Floating Point and Arithmetic Changes for Java SE Lnguage

Mario Torre neugens.limasoftware at gmail.com
Wed Mar 7 22:19:02 UTC 2018

I don’t remember ever having read another reply to this mailing list with
so much interest in years!

On Wed 7. Mar 2018 at 21:36, joe darcy <joe.darcy at oracle.com> wrote:

> Legend has it that after the ancient Greek Hippasus shared with his
> fellow travelers the elegant proof [1] that the square root of 2 is not
> a rational number, he was thrown off the ship by Pythagoreans outraged
> that such numbers should exist. Hippasus subsequently drowned. Whatever
> catharsis was released by his death did not change the fact that
> mathematically sqrt(2) cannot be exactly represented by the ratio of two
> integers.
> Rational numbers are simple and elegant. However, in many areas we
> cannot limit ourselves to dealing with rational numbers since values
> like sqrt(2) cannot be accommodated. To greatly abbreviate the
> development of different kinds of numbers, real numbers are commonly
> used, despite their complexities, since they contain their limits,
> meaning that transcendental values like pi are inside the system.
> Floating-point arithmetic is a systematic approximation to real
> arithmetic, an approximation with pragmatic compromises to facilitate
> calculation on computers. Floating-point numbers can represent numbers
> over vast scales and are (typically) fixed-sized. These aspects of
> floating-point arithmetic force most field axioms to fail to hold, field
> axioms being the familiar properties of arithmetic such as addition
> being associative ((a+b) + c == a + (b+c)).
> Other fixed-size approximations that have been explored, such as
> fixed-slash and floating-slash arithmetic, have been found to have worse
> computational shortcomings than floating-point arithmetic.
> It is true that using a binary floating-point representation rather than
> a decimal floating-point representation can cause additional surprises
> since 1/10 is not exactly representable in binary. However, all the
> field axioms that fail to hold for binary floating-point arithmetic also
> fail to hold for decimal floating-point arithmetic. In addition, the
> distances between adjacent decimal numbers makes a larger relative jump
> (ten-fold) across exponent boundaries than for binary (doubling).
> The IEEE 754-2008 standard incorporated decimal arithmetic into an
> update of the 1985 version of the standard. This included fixed-size 64
> and 128 bit decimal formats, amenable for hardware support. However, few
> architectures have added such support.
> Moreover, the roundoff errors from floating-point computation are only
> one source of errors in a computation. *Even if arithmetic were done
> exactly, numerical analysis would still be needed.* As numerical analyst
> Nick Trefethen has said "If rounding errors vanished, 95% of numerical
> analysis would remain." For example, exact arithmetic does not remove
> modeling error, where the model does have sufficient fidelity with
> reality. Many calculations involve sums of an infinite number of
> decreasing terms so truncation errors occurs for the tail of the total
> sum once the terms are no longer included.
> The bugs have you filed and the emails you have sent to this alias are
> all known situations and have all received responses:
>      JDK-8190947 -- Insufficient arithmetic Behaviour
>      Closed -- will not fix, including citations to additional
> explanations of floating-point.
>      JDK-8197995 - BigDecimal and BigInteger Defaulting Behaviour
>      Closed -- not an issue, long-existing documentation describes
> exactly how to avoid the reported problem.
>      JDK-8190991 - Forward and Inverse operations accuracy.
>      Closed -- not an issue. With fixed-precision, it is not possible to
> invert operations over the entire domain,    as previously discussed on
> this list
> http://mail.openjdk.java.net/pipermail/core-libs-dev/2017-December/050393.html
> .
>      JDK-8190946 - There is no elementary functions support for
> BigDecimal and BigInteger.
>      Closed as a duplicate of  JDK-4297957, which in turn was created in
> 1999 and closed as will not fix in 2006.
> Repeatedly ignoring these responses and the reasons given for them will
> not make advancing your cause easier and wastes the time of those
> crafting the replies.
> To examine a few of these more closely, for JDK-8190991: "Forward and
> Inverse operations accuracy" the responses give examples where for a
> fixed-precision result, the function cannot be exacted inverted even in
> the case where the true function is monotonically increasing (where it
> is defined), like square root. The concrete example previously sent to
> core libs: sqrt on the domain [1, 2) is in the range [1, ~1.4). From the
> pigeon-hole principle, this cannot be in inverted in the same precision
> since (of necessity) multiple elements of the domain map to the same
> element in the domain. In fact, a majority of elements of range must
> have two or more corresponding domain elements.
> For JDK-8190946: "There is no elementary functions support for
> BigDecimal and BigInteger", it is a true observation that BigDecimal and
> BigInteger offer few elementary math functions, many fewer functions
> than are supported for double in java.lang.{Math, StrictMath}. It is
> also true that a larger suite of math library methods for BigDecimal
> would be useful to some users. However, the mere fact that a set of new
> library methods would be useful for some users is *not* sufficient cause
> to have the JDK team work to develop, test, and maintain such a library.
> It is perfectly acceptable and in many ways preferable for limited-use
> libraries to be developed outside of the JDK and not shipped as part of
> the JDK.
> One of the use-cases for the value type changes being worked on in
> Project Valhalla is lower-overhead for numerical types, such as
> BigDecimal and BigInteger and potential classes like complex, etc. IMO,
> it would also be reasonable to have syntactic support for operators on
> such types.
> There are no prospects for a fundamental redefinition of the
> floating-point semantics of the Java language and VM. It is possible a
> faster and looser mode will be defined at some point, but altering the
> default is extremely unlikely. Long-term, decimal-based arithmetic (and
> other kinds of arithmetic) may get better support as a consequence of
> the features in Valhalla. Filing additional bugs or additional emails to
> this alias will not change any of this or make it happen faster.
> A few notes on what this mailing list is and is not. This list and other
> lists under of the OpenJDK umbrella are forums for people participating
> in OpenJDK development and who want to be informed about OpenJDK
> development. These lists are not a free support channel. These lists are
> not a forum to drop in, issue demands for large projects without so much
> as an offer of assistance, and then check back a few months later to see
> why more progress hasn't been made.
> -Joe
> [1] Assume sqrt(2) is a rational in lowest terms, p/q. Then, by
> definition, 2 = (p^2)/(q^2) and therefor 2(q^2) = p^2. Consequently p^2
> is even which implies p is even as well. Let r = p/2; r is an integer.
> p^2 = (2r)^2 = 4r^2. Substituting, 2(q^2) = 4(r^2), reducing q^2 =
> 2(r^2). Therefore, q^2 is even and q is even as well. However, we have
> reached a contradiction. If both p and q are even, then p/q is *not* in
> lowest terms. Therefore, there is no rational number which is the square
> root of 2.

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