This is a well studied problem. Robert Floyd came up with an algorithm to solve this in the 1960s. (Yes, the same Floyd of the from the more famous Floyd-Warshall algorithm.) More infomation at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycle_detection
People in the software industry seem to like to use this problem as an interview question. I personally have encountered this problem in at least two separate interviews for software jobs.
The following is an implementation of Floyd's idea:
(define (contains-cycle? lst) (define (safe-cdr l) (if (pair? l) (cdr l) '())) (define (iter a b) (cond ((not (pair? a)) #f) ((not (pair? b)) #f) ((eq? a b) #t) ((eq? a (safe-cdr b)) #t) (else (iter (safe-cdr a) (safe-cdr (safe-cdr b)))))) (iter (safe-cdr lst) (safe-cdr (safe-cdr lst)))) ; Tested with mzscheme implementation of R5RS: (define x '(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8)) (define y '(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8)) (set-cdr! (cdddr (cddddr y)) (cdddr y)) (define z '(1)) (set-cdr! z z) x ; (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) y ; (1 2 3 . #0=(4 5 6 7 8 . #0#)) z ; #0=(1 . #0#) (contains-cycle? x) ; #f (contains-cycle? y) ; #t (contains-cycle? z) ; #t
This runs in linear time and constant space. Note that the space is constant because the process is iterative and the parameters and a and b are pointers -- (cdr lst) is a pointer to, not a separate copy of the rest of the lst.
Brig Says: How about just change the values in the list to 'X'. Then all you have to do is check if the current value is x or not.
Joe Replies: Your suggestion is incorrect for (list 'a 'b 'c 'X) My solution did leverage a similar idea though, and is correct given the problem description (although it does trash the original list!):
(define (cycle-p! list) (let ((flag (cons 'doesnt 'matter))) (define (f pair) (cond ((null? pair) #f) ((eq? flag (car pair)) #t) (else (set-car! pair flag) (f (cdr pair))))) (f list)))
Solution that doesn't trash the original list:
(define (cycle? list) (define first list) (define (rec x) (cond ((eq? first x) #t) ((not (pair? x)) #f) (else (rec (cdr x))))) (rec (cdr list)))
David says: This solution will get stuck in an infinite loop in the first element is not in the cycle. For example
(define x (list 'a 'b)) (set-cdr! (cdr x) (cdr x)) (cycle? x) ; Does not return
gws says: I didnt know about Floyd solution and came up with a different algorithm that is correct and constant space but it is less efficient (time-wise) and less elegant:
(define (cycle-const-space? x) (define (iter x cont elem num) (cond ((null? (cdr x)) false) ((eq? x elem) true) (else (if (= cont num) (iter (cdr x) 0 x (+ 1 num)) (iter (cdr x) (+ cont 1) elem num))))) (iter x 0 nil 0))
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