81. Search in Rotated Sorted Array II


Problem Description

In this problem, we are given an array nums that has initially been sorted in non-decreasing order but then has been rotated around a pivot. The rotation means that nums is rearranged such that elements to the right of the pivot (including the pivot) are moved to the beginning of the array, and the remaining elements are shifted rightward. This rearrangement maintains the order of both subsets but not the entire array. Our task is to determine if a given target integer exists in nums. We need to accomplish this in an efficient way, aiming to minimize the number of operations performed.

Intuition

The challenge lies in the fact that due to the array's rotation, it's not globally sorted anymore—although within the two subarrays created by the rotation (one before and one after the pivot), the elements remain sorted. We can leverage this sorted property to apply a modified binary search to achieve an efficient solution.

Since the array is only partially sorted, a regular binary search isn't directly applicable, but we can modify our approach to work with the rotation. The key idea is to perform regular binary search steps, but at each step, figure out which portion of the array is sorted and then decide whether the target value lies within that sorted portion or the other portion.

We need to deal with the situation where the middle element is equal to the element on the right side of our searching range. This complicates things as it could represent the pivot point or a sequence of duplicate values. When such a case occurs, we can't make a definite decision about which part to discard, so we just shrink our search space by moving the right pointer one step left and continue the search.

By following this approach, we ensure that we are always halving our search space, leveraging the sorted nature of the subarrays whenever possible, and gradually converge towards the target element if it exists in the nums array.

Learn more about Binary Search patterns.

Solution Approach

The algorithm uses a while-loop to repeatedly divide the search range in half, similar to a classic binary search, but with additional conditions to adapt it for the rotated array. The nums array is not passed by value. Instead, pointers (l and r) representing the left and right bounds of the current search interval are used to track the search space within the array, which is a space-efficient approach that doesn't involve additional data structures.

Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the code:

  1. Set the initial l (left pointer) to 0 and r (right pointer) to n - 1, where n is the length of the nums array.
  2. Start the while loop, which runs as long as l < r. This means we continue searching as long as our search space contains more than one element.
  3. Calculate the mid-point mid using the expression (l + r) >> 1, which is equivalent to (l + r) / 2 but faster computationally as it uses bit shifting.
  4. Three cases are compared to determine the next search space:
    • Case 1: If nums[mid] > nums[r], we know the left part from nums[l] to nums[mid] must be sorted. We then check if target lies within this sorted part. If it does, we narrow our search space to the left part by setting r to mid. Otherwise, target must be in the right part, and we update l to mid + 1.
    • Case 2: If nums[mid] < nums[r], the right part from nums[mid] to nums[r] is sorted. If target is within this sorted interval, we update l to mid + 1 to search in this part. Otherwise, we adjust r to the left by assigning it to mid.
    • Case 3: If nums[mid] == nums[r], we can't determine the sorted part as the elements are equal, possibly due to duplicates. We can't discard any half, so we decrease r by one to narrow down the search space in small steps.
  5. This process repeats, halving the search space each time until l equals r, at which point we exit the loop.
  6. Check if the remaining element nums[l] is equal to target. If so, return true, else return false.

This solution leverages the sorted subarray properties induced by rotation and the efficiency of the binary search while handling the duplicates gracefully. This ensures that we minimize the search space as quickly as possible and determine the existence of the target in the array, thus decreasing the overall operation steps.

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Example Walkthrough

Let's take a small example to illustrate the solution approach using the steps mentioned below:

Suppose nums is [4, 5, 6, 7, 0, 1, 2] and our target is 0. This array is sorted and then rotated at the pivot element 0.

  1. Set the initial pointers: l = 0, r = 6 (since there are 7 elements).
  2. The while loop begins because l < r (0 < 6).
  3. Calculate the mid-point: mid = (l + r) >> 1, hence mid = 3. The element at mid is 7.
  4. Proceed with comparing the three cases:
    • Case 1: Since nums[mid] (7) is greater than nums[r] (2), we find that the left part from nums[l] to nums[mid] is sorted. We check if target (0) could be in this sorted part. Given the sorted array [4,5,6,7], we see target is not there, so l = mid + 1, which makes l = 4.
    • The right bound r remains the same since target was not within the left sorted part.
  5. Now l = 4 and r = 6. We again calculate mid = (4 + 6) >> 1, so mid = 5. The element at mid is 1.
    • Case 2: Since nums[mid] (1) is less than nums[r] (2), the right part is sorted ([1,2]). The target (0) is not within this interval, so we update r to mid which means r = 5 - 1 = 4.
    • The left bound l remains at 4 because the target was not located in the sorted right part.
  6. We end up with l = 4 and r = 4 as both are equal, which means we exit the loop.
  7. Check the remaining element nums[l], which is nums[4] (0) against target (0). They match, so we would return true.

Through this example, the solution narrows down the search space by binary search while considering the effects of rotation. This results in an efficient way to determine if the target exists in the rotated sorted array, without having to search every element.

Solution Implementation

1from typing import List
2
3class Solution:
4    def search(self, nums: List[int], target: int) -> bool:
5        # The length of the input array
6        num_length = len(nums)
7      
8        # Initialize the left and right pointers
9        left, right = 0, num_length - 1
10      
11        # Binary search with modifications to handle the rotated sorted array
12        while left < right:
13            # Calculate the middle index
14            mid = (left + right) // 2
15          
16            # If the middle element is greater than the rightmost element,
17            # it means the smallest element is to the right of mid.
18            if nums[mid] > nums[right]:
19                # Target is in the left sorted portion
20                if nums[left] <= target <= nums[mid]:
21                    right = mid
22                else:
23                    left = mid + 1
24            # If the middle element is less than the rightmost element,
25            # it means the smallest element is to the left of mid.
26            elif nums[mid] < nums[right]:
27                # Target is in the right sorted portion
28                if nums[mid] < target <= nums[right]:
29                    left = mid + 1
30                else:
31                    right = mid
32            # If the middle element is equal to the rightmost element,
33            # we can't determine the smallest element's position,
34            # so we reduce the search space by one from the right.
35            else:
36                right -= 1
37      
38        # Final comparison to see if the target is at the left index
39        return nums[left] == target
40
1class Solution {
2    public boolean search(int[] nums, int target) {
3        int left = 0; 
4        int right = nums.length - 1;
5      
6        // Continue searching while the window is valid
7        while (left < right) {
8            int mid = left + (right - left) / 2; // Avoid potential overflow of (left + right)
9          
10            // If middle element is greater than the rightmost element, the pivot is in the right half
11            if (nums[mid] > nums[right]) {
12                // If target lies within the left sorted portion
13                if (nums[left] <= target && target <= nums[mid]) {
14                    right = mid; // Narrow down to left half
15                } else {
16                    left = mid + 1; // Search in the right half
17                }
18            }
19          
20            // If middle element is less than the rightmost element, the left half is sorted properly
21            else if (nums[mid] < nums[right]) {
22                // If target lies within the right sorted portion
23                if (nums[mid] < target && target <= nums[right]) {
24                    left = mid + 1; // Narrow down to right half
25                } else {
26                    right = mid; // Search in the left half
27                }
28            }
29          
30            // If middle element equals the rightmost element, we can't determine the pivot
31            // so we reduce the search space by moving the right pointer one step to the left
32            else {
33                right--;
34            }
35        }
36      
37        // After the loop ends, left == right,
38        // checking if we have found the target
39        return nums[left] == target;
40    }
41}
42
1class Solution {
2public:
3    bool search(vector<int>& nums, int target) {
4        // Initialize the start and end indices
5        int start = 0, end = static_cast<int>(nums.size()) - 1;
6
7        // While the search space is valid
8        while (start <= end) {
9            // Calculate the midpoint index
10            int mid = start + (end - start) / 2;
11
12            // Check if the middle element is the target
13            if (nums[mid] == target) {
14                return true;
15            }
16
17            // When middle element is greater than the last element, it means
18            // the left half is sorted correctly
19            if (nums[mid] > nums[end]) {
20                // Check if target is in the sorted half
21                if (target >= nums[start] && target < nums[mid]) {
22                    end = mid - 1; // Narrow search to the left half
23                } else {
24                    start = mid + 1; // Narrow search to the right half
25                }
26            // When middle element is less than the last element, it means
27            // the right half is sorted correctly
28            } else if (nums[mid] < nums[end]) {
29                // Check if target is in the sorted half
30                if (target > nums[mid] && target <= nums[end]) {
31                    start = mid + 1; // Narrow search to the right half
32                } else {
33                    end = mid - 1; // Narrow search to the left half
34                }
35            // When middle element is equal to the last element, we don't have enough
36            // information, thus reduce the size of search space from the end
37            } else {
38                end--;
39            }
40        }
41
42        // After the while loop, if we haven't returned true, then target isn't present
43        return false;
44    }
45};
46
1function search(nums: number[], target: number): boolean {
2    let left = 0;
3    let right = nums.length - 1;
4
5    // Iterate as long as the left pointer is less than the right pointer
6    while (left < right) {
7        // Calculate the mid-point index
8        const mid = Math.floor((left + right) / 2);
9
10        // If the middle element is greater than the element at right,
11        // the rotation is in the right half
12        if (nums[mid] > nums[right]) {
13            // Target is within the left sorted portion
14            if (nums[left] <= target && target <= nums[mid]) {
15                right = mid; // Narrow the search to the left half
16            } else {
17                left = mid + 1; // Narrow the search to the right half
18            }
19        // If the middle element is less than the element at right,
20        // the rotation is in the left half
21        } else if (nums[mid] < nums[right]) {
22            // Target is within the right sorted portion
23            if (nums[mid] < target && target <= nums[right]) {
24                left = mid + 1; // Narrow the search to the right half
25            } else {
26                right = mid; // Narrow the search to the left half
27            }
28        // If the middle element is equal to the element at right,
29        // we are not sure where the rotation is
30        } else {
31            // We decrease the right pointer by one
32            --right;
33        }
34    }
35
36    // After the loop, if the left element is the target, return true,
37    // otherwise, return false.
38    return nums[left] === target;
39}
40

Time and Space Complexity

Time Complexity

The time complexity of the given algorithm can primarily be considered as O(log n) in the case of a typical binary search scenario without duplicates because the function repeatedly halves the size of the list it's searching. However, in the worst-case scenario where the list contains many duplicates which are all the same as the target, the algorithm degrades to O(n) because the else clause where r -= 1 could potentially be executed for a significant portion of the array before finding the target or determining it's not present.

Space Complexity

The space complexity of the code is O(1) because it uses a fixed number of variables, regardless of the input size. No additional data structures are used that would depend on the size of the input array.

Learn more about how to find time and space complexity quickly using problem constraints.


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