Logarithm at Five Levels
Let’s break down the concept of a logarithm in five layers of complexity.
Child: Imagine you have a magical box. You put two apples in the box, close it, and when you open it, there are four apples. Then you try the same trick with three apples and you get eight apples when you open the box. This box seems to double the apples each time you add one. Now, let’s say you find eight apples and you can’t remember how many you started with. The ’logarithm’ is like your best friend who was watching you all along and can tell you “you started with three apples!”
Teenager: A logarithm is a way of answering the question: “how many of one number do we multiply to get another number?” For example, if we have 2^3 = 8, the logarithm helps us figure out that we multiplied 2 three times to get 8. So, we would say the base2 logarithm of 8 is 3.
Undergraduate: Logarithms are the inverse operation to exponentiation, just as subtraction is the inverse of addition and division is the inverse of multiplication. Logarithms are extremely useful in many areas of science, for example, to solve equations involving exponential functions or to compress largescale data into a more manageable size. The ‘base’ of the logarithm indicates the number being multiplied in the exponentiation process.
Grad student: In addition to what has been said, logarithms are essential in many areas of mathematics and engineering, like in solving differential equations or in signal processing. They are also crucial in computer science, specifically in analyzing the time and space complexity of algorithms. A deep understanding of logarithms helps to work with many mathematical concepts like entropy in information theory, or in probability and statistics.
Colleague: We both know the crucial role logarithms play in scientific computations and data analysis. They are key to simplifying complex multiplicative processes into additive ones, making some calculations computationally more efficient. We frequently employ them in likelihood computations in statistics, the decibel scale in acoustics, the Richter scale in seismology, etc. Logarithms also enable us to deal with data that spans several orders of magnitude. Furthermore, their properties form the foundation of many algorithms and data structures. For instance, fast Fourier transforms, binary search trees, and many machine learning algorithms are heavily reliant on the properties of logarithms.
The logarithm of a number x with base b is the power to which b must be raised to get x. It is the inverse of exponentiation and is denoted as logb(x).
Some common logarithms:
 log2(x)  Binary logarithm
 log10(x)  Common logarithm
 ln(x)  Natural logarithm (base e)
Java example:


C++ example:


Python example:


Logarithms convert multiplication to addition, allowing transformation of problems for easier analysis. They have applications across math, science, and engineering.