Interview Question: Efficient Comparisons

Sample Question #293 (programming – algorithms)
What’s the minimum number of comparisons needed to find the smallest [or largest] number among n numbers?
[You may feel questions like this are more suited for developer positions at a high-tech company. In reality, however, Wall Street firms are always looking for ways to optimize their algorithms — after all, "time is money!" — so questions about efficient algorithms are commonplace, esp. for quant developer positions (which seem to be the only openings left these days).]
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