[Haskell-beginners] Removing the biggest element from a list - maybe slow?

Daniel Fischer daniel.is.fischer at web.de
Mon May 24 10:47:50 EDT 2010

On Monday 24 May 2010 16:15:32, Markus Läll wrote:
> On a list, that is internally too a list, the complexity of the
> operation is always at least O(n), because to find the maximum, you
> have to look through all the list -- i.e do n comparisons.
> If you don't have any other variables like pointers to the previous
> and next elements of the maximum, when you are going trough the list
> to find it, then after finding the maximum value, you have to go
> through the list again, to find its position and remove it...
> For
> > delete (maximum xs) xs
> the complexity is O(n + m), where m is the index of the maximum. This
> goes through the list to find the maximum, and then goes through it
> again up  until it finds the first occurrance of it.
> For
> > init $ sort xs
> it is (n log n) + n, where (n log n) is the complexity of the sorting
> algorithm (it might be something else depending on the algorithm), and
> (+ n) is because the init funcion has to go through  the list again to
> find its last element and remove it.

And since we changed the order of elements anyway,

drop 1 $ sortBy (flip compare) xs

saves us the last traversal. But if the order is changed, it can be done in 

> Although Haskell is lazy, and when sorting a list, it might not get
> fully sorted until you request the last element from the sorted list,
> the init function still forces it to do so.
> I don't know how one would do the removing of the maximum by going
> through the list and whenever finding a bigger element, then saving
> the positions of its predecessor and successor, so it could reassemble
> the list in the middle, when it has done looking through it. Anyone
> have ideas?

remLargest :: Ord a => [a] -> [a]
remLargest [] = []
remLargest [_] = []
remLargest (x:xs) = go [] x xs
    go post _ [] = reverse post
    go post mx (y:ys)
        | mx < y    =  mx : reverse post ++ go [] y ys
        | otherwise = go (y:post) mx ys

Not as ugly as I feared, and not as inefficient for descending lists as I 

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