We revisit the problem of searching for a target at an unknown location on a line when given upper and lower bounds on the distance D that separates the initial position of the searcher from the target. Prior to this work, only asymptotic bounds were known for the optimal competitive ratio achievable by any search strategy in the worst case. We present the first tight bounds on the exact optimal competitive ratio achievable, parameterized in terms of the given bounds on D, along with an optimal search strategy that achieves this competitive ratio. We prove that this optimal strategy is unique. We characterize the conditions under which an optimal strategy can be computed exactly and, when it cannot, we explain how numerical methods can be used efficiently. In addition, we answer several related open questions, including the maximal reach problem, and we discuss how to generalize these results to m rays, for any m≥2.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Computational geometry, Fibonacci polynomials, Online algorithms, Optimization
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tcs.2014.12.007
Journal Theoretical Computer Science
Citation
Bose, P, de Carufel, J.-L. (Jean-Lou), & Durocher, S. (Stephane). (2015). Searching on a line: A complete characterization of the optimal solution. Theoretical Computer Science, 569(C), 24–42. doi:10.1016/j.tcs.2014.12.007