The Merge Sort — Python Code

I have just begun working on a MOOC on algorithms offered by Stanford. Since this course gives us the liberty to choose a programming language, there isn’t any code discussed in those lectures. I plan to convert any algorithm discussed in those lectures into Python code. Since Merge Sort was the first algorithm discussed, I’m starting with that.

Merge Sort is supposedly a good introduction to divide and conquer algorithms, greatly improving upon selection, insertion and bubble sort techniques, especially when input size increases.


— Recursively sort the first half of the input array.
— Recursively sort the second half of the input array.
— Merge two sorted sub-lists into one list.

C = output [length = n]
A = 1st sorted array [n/2]
B = 2nd sorted array [n/2]
i = 0 or 1 (depending on the programming language)
j = 0 or 1 (depending on the programming language)

for k = 1 to n

if A(i) < B(j)
C(k) = A(i)
i = i + 1

else if A(i) > B(j)
C(k) = B(j)
j = j + 1

Note: the pseudocode for the merge operation ignores the end cases.

Visualizing the algorithm can be done in 2 stages — first, the recursive splitting of the arrays, 2 each 2 at a time, and second, the merge operation.

Merge-sort-example-300px MergeSort

Here’s the Python code to merge sort an array.

We can divide a list in half log2 n times where n is the length of the list. The second process is the merge. Each item in the list will eventually be processed and placed on the sorted list. So the merge operation which results in a list of size n requires n operations. The result of this analysis is that log2 n splits, each of which costs n for a total of nlog2 n operations.

Other Algorithms:
Karatsuba Integer Multiplication Algorithm
Quick Sort Python Code


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