The Art of Computer Programming: Volume 2: Seminumerical Algorithms: Seminumerical Algorithms v. 2 Hardcover – 4 Nov 1997
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From the Back Cover
The bible of all fundamental algorithms and the work that taught many of today's software developers most of what they know about computer programming.
―Byte, September 1995
I can't begin to tell you how many pleasurable hours of study and recreation they have afforded me! I have pored over them in cars, restaurants, at work, at home... and even at a Little League game when my son wasn't in the line-up.
If you think you're a really good programmer... read [Knuth's] Art of Computer Programming... You should definitely send me a resume if you can read the whole thing.
It's always a pleasure when a problem is hard enough that you have to get the Knuths off the shelf. I find that merely opening one has a very useful terrorizing effect on computers.
The second volume offers a complete introduction to the field of seminumerical algorithms, with separate chapters on random numbers and arithmetic. The book summarizes the major paradigms and basic theory of such algorithms, thereby providing a comprehensive interface between computer programming and numerical analysis. Particularly noteworthy in this third edition is Knuth's new treatment of random number generators, and his discussion of calculations with formal power series.
About the Author
Donald E. Knuth is known throughout the world for his pioneering work on algorithms and programming techniques, for his invention of the Tex and Metafont systems for computer typesetting, and for his prolific and influential writing. Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University, he currently devotes full time to the completion of these fascicles and the seven volumes to which they belong.
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When you generate random numbers in Excel, or VBA, or Perl, or C using functions packaged with the software, you are really using a deterministic algorithm that is not random at all; the results do however look random and so we call them "pseudorandom".
Chapter 3 contains four main sections. First a section devoted to the linear congruence method (Xn+1=(aXn + c) mod m) of generating a pseudorandom sequence; with subsections on how to choose good values for a, c, and m. Second we get a section about how to test sequences to find if they are acceptably random or not. Third we find a section on other methods, expanding on linear congruence. Finally in a particularly fascinating section, DK provides a rigorous definition of randomness.
I haven't looked much at chapter 4 yet, on arithmetic. In it Knuth covers positional arithmetic, floating point arithmetic, multiplication and division at the machine level, prime numbers and efficient ways of investigating the primeness of very large numbers.
Again, DK is thorough and methodical. Again this is not a for dummies book. Again it is about theorems, algorithms, mechanical processes, and timeless truths. Again the exercises are a fascinating blend of the practical (investigate the random generating functions on the computers in your office) to the mathematical (he asks readers to formally prove many of the theorems he cites). And yes, again Knuth uses MIX, that wonderfully archaic fictional 60s machine language. But that should not stop readers; I use Perl.
Vincent Poirier, Tokyo
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