For a recent project I needed to calculate the pairwise distances of a set of observations to a set of cluster centers. In MATLAB you can use the pdist function for this. As far as I know, there is no equivalent in the R standard packages. So I looked into writing a fast implementation for R. Turns out that vectorizing makes it about 40x faster. Using Rcpp is another 5-6x faster, ending up with a 225x speed-up over the naive implementation.