Problem 8.4

Water jugs

Suppose that you are given $n$ red and $n$ blue water jugs, all of different shapes and sizes. All red jugs hold different amounts of water, as do the blue ones. Moreover, for every red jug, there is a blue jug that holds the same amount of water, and vice versa.

Your task is to find a grouping of the jugs into pairs of red and blue jugs that hold the same amount of water. To do so, you may perform the following operation: pick a pair of jugs in which one is red and one is blue, fill the red jug with water, and then pour the water into the blue jug. This operation will tell you whether the red or the blue jug can hold more water, or that they have the same volume. Assume that such a comparison takes one time unit. Your goal is to find an algorithm that makes a minimum number of comparisons to determine the grouping. Remember that you man not directly compare two red jugs or two blue jugs.

  1. Describe a deterministic algorithm that user a $\Theta(n^2)$ comparisons to group the jugs into pairs.
  2. Prove a lower bound of $\Omega(n\lg{n})$ for the number of comparisons that an algorithm solving this problem must make.
  3. Give a randomized algorithm whose expected number of comparisons is $\O(n\lg{n})$, and prove that this bound is correct. What is the worst-case number of comparisons for your algorithm?

Deterministic algorithm

We compare each red jug with each blue jug and pair them on the first match.

Lower bound

We approach it in a similar fashion as section 8.1. The difference is that the nodes in this decision tree have three children, instead of two (it's a 3-tree!). If both sets of jugs are ordered, then a pairing is a $n$-permutation that maps each red jug to a blue one. Since there are $n!$ possible outputs, they should be present as leaves in the decision tree. If the length of the tree is $l$ we get a similar inequality:

$$ n! \le l \le 3^h$$

Again, taking the logarithms, we get:

$$ h \ge lg(n!) = \Omega(n\lg{n}) $$

Randomized algorithm

We can use an approach similar to quicksort. The partition function should work as follows:

  1. Choose, at random, a red jug for a pivot ($\O(1)$)
  2. Pick a corresponding blue jug ($\O(n)$)
  3. Partition the blue jugs around the red pivot and put the blue pivot in place ($\O(n)$)
  4. Partition the red jugs around the blue pivot and but the red pivot in place ($\O(n)$).

We're only comparing red and blue jugs.

The analysis is similar to the one of quicksort in section 7.4. There is some effort to translate the argument to having two arrays and additional comparisons, but the work is not hard. I will not present it here, since I think the applicability of the same argument is obvious.

C code

#include <stdlib.h>

typedef int jug;

static int tmp;
#define EXCHANGE(a, b) {tmp = a; a = b; b = tmp;}

int cmp(jug red, jug blue);

void quadratic_pair(jug *red, jug *blue, int size) {
    for (int i = 0; i < size; i++) {
        for (int j = i; j < size; j++) {
            if (cmp(red[i], blue[j]) == 0) {
                EXCHANGE(blue[i], blue[j]);

int partition(jug *red, jug *blue, int p, int q);

void quick_pair(jug *red, jug *blue, int p, int r) {
    if (p < r - 1) {
        int q = partition(red, blue, p, r);
        quick_pair(red, blue, p, q);
        quick_pair(red, blue, q + 1, r);

int partition(jug *red, jug *blue, int p, int q) {
    int pivot, i;
    jug red_pivot, blue_pivot;

    // Pick a red pivot
    i = rand() % (q - p) + p;
    EXCHANGE(red[i], red[q - 1]);
    red_pivot = red[q - 1];

    // Find the blue pivot and put it in final position
    // NOTE: This look can be folded in the next one to minimize the number of
    // comparisons, but I will keep it here for clarity
    for (int i = p; i < q; i++) {
        if (cmp(red_pivot, blue[i]) == 0) {
            EXCHANGE(blue[i], blue[q - 1]);

    // Partition the blue jugs around the red pivot
    pivot = p;
    for (int i = p; i < q - 1; i++) {
        if (cmp(red_pivot, blue[i]) > 0) {
            EXCHANGE(blue[pivot], blue[i]);

    // Put the blue pivot in place
    EXCHANGE(blue[pivot], blue[q-1]);
    blue_pivot = blue[pivot];

    // Partition the red jugs around the blue pivot
    int j = p;
    for (int i = p; i < q - 1; i++) {
        if (cmp(red[i], blue_pivot) < 0) {
            EXCHANGE(red[j], red[i]);

    // Put the red pivot in place
    EXCHANGE(red[q - 1], red[j]);

    // Return the pivot index
    return pivot;

int cmp(jug red, jug blue) {
    return red - blue;