# Floyd's Linked List Cycle Finding Algorithm¶

Given a linked list where the starting point of that linked list is denoted by **head**, and there may or may not be a cycle present. For instance:

Here we need to find out the point **C**, i.e the starting point of the cycle.

## Proposed algorithm¶

The algorithm is called **Floyd’s Cycle Algorithm or Tortoise And Hare algorithm**.
In order to figure out the starting point of the cycle, we need to figure out of the the cycle even exists or not.
So, it involved two steps:
1. Figure out the presence of the cycle.
2. Find out the starting point of the cycle.

### Step 1: Presence of the cycle¶

- Take two pointers $slow$ and $fast$.
- Both of them will point to head of the linked list initially.
- $slow$ will move one step at a time.
- $fast$ will move two steps at a time. (twice as speed as $slow$ pointer).
- Check if at any point they point to the same node before any one(or both) reach null.
- If they point to any same node at any point of their journey, it would indicate that the cycle indeed exists in the linked list.
- If we get null, it would indicate that the linked list has no cycle.

Now, that we have figured out that there is a cycle present in the linked list, for the next step we need to find out the starting point of cycle, i.e., **C**.

### Step 2: Starting point of the cycle¶

- Reset the $slow$ pointer to the
**head**of the linked list. - Move both pointers one step at a time.
- The point they will meet at will be the starting point of the cycle.

```
// Presence of cycle
public boolean hasCycle(ListNode head) {
ListNode slow = head;
ListNode fast = head;
while(fast != null && fast.next != null){
slow = slow.next;
fast = fast.next.next;
if(slow==fast){
return true;
}
}
return false;
}
```

```
// Assuming there is a cycle present and slow and fast are point to their meeting point
slow = head;
while(slow!=fast){
slow = slow.next;
fast = fast.next;
}
return slow; // the starting point of the cycle.
```

## Why does it work¶

### Step 1: Presence of the cycle¶

Since the pointer $fast$ is moving with twice as speed as $slow$, we can say that at any point of time, $fast$ would have covered twice as much distance as $slow$. We can also deduce that the difference between the distance covered by both of these pointers is increasing by $1$.

```
slow: 0 --> 1 --> 2 --> 3 --> 4 (distance covered)
fast: 0 --> 2 --> 4 --> 6 --> 8 (distance covered)
diff: 0 --> 1 --> 2 --> 3 --> 4 (difference between distance covered by both pointers)
```

### Step 2: Starting point of the cycle¶

Lets try to calculate the distance covered by both of the pointers till they point they met within the cycle.

$slowDist = a + xL + b$ , $x\ge0$

$fastDist = a + yL + b$ , $y\ge0$

- $slowDist$ is the total distance covered by slow pointer.
- $fastDist$ is the total distance covered by fast pointer.
- $a$ is the number of steps both pointers need to take to enter the cycle.
- $b$ is the distance between
**C**and**G**, i.e., distance between the starting point of cycle and meeting point of both pointers. - $x$ is the number of times the slow pointer has looped inside the cycle, starting from and ending at
**C**. - $y$ is the number of times the fast pointer has looped inside the cycle, starting from and ending at
**C**.

$fastDist = 2 \cdot (slowDist)$

$a + yL + b = 2(a + xL + b)$

Resolving the formula we get:

$a=(y-2x)L-b$

where $y-2x$ is an integer

This basically means that $a$ steps is same as doing some number of full loops in cycle and go $b$ steps backwards. Since the fast pointer already is $b$ steps ahead of the entry of cycle, if fast pointer moves another $a$ steps it will end up at the entry of the cycle. And since we let the slow pointer start at the start of the linked list, after $a$ steps it will also end up at the cycle entry. So, if they both move $a$ step they both will meet the entry of cycle.