It seems that all the US presidential hopefuls have visited Google’s HQ. According to the New York Times,
The proceedings at Google are not unremittingly serious affairs. Mr. Schmidt asked Senator McCain, “How do you determine good ways of sorting one million 32-bit integers in two megabytes of RAM?” Immediately signaling that the question was asked in jest, Mr. Schmidt moved on. Six months later, Senator Obama faced the same question, but his staff had prepared him. When he replied in fluent tech-speak (“A bubble sort is the wrong way to go”), the quip brought down the house…
Note for non-techies: a bubble sort is a sorting algorithm which works by repeatedly stepping through the list to be sorted, comparing two items at a time and swapping them if they are in the wrong order. The pass through the list is repeated until no swaps are needed, which indicates that the list is sorted. The name comes from the fact that smaller numbers effectively ‘bubble’ to the top.
Aside: There’s something vaguely comical (and intrinsically pathetic) about politicians’ needs to associate themselves with what they perceive as the ‘leading edge’ du jour. The NYT piece points out that in the old days all presidential hopefuls went to visit General Motors. Now it’s Google.
And here’s another funny thing: ten years ago, Microsoft was perceived (by politicians, anyway) as the leading edge and so they all traipsed to Redmond. It’s interesting that the Cameroonian Tories have taken great care to associate themselves not with the world’s leading monopolist but with Google (CEO Eric Schmidt was invited to their annual conference). In contrast, Gordon Brown (who was the driving force behind the idea of giving Bill Gates a knighthood) probably still thinks that Microsoft is the big deal. The irony, of course, is that Google is all set to become, as it were, the next Microsoft.