I have a list a = {L, S, L, L, S} and I can find the position of of either L or S by:

Position[a, {L, S}]

But what if I want to find IF the a segment {L,S} exists?

Ideally, I would like to know how many such patterns exist and how many elements separate them.


2 Answers 2

SequenceCases[a, {L, S}]

{{L, S}, {L, S}}

SequencePosition[a, {L, S}]

{{1, 2}, {4, 5}}

SequenceCount[a, {L, S}]



Per default, Position searches all levels of an expression while SequencePosition does not. One can force Position to focus on the first level to gain a speed-up. Still, SequencePosition is a bit faster.

a = RandomChoice[{S, L}, 1000000];
ls = Position[Partition[a, 2, 1], {L, S}]; // MaxMemoryUsed // RepeatedTiming
ls2 = Position[Partition[a, 2, 1], {L, S}, 1, Heads -> False]; // MaxMemoryUsed // RepeatedTiming
ls3 = Flatten[SequencePosition[a, {L, S}]][[1 ;; ;; 2]]; // MaxMemoryUsed // RepeatedTiming
Flatten[ls] == Flatten[ls2] == ls3

{0.353, 96256488}

{0.283, 96256568}

{0.192, 32998448}


Apparently, SequencePosition profits from using packed arrays while (Positions does not in this case). So it is even faster to recode the dataset.

b = Developer`ToPackedArray@With[{L = 0, S = 1}, Evaluate[a]]; // MaxMemoryUsed // RepeatedTiming
pat = Developer`ToPackedArray[{0, 1}];
ls4 = Flatten[SequencePosition[b, pat]][[1 ;; ;; 2]]; // MaxMemoryUsed // RepeatedTiming
ls3 == ls4

{0.031, 16000320}

{0.090, 33021904}


Since a really like sparse arrays, here an even faster method using SpareArray (notice that we need the recoded list b from above):

ls5 = Flatten[SparseArray[UnitStep[Differences[b] - 1]]["NonzeroPositions"]]; // MaxMemoryUsed // RepeatedTiming
ls4 == ls5

{0.017, 16579184}


Pick is essentially on par; sometimes it is a tick faster:

ls6 = Pick[Range[Length[b] - 1], Differences[b], 1]; // MaxMemoryUsed // RepeatedTiming

{0.015, 24000568}



One way to approach this would be to partition the sequence into pairs and then find the positions of the pairs:

ls = Position[Partition[a, 2, 1], {L, S}]

which shows that the two {L, S}s occur at the first and fourth positions. To find the separation between the occurrences:


To get the number of occurrences:


If there are no occurrences, then you will get 0.


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