Comparing different algorithms is hard. For almost any pair of algorithms and measure of algorithm performance like running time or solution quality, each algorithm will perform better than the other on some inputs.a For example, the insertion sort algorithm is faster than merge sort on already-sorted arrays but slower on many other inputs. When two algorithms have incomparable performance, how can we deem one of them "better than" the other?
Worst-case analysis is a specific modeling choice in the analysis of algorithms, where the overall performance of an algorithm is summarized by its worst performance on any input of a given size. The "better" algorithm is then the one with superior worst-case performance. Merge sort, with its worst-case asymptotic running time of Θ(n log n) for arrays of length n, is better in this sense than insertion sort, which has a worst-case running time of Θ(n2).
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