A tool that has become quite common on the internet is mapping. There are several popular mapping sites including:
We take for granted the complications that go into these applications. For some reason, we assume the computer must know more than we do. However, this is not (initially) the case.
When the map software receives a request, it essentially looks at a map of individual points. Each point has one or more paths coming out of it and going to other points. In simple terms, the mapping software has the goal of finding the shortest path between the start and destination points.
We find it easy to look at a map and tell what the shortest path might be. For a computer, this task is not so easy. There are complicated algorithms that must be used to find the shortest path between two points.
This is based on a lot of what is studied in combinatorics. This computer class was good, but hard. Some of the algorithms for finding the shortest path include:
There are many more, but these are just some of the goodies that go into your Mapquest search!