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How can I prove that $T(n) = 2T(n/2) + n$ is $O(n \log n)$ ?

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The more interesting question is: How do you come up with the hypothesis? – Raphael Dec 9 '11 at 11:39
up vote 1 down vote accepted

There are two ideas to do this. The first one is telescoping where you recursively use the definition of $T(n)$ or you could of course use induction (this almost always works). For a sketch of the proof check page 3 here. Note that here it is assumed that $n$ is a power of 2 making the proof simpler, if not it goes in the same fashion nevertheless.

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@Dan If, for some reason, you could solve the recurrence for $n$ a power of two, but couldn't solve it for a general $n$, then you can do the following. Let $n'$ be the power of two such that $n \leq n' < 2n$. Then $T(n) \leq T(n') = O(n' \log n') = O(2n \log (2n)) = O(n \log n)$. The constant hidden by the $O$ notation is slightly worse, but that's fine. – Srivatsan Jul 29 '11 at 9:45


Use induction to show that there are constants $c$ and $n_0$ s.t. $T(n) \leq c \cdot n \log n \quad\forall n \geq n_0$. Use $T(2)$ as your base case. Remember cool log properties to reduce the logarithm and to use the induction hypothesis.

Post your progress if you get stuck.

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Let $L(k)=T(2^k)$ and $n = 2^k$. Then $L(k)=T(n)$, $L(k-1)=T(n/2)$, and $L(k)=2L(k-1)+2^k$. Thus, $$ \begin{align} L(1) &= 2\;L(0) + 2^1 \\ L(2) &= 2\;L(1) + 2^2 \\ &= (2^2\;L(0) + 2^2) +2^2 \\ L(3) &= 2\;L(2) + 2^3 \\ &= (2^3\;L(0)+2^3+2^3)+2^3 \\ L(4) &= 2\;L(3) + 2^4 \\ &= (2^4\;L(0)+2^4+2^4+2^4)+2^4 \\ &\dots \\ L(k) &= 2^k\;L(0) + k\;2^k \\ &\text{or}\\ T(n) &= n\;T(1) + \log_2(n)\;n \\ &\text{when }n\text{ is a power of }2 \end{align} $$ Therefore, $T(n)=O(n\log(n))$.

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This is how you come up with the hypothesis, not a proof. – Raphael Dec 9 '11 at 11:37
@Raphael: Above, it is shown that $L(k)=2^kL(0)+k\;2^k$. That is, $L(k)=O(k2^k)$. Unfortunately, the hypothesis only allows us to compute $T(n)$ for $n=m2^k$, for some $m$. The argument above works for any $m$ (I chose $m=1$, but for a different $m$, only the big-O constant needs to be adjusted). Therefore, the result above for $n=2^k$ is essentially all we can infer. Hopefully, there are some other assumptions, such as monotonicity, which can be used to extend the estimate above to all values of $n$. – robjohn Dec 9 '11 at 17:41
@Raphael: Perhaps you are worried about the free-form induction. Sometimes free-form induction is easier to follow, and gets the idea across more clearly. The point of a proof is to convince the reader that the statement being proven is true, and I hope that that is accomplished above. – robjohn Dec 9 '11 at 17:41
That is indeed my problem with such "proofs". The expressiveness of $\dots$ heavily depends on the reader. Also, they can be "used" to hide bugs. In this particular case, an induction is probably even shorter than your pattern-guessing steps; of course, you'd need both. – Raphael Dec 10 '11 at 11:53

T(1) = 1

T(n) = 2T (n/2) + cn

T(n) = 2T (n/2) + cn

T(n/2) = 2T(n/4) + c (n/2)

T(n) = 2 [ 2T (n/4) + c (n/2) ] + cn

T(n) = 4T (n/4) + 2cn

Similary, T(n) = 8T (n/8) + 3cn

General T(n) = 2^k T (n/2^K) + kcn

(n/2^k) = 1

n = 2^k

k = log base2 n

plug in k into the general formula

T(n) = n T(1) + logBase2n cn

T(n) = Big Thetha(n log n )

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nice analysis ....thanks – Sudip Das Dec 8 '15 at 15:37

Use the Master Theorem.

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