**The Problem**

This problem is named after Flavius Josephus a Jewish historian who fought against the Romans. According to Josephus him and his group of Jewish soldiers were cornered & surrounded by the Romans inside a cave and they chose murder and suicide inside of surrender and capture. They decided that all the soldiers will sit in a circle and starting from the soldier sitting at the first position every soldier will kill the soldier to their in a sequential way. So if there are 5 soldiers sitting in a circle with positions numbered as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. The soldier 1 kills 2, then 3 kills 4, then 5 kills 1, then 3 kills 5 and since 3 is the only one left then 3 commits suicide.

Now Josephus doesn’t want to get murdered or commit suicide. He would rather be captured by the Romans and is presented with a problem. He has to figure out at which position should he sit in a circle (provided there are n men in total and the man sitting at position 1 gets the first chance to murder) so that he is the last man standing and instead of committing suicide he will surrender to the Romans.

**The Pattern**

If you work this out for different values of n the you will find a pattern here. If n is a true power of 2 then the answer is always 1. For every n greater than that power of 2 the answer is incremented by 2.

*Image Source: Numberphile*

Now for every n the right position for Josephus can be found out by deducting the biggest possible power of 2 from the number and we get the answer (provided that value of n is not a pure power of 2 otherwise the answer is 1)

*Image Source: Numberphile*

**The Trick**

Whenever someone talks about the powers of 2 the first word that comes to mind is “binary”. The solution to this problem is much is easier and shorter in binary than in decimal. There is a trick to this. Since we need to deduct the biggest possible power of in binary that number is the Most Significant Bit. In the original Josephus problem there were 40 other soldiers along with Josephus which makes **n = 41**. 41 in binary is 101001. If we shift the MSB i.e. the leftmost 1 to the rightmost place we get 010011 which is 19 (in decimal) which is the answer. This is true for all cases. This can be done easily using bit manipulation.

## C

// C program for josephus problem #include <stdio.h> // function to find the position of the Most // Significant Bit int msbPos(int n) { int pos = 0; while (n != 0) { pos++; // keeps shifting bits to the right // until we are left with 0 n = n >> 1; } return pos; } // function to return at which place Josephus // should sit to avoid being killed int josephify(int n) { /* Getting the position of the Most Significant Bit(MSB). The leftmost '1'. If the number is '41' then its binary is '101001'. So msbPos(41) = 6 */ int position = msbPos(n); /* 'j' stores the number with which to XOR the number 'n'. Since we need '100000' We will do 1<<6-1 to get '100000' */ int j = 1 << (position - 1); /* Toggling the Most Significant Bit. Changing the leftmost '1' to '0'. 101001 ^ 100000 = 001001 (9) */ n = n ^ j; /* Left-shifting once to add an extra '0' to the right end of the binary number 001001 = 010010 (18) */ n = n << 1; /* Toggling the '0' at the end to '1' which is essentially the same as putting the MSB at the rightmost place. 010010 | 1 = 010011 (19) */ n = n | 1; return n; } // hard coded driver main function to run the program int main() { int n = 41; printf("%d\n", josephify(n)); return 0; }

## Java

// Java program for josephus problem public class GFG { // method to find the position of the Most // Significant Bit static int msbPos(int n) { int pos = 0; while (n != 0) { pos++; // keeps shifting bits to the right // until we are left with 0 n = n >> 1; } return pos; } // method to return at which place Josephus // should sit to avoid being killed static int josephify(int n) { /* Getting the position of the Most Significant Bit(MSB). The leftmost '1'. If the number is '41' then its binary is '101001'. So msbPos(41) = 6 */ int position = msbPos(n); /* 'j' stores the number with which to XOR the number 'n'. Since we need '100000' We will do 1<<6-1 to get '100000' */ int j = 1 << (position - 1); /* Toggling the Most Significant Bit. Changing the leftmost '1' to '0'. 101001 ^ 100000 = 001001 (9) */ n = n ^ j; /* Left-shifting once to add an extra '0' to the right end of the binary number 001001 = 010010 (18) */ n = n << 1; /* Toggling the '0' at the end to '1' which is essentially the same as putting the MSB at the rightmost place. 010010 | 1 = 010011 (19) */ n = n | 1; return n; } // Driver Method public static void main(String[] args) { int n = 41; System.out.println(josephify(n)); } }

**Output:**

19

**References:**

**Previous articles on the same topic:**

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