Could someone help me to understand the concept behind period finding in Shor algorithm?. I'm a beginner in quantum computing.

I want to know why we use Shor's algorithm to find the period and what is the use of it.


2 Answers 2


It is helpful to first understand how to implement Shor's algorithm classically. Following this, let's take

$$ N = 314191$$

Step 1: Make a random guess

$$G = 127$$

Step 2: Compute the greatest common divisor using Euclid's algorithm

$$ gcd(127,314191) = 1$$

If the $gcd > 1$, then we will have factorized N by pure luck.

Step 3: Find a number X such that

$$ 127^X = 1 \mod{314191}$$

By classical search,

$$X = 17388$$

Step 4: This implies that

$$127^{17388} = 314191m + 1$$ $$127^{17388} - 1 = 314191m$$ $$(127^{\frac{17388}{2}} - 1)(127^{\frac{17388}{2}} + 1) = 314191m$$ $$(127^{8694} - 1)(127^{8694} + 1) = 314191m$$

Step 5: It can be shown that X being an even number, one or both of the LHS factors $(127^{8694} - 1)(127^{8694} + 1)$ likely share some common factors with $314191$ (instead of $m$), ie.

$$gcd(127^{8694} \pm 1, 314319) > 1$$

occurs with a rather high probability of nearly $ 40 \% $.


$$gcd(127^{8694} + 1, 314319) = 829$$


$$gcd(127^{8694} - 1, 314319) = 379$$

are the two factors of $N = 314319$.

Period finding is specific to the quantum implementation of Shor's algorithm, where X occurs as periodic bumps of interval X. The purpose of period finding is to find X faster than is classically possible.


Shor's algorithm is designed to work faster on a quantum computer since quantum computers run multiple steps simultaneously due to their ability to store qubits in superposition. We use period-finding in specific so we can apply QPE (quantum phase estimation). If you have not watched the Veritasium video on it, I would recommend watching that to understand the algorithm and understand a bit of why it works faster. In general, quantum algorithms are designed in a completely different way than classical algorithms. Hope that helps!


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