"What is the smallest value of $n$ such that an algorithm whose running time is $100n^2$ runs faster than an algorithm whose running time is $2^n$ on the same machine?"

I know the answer is $n = 15$, but is there any way to solve this without trial and error?

  • $\begingroup$ have you tried with logarithms? $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2013 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ It should be $n=15$ since $2^{14}-100\cdot 14^2=-3216.$ $\endgroup$
    – coffeemath
    Jan 3, 2013 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ You can start by plotting the function $x\mapsto 2^x - 100x^2$. After this, you just have to check that the value you found is correct. $\endgroup$
    – Siméon
    Jan 3, 2013 at 12:41

1 Answer 1


Trial and error is necessary, unless you use Lambert's W-function. In maple, the request for a solution to $2^x=100x^2$ gave two complicated expressions involving the Lambert function $W(x)$. Numeric evaluation of these gave the real values $0.103657...$ and $14.324727...$, making the answer $15$.


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