Julia is lightning fast: bubble sort revisited

December 26, 2013
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I had heard the name of the new technical computing language Julia buzzing around for some time already. Now during Christmas I had some time on my hands, and implemented the bubble sort algorithm that I have already posted about several times (R, C++). The main argument for Julia is it’s speed. It claims speeds comparable to that of a compiled language such as C++, but in the form of a high-level programming language such as R or Matlab.

The following Julia code implements the bubble sort algorithm, in the same style as the C++ algorithm I implemented using Rcpp.

function swap_vector(vec_in, passes)
    no_swaps = 0 
    for vec_index in [1:(length(vec_in) - 1 - passes)]
        if vec_in[vec_index] > vec_in[vec_index + 1]
            no_swaps += 1
            tmp = vec_in[vec_index]
            vec_in[vec_index] = vec_in[vec_index + 1]
            vec_in[vec_index + 1] = tmp 
        end 
    end 
    return no_swaps
end

function sort_julia(vec_in)
    passes = 0 
    while(true)
        no_swaps = swap_vector(vec_in, passes)
        if no_swaps == 0 
            break
        end 
        passes += 1
    end 
    return vec_in
end

n = 10000
repeat = 10

for index in [1:repeat]
    unsorted_vec = rand(Int32, n)
    println(@elapsed bla = sort_julia(unsorted_vec))
end

Running this from the command line leads to the following timings in seconds:

$ julia sort_julia.jl 
0.4039602
0.37794618
0.382728631
0.376510427
0.376038704
0.382480906
0.376912447
0.370066738
0.387273682
0.376426721

This is in the same order of magnitude as the C++ implementation, which leads to timings of around 0.31 secs. So, this first examples shows that Julia is comparable in speed to C++ for this example, which is much much faster than the same implementation would be in R.

Julia certainly lacks the maturity of a tool such as R or Python, but the speed is impressive and I like the clean looking syntax. I’m curious to see where Julia will go from here, but I’ll certainly try and find an excuse to try Julia out for a real project.

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