ShenDoc 30



Floats and Integers

Division between integers in Shen will yield a float if the divisor is not a whole divisor of the numerator. In some languages, e.g. Python, (/ 3 2) gives 1 (integer division) and not 1.5. It was argued as to whether Shen should follow suit. It was felt that in such cases it was more intuitive to return an answer with a fractional component - most people would consider 3/2 = 1 as false and for people using Shen to do wages calculations etc. 'street' division is more appealing.

An interesting question concerns the comparison of floats and integers is (= 1 1.0) true or not? Mathematically the decimal notation is simply a shorthand for a sum.

i.e. 1.0 = (1 x 100) + (0 x 10-1) = 1

Therefore if '=' represents identity then '(= 1 1.0)' is true. In Shen '(= 1 1.0)' is true (as in Common Lisp, '(= 1 1.0)' returns T) and 1.0 entered to the top level is returned as 1. Effectively a float is parsed as a sum of products i.e. 1.23 = (1 x 100) + (2 x 10-1) + (3 x 10-2).

E numbers are parsed similarly i.e. 1.23e2 = ((1 x 100) + (2 x 10-1) + (3 x 10-2)) x 102

A contrary approach is taken in Prolog where '1 = 1.0' is false. In ML the comparison is meaningless (returns an error) because 1.0 and 1 belong to different types - real and int. This is wrong.

Computing has fogged the issues here and committed the traditional error of confusing use and mention in its treatment of integers and floats, in other words, between numbers and the signs we use to represent them. We should not confuse the identity of two numbers with the identity of their representation. If we want to say that 1.0 is not an integer and 1 is, we commit an error, because 1.0 = 1; unless we mean by 'integer' an expression which is applied to the representation itself (as in the BNF above) i.e. '1.0'. In which case the expression 'integer' is predicated of something which is a numeral, in computing terms, a string. In Shen, the 'integer?' test is taken as predicating of numbers and 1.0 is treated as an integer.

The integer test in Shen runs in log time and is predicated on the following 'equations'

integer - integer = integer

non-integer - integer = non-integer

These 'equations', though mathematically true, can fail outside a certain range (commonly beyond 15 digits) which depends on the precision of the platform and therefore the accuracy of this test depends on the precision of the arithmetic. Thus we recommend that Shen be installed with at least double precision which gives accuracy up to 15 digits.


Basic Types in Shen and Kλ
The Primitive Functions of Kλ
The Syntax of Kλ
Notes on the Implementation of Kλ
Boolean Operators
The Syntax of Symbols
The Semantics of Symbols in Shen and Kλ
Strings and Pattern Matching
Character Streams and Byte Streams
Bytes and Unicode
Reader Macros
Standard Vectors and Pattern Matching
Non-standard Vectors and Tuples
Generic Functions
Type Declarations
External Global Variables
Property Lists and Hashing
Error Handling
Floats and Integers
The Timer
Special Forms

Built by Shen Technology (c) Mark Tarver, September 2021