can multi-core improve single funciton?

Steven D'Aprano steven at
Tue Feb 10 03:45:37 EST 2009

On Tue, 10 Feb 2009 18:18:23 +1000, Gerhard Weis wrote:

> Once I have seen Haskell code, that ran fibonacci on a 4 core system.
> The algorithm itself basically used an extra granularity paramet until
> which new threads will be sparked. e.g. fib(40, 36) means, calculate
> fib(40) and spark threads until n=36. 1. divide: fib(n-1), fib(n-2)
> 2. divide: fib(n-2), fib(n-3)
> 3. divide: fib(n-3), fib(n-4)
> We tried this code on a 4 core machine using only 1 core and all 4
> cores. 1 core wallclock: ~10s
> 4 core wallclock: ~3s

Three seconds to calculate fib(40) is terrible. Well, it's a great saving 
over ten seconds, but it's still horribly, horribly slow.

Check this out, on a two-core 2.2 GHz system:

>>> import timeit
>>> timeit.Timer('fib(40)', 'from __main__ import fib').timeit(1)

That's five orders of magnitude faster. How did I do it? I used a better 

def fib(n, a=1, b=1):
    if n==0:
        return a
    elif n==1:
        return b
    return fib(n-1, b, a+b)

And for the record:

>>> fib(500)
>>> timeit.Timer('fib(500)', 'from __main__ import fib').timeit(1)

Less than a millisecond, versus millions of years for the OP's algorithm. 
I know which I would choose. Faster hardware can only go so far in hiding 
the effect of poor algorithms.


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