Use in Computer ScienceFor more details on this topic, see Analysis of algorithms.
Informally, especially in computer science, the Big O notation often is permitted to be somewhat abused to describe an asymptotic tight bound where using Big Theta Θ notation might be more factually appropriate in a given context. For example, when considering a function, all of the following are generally acceptable, but tightnesses of bound (i.e., numbers 2 and 3 below) are usually strongly preferred over laxness of bound (i.e., number 1 below).
- T(n) = O(n100), which is identical to T(n) ∈ O(n100)
- T(n) = O(n3), which is identical to T(n) ∈ O(n3)
- T(n) = Θ(n3), which is identical to T(n) ∈ Θ(n3).
The equivalent English statements are respectively:
- T(n) grows asymptotically no faster than n100
- T(n) grows asymptotically no faster than n3
- T(n) grows asymptotically as fast as n3.
So while all three statements are true, progressively more information is contained in each. In some fields, however, the Big O notation (number 2 in the lists above) would be used more commonly than the Big Theta notation (bullets number 3 in the lists above) because functions that grow more slowly are more desirable. For example, if represents the running time of a newly developed algorithm for input size, the inventors and users of the algorithm might be more inclined to put an upper asymptotic bound on how long it will take to run without making an explicit statement about the lower asymptotic bound.
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