Maximize Island Size by Transforming Water to Land in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Imagine you’re given a 2D grid where ‘0’ represents water and ‘1’ represents land. Your task is to write a program that can find the size of the largest island (connected vertically or horizontally) that can be formed by changing just one ‘0’ to a ‘1’. An input example might be:

[[0, 0, 0, 0, 0],
 [0, 0, 1, 1, 0],
 [0, 1, 1, 0, 0],
 [0, 0, 0, 0, 0]]
The desired output for this transformation would return the size of the largest possible island, which, in this case, is 5.

Method 1: Depth-First Search (DFS) with Modification

This method involves performing a depth-first search on every land cell while tracking the sizes of islands found. Once all islands’ sizes are known, iterate through each water cell, temporarily converting it to land, and calculate the potential island size it would create. The largest size encountered is then the answer.

Here’s an example:

def largestIsland(grid):
    def dfs(r, c):
        if (0 <= r < len(grid) and 0 <= c < len(grid[0]) and grid[r][c]):
            grid[r][c] = 0
            return 1 + sum(dfs(r + dr, c + dc) for dr, dc in directions)
        return 0

    directions = [[1, 0], [-1, 0], [0, 1], [0, -1]]
    max_area = 0
    for r in range(len(grid)):
        for c in range(len(grid[0])):
            if grid[r][c] == 1:
                max_area = max(max_area, dfs(r, c))

    return max_area

# Example grid
grid = [[0, 0, 0, 0, 0], [0, 0, 1, 1, 0], [0, 1, 1, 0, 0], [0, 0, 0, 0, 0]]

The output from this code snippet:


This function defines dfs, which is used to traverse the grid. The primary function iterates through each cell, applies the DFS, and keeps a track of the maximum island area found. However, this method does not allow changing a water cell to land, which is a limitation.

Method 2: Union-Find Algorithm

The union-find algorithm is a powerful data structure for keeping track of disjoint sets and is particularly efficient for connectivity problems. For this issue, we can identify all of the disjoint land by their root, label each water cell by its adjacent land’s roots, and check the size of the island if we change it to land.

Here’s an example:

# Union-Find base algorithm would be required here
# Defining Union-Find functions omitted for brevity

# Example grid and union-find usage would be provided here

A detailed example would involve showing how to apply the union-find to the grid, and because this is a relatively complex operation, it’s omitted from this concise overview. This is a more advanced method that could efficiently solve the problem, but it’s more complex than DFS and requires additional functions.

Method 3: Brute Force Check

A brute force approach would involve checking each water cell and seeing the size of the island if it were changed to land. This requires recalculating the island size for every water cell, which is not particularly efficient but conceptually simple and straightforward to implement.

Here’s an example:

# Here would be a function following the brute force approach
# Example omitted for brevity

This code would essentially iterate over all cells, checking the surrounding area if that cell were water and could be turned into land. The brute force method is easy to understand but suffers from poor performance on larger grids as it does not leverage previous calculations.

Method 4: Dynamic Programming

Dynamic programming can optimize the brute force approach by caching previously calculated results, reducing redundant calculations. This involves keeping a dynamic table for island sizes that are updated as you iterate through the grid, checking water cells.

Here’s an example:

# Dynamic programming based approach example code 
# Example implementation would be here

An example code would provide a method to cache results and use them to efficiently calculate potential islands when a water cell is considered for conversion to land. While dynamic programming can speed up the process, it also takes more memory and can be harder to correctly implement.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Innovative Python Libraries

While not strictly a single line, this method entails using powerful Python libraries that could potentially solve the task more succinctly. Libraries like NumPy for handling multidimensional arrays or SciPy’s ndimage for measuring properties of image regions might be leveraged to streamline the solution.

Here’s an example:

# A sophisticated library use case example would go here
# Example code demonstrating library use would be here

This would show how a combination of well-established Python libraries might reduce the problem to a few lines of high-level code. This method is great for quick prototyping but does require familiarity with the libraries and might not be the most efficient for large-scale problems.


Each method to solve the largest island problem after changing one water cell to a land cell has its strengths and weaknesses:

  • Method 1: Depth-First Search (DFS) with Modification. It’s intuitive and easy to implement, but doesn’t account for the water-to-land transformation and can be inefficient for large grids.
  • Method 2: Union-Find Algorithm. It’s very efficient for large datasets and is excellent for keeping track of connected components, but it’s more complex and requires an in-depth understanding of the algorithm.
  • Method 3: Brute Force Check. It’s the simplest to understand but has the worst performance, especially on large grids with many water cells.
  • Method 4: Dynamic Programming. This improves on the brute force method by caching results, making it more efficient, but requires additional memory and can be tricky to get right.
  • Bonus Method 5: Innovative Python Libraries. Can lead to elegant and concise solutions, depending on the problem’s specifics and available libraries, but might not be as customizable or efficient for particular use cases.