The CS detective

A few weeks ago, I received a generic email from No Starch Press promoting The CS Detective, and as I had liked their earlier Statistics Done Wrong, I requested a review copy of the book. Which I received in Warwick while I was there, last week. And read over my trip back to Paris. As it is a very quick read.

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” T. Pratchett

The idea of the book is to introduce some concepts of tree searching algorithms through a detective-cum-magic story, a very shallow story if somewhat à la Terry Pratchett. (While this reference does not appear in the book, there are enough mentions made of turtles to suspect the filiation. Even though it is turtles all the way down. Hence I could not swear Frank Runtime was 100% inspired from Sam Vimes. But it rhymes.) I cannot say I am a bit fan of this approach as the story is an hindrance rather than an help, I do not find it particularly funny or enticing, and I keep wishing for the next concept to appear to end the current chapter and its inane plot. Of course, once the story is set aside, the book contains not that much in terms of search algorithms, because they all are limited to discrete tree structures. Namely, exhaustive, binary, breadth- and depth-first, iterative deepening, best-first, search algorithms, along with the notions of arrays, queues, stacks, and heaps. This fills about 50 pages of technical vignettes found at the end of each chapter…

So I end up wondering at what age this book would appeal to a young reader. Trying to remember from my own experience with summer vacation riddle and puzzle books, I would think the range 10-12 could be most appropriate although mileage will vary. Since the author, Jeremy Kubica, animates the Computational Fairy Tales blog with stories of the same flavour, you may start by tasting and testing this approach to popular science before getting the entire book

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s