For St. Patrick's Day, Dancing Hungarians!

Turn to me for your seasonal Magyar/Hibernian connections. I mention the item below purely because I love it. But if you imagine the dancing figures in the video not as folk dancers from Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, performing a Hungarian dance, but rather as Irish country cloggers, you can make this seem wholly relevant to St. Patrick's Day. 

What I love is that this is simultaneously preposterous and erudite. It's an accurate-while-ridiculous animation of the way the computer algorithm known as "quicksort" works. The logic behind quicksort is to put a list of items into order through a recursive series of "greater than / less than" tests. You could read all about it here or here. Or you could just watch the video. 

I also love this comment on the YouTube version: "It would have been cool if it was multithreaded." That's true -- you would have had dancers on both sides doing simultaneous "pivot" tests after the first partition --  but it's a full success as is. My admiration goes to whoever had the weird imagination to think this was worth the effort. It was.

 PS The video itself is recursive, so you get the point pretty quickly. It just repeats the sorting process all the way to the end.
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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