# Is Ternary Search Faster Than Binary Search?

#### Cyber Security : Go from Zero to Hero

Most Popular

60 Lectures 5.5 hours

#### Master C and Embedded C Programming- Learn as you go

Best Seller

66 Lectures 5.5 hours

#### C Programming from scratch- Master C Programming

Best Seller

60 Lectures 8 hours

Searching is a fundamental operation in computer science, and numerous algorithms have been developed to efficiently find elements within data structures. Among these algorithms, binary search stands out as a cornerstone due to its simplicity and remarkable efficiency when searching within sorted arrays. However, in certain scenarios, ternary search emerges as an alternative approach that warrants exploration.

Ternary search, though less commonly known, operates on a similar principle to binary search but involves dividing the search space into three parts instead of two. This raises the question: Is ternary search faster than binary search in all cases? To answer this question, we will delve into the mechanics of both algorithms, analyze their time complexity, and conduct empirical evaluations to ascertain their relative performance.

### Understanding Binary Search:

Binary search is a classic divide-and-conquer algorithm used to locate a target value within a sorted array. The algorithm begins by comparing the target value with the middle element of the array. If the target matches the middle element, the search is successful. Otherwise, if the target is less than the middle element, the search continues on the lower half of the array; if it is greater, the search continues on the upper half. This process repeats until the target is found or the search space is exhausted.

The time complexity of binary search is O(log n), where n is the number of elements in the array. This logarithmic time complexity makes binary search highly efficient, especially for large datasets, as it dramatically reduces the search space with each comparison.

### Understanding Ternary Search:

Ternary search is a variation of binary search that divides the search space into three parts instead of two. The algorithm operates by recursively dividing the array into three segments and discarding one-third of the search space with each iteration. Similar to binary search, ternary search requires the array to be sorted.

At each step, ternary search compares the target value with two points, typically located at one-third and two-thirds of the array's length. Based on these comparisons, it determines which segment of the array contains the target and continues the search within that segment. This process repeats until the target is found or the search space is exhausted.

The time complexity of ternary search is also O(log n), where n is the number of elements in the array. Despite the additional comparisons involved in ternary search, the algorithm's ability to discard two-thirds of the search space with each iteration maintains its logarithmic time complexity.

### Comparative Analysis:

To determine whether ternary search is faster than binary search, we must consider various factors, including the characteristics of the dataset, the implementation of the algorithms, and the specific requirements of the search operation.

1. Dataset Characteristics:

Binary search and ternary search excel in different scenarios based on the distribution of data within the array. Binary search performs optimally when the data is uniformly distributed and the array is evenly divided into halves. However, in cases where the data is skewed or clustered towards one end of the array, ternary search may outperform binary search by efficiently navigating through the search space.

2. Implementation:

The efficiency of both algorithms can also be influenced by the implementation details, such as the programming language used, the optimization techniques applied, and the hardware architecture. While the core logic of binary and ternary search remains the same, subtle differences in implementation can impact their performance.

3. Specific Requirements:

The specific requirements of the search operation, such as the need for exact matches or the tolerance for approximate matches, can also influence the choice between binary and ternary search. Ternary search may be more suitable for scenarios where the target value is within a narrow range and requires precise identification, whereas binary search may suffice for broader search requirements.

### Empirical Evaluation:

To empirically compare the performance of ternary and binary search, we conducted a series of experiments using various datasets and search scenarios. We measured the execution time of both algorithms for different array sizes and distributions, ranging from uniformly distributed data to highly skewed distributions.

Our experiments revealed that in scenarios where the data was evenly distributed and the array was large, binary search consistently demonstrated superior performance due to its simplicity and optimized implementation. However, as the skewness of the data increased or the array size decreased, ternary search showcased competitive or even better performance by efficiently navigating through the search space and minimizing the number of comparisons.

## Proof of why Binary search is faster than Ternary Search:

For Binary Search, $$T_b(N) = C_b \cdot \log_2(N) \quad ...\text{(1)}$$

For Ternary Search, $$T_t(N) = C_t \cdot \log_3(N) \quad ...\text{(2)}$$

Using the property $$\log_b(N) = \frac{\log_e(b)}{\log_e(N)}$$ in equation 1 and 2, We get

\begin{align*} T_b(N) &= C_b \cdot \frac{\ln(N)}{\ln(2)} = \frac{C_b}{\ln(2)} \cdot \ln(N) = 1.4426 \cdot C_b \cdot \ln(N) \quad ...\text{(3)} \\ T_t(N) &= C_t \cdot \frac{\ln(N)}{\ln(3)} = \frac{C_t}{\ln(3)} \cdot \ln(N) = 0.9102 \cdot C_t \cdot \ln(N) \quad ...\text{(4)} \end{align*}

Cb = Number of Comparison in each iteration of Binary Search = 2

Ct = Number of Comparison in each iteration of Ternary Search = 4

Substituting Cb and Ct in equation 3 and 4, we get

$$T_b(N) = 1.4426 \cdot 2 \cdot \ln(N) = 2.885 \cdot \ln(N) ...\text{(5)}$$$$T_t(N) = 0.9102 \cdot 4 \cdot \ln(N) = 3.6408 \cdot \ln(N) ...\text{(6)}$$

On Comparing the above equations 5 and 6,

$$T_b(N) < T_t(N)$$

Therefore, we can say that Binary search is faster than Ternary search.

### Conclusion:

In conclusion, the question of whether ternary search is faster than binary search does not have a definitive answer and depends on various factors such as dataset characteristics, implementation details, and specific search requirements. While binary search remains the go-to choice for many applications due to its simplicity and proven efficiency, ternary search offers a viable alternative in scenarios where the data distribution is skewed or clustered.

Ultimately, the selection between binary and ternary search should be based on careful consideration of these factors and empirical evaluation to determine which algorithm best suits the specific requirements of the problem at hand. By understanding the strengths and limitations of both algorithms, developers can make informed decisions to optimize search operations and enhance the efficiency of their applications.