Set Operations

Sieve
Sieve in Python
def primes(number):
    not_prime = set()
    primes = []

    for num in range(2, number+1):
        if num not in not_prime:
            primes.append(num)
            not_prime.update(range(num*num, number+1, num))

    return primes

This is the fastest method so far tested, at all input sizes.

With only a single loop, performance scales linearly: O(n).

A key step is the set update().

Less commonly seen than add(), which takes single element, update() takes any iterator of hashable values as its parameter and efficiently adds all the elements in a single operation.

In this case, the iterator is a range resolving to all multiples, up to the limit, of the prime we just found.

Primes are collected in a list, in ascending order, so there is no need for a separate sort operation at the end.

def primes(number):
    numbers = set(item for item in range(2, number+1))
    
    not_prime = set(not_prime for item in range(2, number+1)
                    for not_prime in range(item**2, number+1, item))
    
    return  sorted(list((numbers - not_prime)))

After a set comprehension in place of an explicit loop, the second example uses set-subtraction as a key feature in the return statement.

The resulting set needs to be converted to a list then sorted, which adds some overhead, scaling as O(n log n).

In performance testing, this code is about 4x slower than the first example, but still scales as O(n).

def primes(number: int) -> list[int]:
    start = set(range(2, number + 1))
    return sorted(start - {m for n in start for m in range(2 * n, number + 1, n)})

The third example is quite similar to the second, just moving the comprehension into the return statement.

Performance is very similar between examples 2 and 3 at all input values.

Sets: strengths and weaknesses

Sets offer two main benefits which can be useful in this exercise:

  • Entries are guaranteed to be unique.
  • Determining whether the set contains a given value is a fast, constant-time operation.

Less positively:

  • The exercise specification requires a list to be returned, which may involve a conversion.
  • Sets have no guaranteed ordering, so two of the above examples incur the time penalty of sorting a list at the end.
29th May 2024 · Found it useful?