Monday, August 10, 2009

Numb3rs Algorithm Clips

One of the things I've been enjoying doing while teaching Algorithms during this summer session is including algorithm explanations from Numb3rs whenever possible. Unfortunately, due to copyright constraints, I can't share the actual clips with all of you, but I can at least tell you where to find them. (My limited understanding of the copyright law is that since I bought the episode - $2 from iTunes - I can show short clips for educational use in my classroom. I could be wrong, so proceed based on your own understanding.) Here are the clips by algorithm/problem, episode, title, and approximate time within the episode.

  • Art Gallery Problem - Season 2, Episode 3, Obsession. 9:05 - 9:20. This is unfortunately a very short clip that doesn't really give a statement of the problem.
  • Dijkstra's Shortest Path Algorithm - Season 3, Episode 23, Money for Nothing. 9:20 - 10:10. This gives a nice description of greedy algorithms in general (via the change algorithm, though without David E's more detailed comments) and an overview of Dijkstra's algorithm.
  • Knapsack Problem - Season 3, Episode 24, The Janus List. 18:30 - 19:00. This clip gives a nice and mostly compete description of the problem in the context of "things you would bring on a hiking trip" based on weight and their importance.
  • P vs. NP - Season 1, Episode 2, Uncertainty Principle. 18:30 - 19:00. The P =? NP problem is a theme running throughout this episode... but unfortunately there's no nice clip that summarizes the problem, just lots of shots of Charlie working hard and a mention of the Minesweeper Consistency Problem. The specific times I mention are as close as I could find to a useful clip for teaching purposes.
  • Monty Hall Problem - This is a clip that's actually on YouTube, so I'll let whoever posted it take the blame for the copyright issues and just give a link.
  • The Seven Bridges of Konigsberg - Season 2, Episode 9, Toxin. 24:30 - 25:20. If you imagine that this problem would look beautiful if well-animated and described, you're right.
  • Voronoi Diagrams - Season 2, Episode 10, Bones of Contention. 29:45 - 30:25. A description of Voronoi diagrams in terms of "the closest place to find a cheeseburger."

I've been thoroughly enjoying watching these clips in class, and I think my students have too. Perhaps this will become a running series as/if I find more. If you know of any additional clips, from Numb3rs or elsewhere, please leave them in the comments.


Erin said...

Thanks for posting these, Sorelle! I'll definitely use these, both in algorithms and in discrete math. I've been trying to build up a library of clips like this for all the classes I teach, so you've just saved me some work. =)

Alex McFerron said...

This is great! thanks for this!

sorelle said...

Excellent - glad it's useful! Erin - if you have clip tips, let me know and if it's ok I'll post that info too so that everything can be collected in one place. (: