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How to to calculate the maximim or minimum of two numbers without using "if" ( or something equivalant to that manner)?

The above question is often asked in introductory computer science courses and is answered using this method.

Now although it is not obvious, but using absolute value is also equivalant to using an if statement e.g. defining Max(a,b) = a if a>b else b;

Besides using limits, is there another way of finding the maximum or minimum of two numbers?

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For me the absolute value is $\sqrt{a^2}$ for real numbers. I don't see an if here. – t.b. Aug 21 '11 at 10:29
Damn, that answers it – Arjang Aug 21 '11 at 10:37
if you knew what range your numbers are from you could use something along the lines of counting sort - as far as i understand it, it unambiguously only uses 'arithmetic operations' – Peter Sheldrick Aug 21 '11 at 10:38
Even earlier... – J. M. Aug 21 '11 at 10:40
Theo, i think then the question becomes: what is the most 'efficient' way to evaluate $\sqrt(a^2)$? - clearly in this case then the answer becomes 'if a > 0: +a else -a' – Peter Sheldrick Aug 21 '11 at 10:48
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Whether you need an if statement to take an absolute value depends on the format in which your numbers are stored. If you're using IEEE floating point numbers, you can take the absolute value by masking out the sign bit.

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If you let $a$ and $b$ be any two numbers then,

$$\max (a,b) = 1/2( a+ b+ |a-b| ).$$

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Very nice one... – NoChance Jul 27 '12 at 15:50

If $a$ and $b$ are both positive, then $$ \max(a,b) = \lim_{n\to\infty} \left(a^n+b^n\right)^{1/n}. $$

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if u want minimum or maximum number without if-else then check this

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