Word Ways


Dana Richards


Ross Eckler discusses a problem in his article "Planet Packing" in the May 2001 Word Ways: given a list of words, such as the names of the planets, how efficiently can they be packed into a single string of characters so that each word on the list can be read off left to right (but not necessarily contiguously)? He hypothesizes "there is no guarantee that any algorithm will end up with a minimum string." Since the design and analysis of algorithms has been my area of research for some 25 years, this caught my attention. Informally, an algorithm is a terminating procedure that could be coded as a computer program. (However, the procedure in the "Planet Packing" article does not contain enough tie-breaking rules to qualify as an algorithm).