clear set of instructions for coaxing a baby to sleep!

Apparently, the latest research provides just this: carry the baby for five minutes, then sit with the baby for five-to-eight minutes before laying her down in her cot. What I have just described could loosely be called an “algorithm” for coaxing babies to sleep: it is a set of instructions that, when properly followed, produce a well-defined outcome or solve a particular problem. Humans apply algorithms on a daily basis and there is nothing to fear about them, even if you are not a computer scientist or a mathematician. Think about it. Have you ever successfully baked muffins? Have you ever played football or baseball? Have you ever filed your taxes? If yes, you have put an algorithm into place to do so, even if you did not realize it.

Dive into algorithms is an accessible, humorous, and entertaining book that guides readers through the enthralling world of algorithms. Tuckfield accompanies the reader on an audacious journey, traveling through centuries to discover old algorithms (that are still in use today) and opening the door for the reader to explore (on her own) the algorithms of the future (for example, quantum algorithms). This book is an adventure with algorithms in which you’ll climb mountains, descend valleys, and cross forests while in discussion with Russian peasants. With this book you will learn about gravity’s rainbow and the analytic and algorithmic approach to understanding it. You will meet Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī and Galileo. You will learn about algorithms that bring into focus relationships between apparently disparate ideas, others that recursively call themselves until a solution is found, and yet others that appear out of the blue, as a gift from the gods, inscribed on the back of a magical Japanese turtle.

The book’s 11 chapters include algorithms for maximization, sorting, searching, optimization, random number generation, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and much more. In all the chapters, Python code is smoothly integrated to exemplify the presented theoretic framework. However, if, like me, you are not a Python enthusiast, do not worry--you will still enjoy the book. On the flipside, if you are a Python advocate, reading the book should be even more of a pleasure. In this sense, the book is for everyone (although a minimum of high school math is advisable).

Once you enter the world of algorithms, you might never be the same. In the very words of the author: “Algorithms can make us clever, but they cannot make us wise. It is important to remember that the great power of algorithms is useless or even harmful if it is used for the wrong ends.” All in all, this great book presents algorithms, from the oldest to the newest, in a very, very accessible way. I fully recommend.

Warning: upon finishing the book, you might end up discussing these just-learned algorithms with a chatbot.

More reviews about this item: Amazon

Reviewer:  Agusti Solanas Review #: CR147574
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