Why is "1000000000000000 in range(1000000000000001)" so fast in Python 3? Why is "1000000000000000 in range(1000000000000001)" so fast in Python 3? python python

Why is "1000000000000000 in range(1000000000000001)" so fast in Python 3?

The Python 3 range() object doesn't produce numbers immediately; it is a smart sequence object that produces numbers on demand. All it contains is your start, stop and step values, then as you iterate over the object the next integer is calculated each iteration.

The object also implements the object.__contains__ hook, and calculates if your number is part of its range. Calculating is a (near) constant time operation *. There is never a need to scan through all possible integers in the range.

From the range() object documentation:

The advantage of the range type over a regular list or tuple is that a range object will always take the same (small) amount of memory, no matter the size of the range it represents (as it only stores the start, stop and step values, calculating individual items and subranges as needed).

So at a minimum, your range() object would do:

class my_range:    def __init__(self, start, stop=None, step=1, /):        if stop is None:            start, stop = 0, start        self.start, self.stop, self.step = start, stop, step        if step < 0:            lo, hi, step = stop, start, -step        else:            lo, hi = start, stop        self.length = 0 if lo > hi else ((hi - lo - 1) // step) + 1    def __iter__(self):        current = self.start        if self.step < 0:            while current > self.stop:                yield current                current += self.step        else:            while current < self.stop:                yield current                current += self.step    def __len__(self):        return self.length    def __getitem__(self, i):        if i < 0:            i += self.length        if 0 <= i < self.length:            return self.start + i * self.step        raise IndexError('my_range object index out of range')    def __contains__(self, num):        if self.step < 0:            if not (self.stop < num <= self.start):                return False        else:            if not (self.start <= num < self.stop):                return False        return (num - self.start) % self.step == 0

This is still missing several things that a real range() supports (such as the .index() or .count() methods, hashing, equality testing, or slicing), but should give you an idea.

I also simplified the __contains__ implementation to only focus on integer tests; if you give a real range() object a non-integer value (including subclasses of int), a slow scan is initiated to see if there is a match, just as if you use a containment test against a list of all the contained values. This was done to continue to support other numeric types that just happen to support equality testing with integers but are not expected to support integer arithmetic as well. See the original Python issue that implemented the containment test.

* Near constant time because Python integers are unbounded and so math operations also grow in time as N grows, making this a O(log N) operation. Since it’s all executed in optimised C code and Python stores integer values in 30-bit chunks, you’d run out of memory before you saw any performance impact due to the size of the integers involved here.

The fundamental misunderstanding here is in thinking that range is a generator. It's not. In fact, it's not any kind of iterator.

You can tell this pretty easily:

>>> a = range(5)>>> print(list(a))[0, 1, 2, 3, 4]>>> print(list(a))[0, 1, 2, 3, 4]

If it were a generator, iterating it once would exhaust it:

>>> b = my_crappy_range(5)>>> print(list(b))[0, 1, 2, 3, 4]>>> print(list(b))[]

What range actually is, is a sequence, just like a list. You can even test this:

>>> import collections.abc>>> isinstance(a, collections.abc.Sequence)True

This means it has to follow all the rules of being a sequence:

>>> a[3]         # indexable3>>> len(a)       # sized5>>> 3 in a       # membershipTrue>>> reversed(a)  # reversible<range_iterator at 0x101cd2360>>>> a.index(3)   # implements 'index'3>>> a.count(3)   # implements 'count'1

The difference between a range and a list is that a range is a lazy or dynamic sequence; it doesn't remember all of its values, it just remembers its start, stop, and step, and creates the values on demand on __getitem__.

(As a side note, if you print(iter(a)), you'll notice that range uses the same listiterator type as list. How does that work? A listiterator doesn't use anything special about list except for the fact that it provides a C implementation of __getitem__, so it works fine for range too.)

Now, there's nothing that says that Sequence.__contains__ has to be constant time—in fact, for obvious examples of sequences like list, it isn't. But there's nothing that says it can't be. And it's easier to implement range.__contains__ to just check it mathematically ((val - start) % step, but with some extra complexity to deal with negative steps) than to actually generate and test all the values, so why shouldn't it do it the better way?

But there doesn't seem to be anything in the language that guarantees this will happen. As Ashwini Chaudhari points out, if you give it a non-integral value, instead of converting to integer and doing the mathematical test, it will fall back to iterating all the values and comparing them one by one. And just because CPython 3.2+ and PyPy 3.x versions happen to contain this optimization, and it's an obvious good idea and easy to do, there's no reason that IronPython or NewKickAssPython 3.x couldn't leave it out. (And in fact, CPython 3.0-3.1 didn't include it.)

If range actually were a generator, like my_crappy_range, then it wouldn't make sense to test __contains__ this way, or at least the way it makes sense wouldn't be obvious. If you'd already iterated the first 3 values, is 1 still in the generator? Should testing for 1 cause it to iterate and consume all the values up to 1 (or up to the first value >= 1)?

Use the source, Luke!

In CPython, range(...).__contains__ (a method wrapper) will eventually delegate to a simple calculation which checks if the value can possibly be in the range. The reason for the speed here is we're using mathematical reasoning about the bounds, rather than a direct iteration of the range object. To explain the logic used:

  1. Check that the number is between start and stop, and
  2. Check that the stride value doesn't "step over" our number.

For example, 994 is in range(4, 1000, 2) because:

  1. 4 <= 994 < 1000, and
  2. (994 - 4) % 2 == 0.

The full C code is included below, which is a bit more verbose because of memory management and reference counting details, but the basic idea is there:

static intrange_contains_long(rangeobject *r, PyObject *ob){    int cmp1, cmp2, cmp3;    PyObject *tmp1 = NULL;    PyObject *tmp2 = NULL;    PyObject *zero = NULL;    int result = -1;    zero = PyLong_FromLong(0);    if (zero == NULL) /* MemoryError in int(0) */        goto end;    /* Check if the value can possibly be in the range. */    cmp1 = PyObject_RichCompareBool(r->step, zero, Py_GT);    if (cmp1 == -1)        goto end;    if (cmp1 == 1) { /* positive steps: start <= ob < stop */        cmp2 = PyObject_RichCompareBool(r->start, ob, Py_LE);        cmp3 = PyObject_RichCompareBool(ob, r->stop, Py_LT);    }    else { /* negative steps: stop < ob <= start */        cmp2 = PyObject_RichCompareBool(ob, r->start, Py_LE);        cmp3 = PyObject_RichCompareBool(r->stop, ob, Py_LT);    }    if (cmp2 == -1 || cmp3 == -1) /* TypeError */        goto end;    if (cmp2 == 0 || cmp3 == 0) { /* ob outside of range */        result = 0;        goto end;    }    /* Check that the stride does not invalidate ob's membership. */    tmp1 = PyNumber_Subtract(ob, r->start);    if (tmp1 == NULL)        goto end;    tmp2 = PyNumber_Remainder(tmp1, r->step);    if (tmp2 == NULL)        goto end;    /* result = ((int(ob) - start) % step) == 0 */    result = PyObject_RichCompareBool(tmp2, zero, Py_EQ);  end:    Py_XDECREF(tmp1);    Py_XDECREF(tmp2);    Py_XDECREF(zero);    return result;}static intrange_contains(rangeobject *r, PyObject *ob){    if (PyLong_CheckExact(ob) || PyBool_Check(ob))        return range_contains_long(r, ob);    return (int)_PySequence_IterSearch((PyObject*)r, ob,                                       PY_ITERSEARCH_CONTAINS);}

The "meat" of the idea is mentioned in the line:

/* result = ((int(ob) - start) % step) == 0 */ 

As a final note - look at the range_contains function at the bottom of the code snippet. If the exact type check fails then we don't use the clever algorithm described, instead falling back to a dumb iteration search of the range using _PySequence_IterSearch! You can check this behaviour in the interpreter (I'm using v3.5.0 here):

>>> x, r = 1000000000000000, range(1000000000000001)>>> class MyInt(int):...     pass... >>> x_ = MyInt(x)>>> x in r  # calculates immediately :) True>>> x_ in r  # iterates for ages.. :( ^\Quit (core dumped)