Tag Archive for 'php recursion'

PHP Recursion: The Fundamentals

recursionNailing Down Recursion

On more than one occasion on this blog, I’ve wandered off into the land of operations to examine recursion. In looking over past recursion posts and recursion discussions on the Web, I found a lot of bad information, partial information and helpful information. Likewise, I consulted some programming books, especially Robert Sedgewick’s and Kevin Wayne’s 2011 edition (4th) of Algorithms. Also, I found a great and detailed article on recursion by David Matuszek. Robert Sedgewick and Kevin Wayne are professors at Princeton and David Matuszek is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, their focus is on larger conceptual and mathematical issues surrounding computer programming and the role that recursion plays in that context.

However, I also wanted to get a non-academic view from developers, and I found two very good posts on Martin Fowler’s Refactoring site by Dave Whipp and Ivan Mitrovic. For those of you not familiar with Martin Fowler, he’s written books and articles on computing and is one of the founders of the Agile Movement in program development. He is a primary consultant to businesses and institutions who want to optimize their programs for efficiency and effectiveness. Among PHP developers the Agile approach to programming is quite popular.

What is Recursion?

In a nutshell,

Recursion in computer programming occurs when a method calls itself.

While that definition is a starting point, a more detailed and useful one is provided by Sedewick and Wayne. They spell out three features in a good recursive method:

  1. A recursion begins with a conditional statement with a return. This is called the base case (or halting case), and it supplies the criterion which will stop the recursive operation.
  2. Recursive calls to sub-problems converge to the base case. Each call must bring the values in use closer to the halting conditions.
  3. Called sub-problems should not overlap.

You can find a lot of discussions and debate about the definition and use of recursive methods in programming, but the fundamental fact remains that recursion is one of the central ideas in computer science. As a professional programmer, you need to know about recursion and you should use it. This does not mean you have to use it all the time, but you need to understand what you can do with it and its limitations and advantages. Start off with the following implementations and download the code:

In PHP and other computer programs, recursion and the need for it arise all the time. So you should have some sense of how to use it and when. Like other computing concepts, you may not use it all the time, but when you need it, you really need it.

World’s Easiest Recursive Function

To get started we’ll look at a simple recursive call. It is a version of what kids do when you take them on a trip. (And what you did when you were a kid on a trip…) You’d ask the reasonable question,

Are we there yet?

If you kept calling the same query as soon as you’d received a negative response, it has recursive-like qualities. The “No!” is the base case, and the car moving to the objective (“there”) is the change that occurs between each call to the query, “Are we there yet?”

< ?php
class Recursion
    private $ask="<span style='font-family:sans-serif;'>Are we there yet?<br />";
    private $answer="No!<br />";
    private $counter=0;
    public function __construct()
    private function thereYet()
        //Base case (also called 'halting case')
        if($this->counter < =10)
            echo $this->ask;
            echo $this->answer;
            //Recursive call
            return $this->thereYet();
            echo "<p></p>" . $this->ask;
            $this->answer="<strong><em>Yes! We are there!</em></strong>" ;
            echo $this->answer;

The return value calls for a recursive event inside the thereYet() method. With each call, the counter variable’s value moves toward convergence with the base case. After 10 calls, the counter variable exceeds the base case and no more self-calls are made by the thereYet() method.

While that example could be handled by iteration in a loop; it provides another way to accomplish a task. It’s easy to understand and meets the criteria set up for recursion. (Click below to see more.)
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PHP Iterator Design Pattern II: Binary Search

fastBinaryList Searches

To move ahead with implementations of the Iterator design pattern that help illustrate the value of polymorphic iterations, understanding how different list searches work is essential. In their Iterator illustration, Gamma et al provide an example of a program that has concrete iterators for both standard lists and for skip lists. Skip lists are made up of linked lists and use a binary search algorithm to quickly iterate through the skip list. So to understand skip lists you need to first understand both linked lists and binary searches. This post is dedicated to the latter—binary searches. A future post examines linked lists with skip lists.

Lists come in two basic flavors: ordered and unordered. Searches depend on finding a specific item in a list, and most algorithms are designed for ordered lists. For PHP developers, this can mean anything from searching for an item in a list from a database to an associative array. To get started, consider an associative array and finding a key using the built-in array_search($item, $list) method. The array_search(($item, $list) iterates through an array until it finds the element specified in $item in the array, $list and returns the key. To see a simple example, click the Play button and to download the file, click the Download button.QuizbinaryBtnDownload
All examples were tested on single core (e.g., Raspberry Pi) and multi-core (e.g., Dell, Macintosh) systems.

Using the array_search() method, you can use the key in the key-value pairs as information resources because the search returns the key instead of the value. You can see that in the following class:

< ?php
ini_set("display_errors", 1);
class ArraySearch
    private $country;
    public function __construct($nation)
         //Generate list
         $currency=array('rupiah' => 'Indonesia','peso' => 'Uruguay', 'real' => 'Brazil', 'rupee' => 'India',
                         'dollar' => 'Liberia', 'euro' => 'Luxembourg', 'yen' => 'Japan', 'pound' => 'Egypt',
                         'yuan'  => 'China', 'dinar' => 'Serbia', 'shekel' => 'Israel', 'krone' => 'Norway',
                         'ringgit'  => 'Malasia', 'rial' => 'Iran', 'shilling' => 'Kenya', 'rand' => 'South Africa',
                         'ruble' => 'Belarus','dong' => 'Vietnam');
         echo "$this->country's currency is the " . array_search($this->country,$currency) . ". <p></p>";
$worker = new ArraySearch($tour);

For relatively short lists, the array_search() method works fine, and you don’t have to write (or remember!) a lot of code to work with it.

The Binary Search

binarySearchTo get a sense of how the binary search works, take a piece of paper (a discarded joke-a-day calendar page works well) and fold it into two equal halves. Keep folding it in half until you have 6 folds. After six folds I could not get a seventh fold—the paper was too fat by that point.

Instead of doubling something, if you halve a value, even very big numbers quickly are reduced to zero. For example, how many times do you think that it would take to half the number 1 million (1,000,000), rounding all halves down, before it became zero? Would it take 1000 halves? 10,000? 100,000? The following class loops through an operation that cuts the value in half with each iteration. It starts with a value of 1 million.

< ?php
class BinaryCut
    public function __construct()
        $bignum=1000000;//1 million
        $count = 0;
        while($bignum > 0)
            $bignum= floor($bignum / 2);
            echo "iteration# $count : Number=$bignum <br />";
$worker=new BinaryCut();

When you run the program, you can see how quickly 1 million is reduced to zero. That same principle is used in a binary search.
Continue reading ‘PHP Iterator Design Pattern II: Binary Search’