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MathGroup Archive 2006

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Re: Grouping similar indices together in an expression

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg65257] Re: [mg65242] Grouping similar indices together in an expression
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at>
  • Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 06:13:48 -0500 (EST)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at


Your question isn't totally clear, but I'll take the Subject heading as the

expr = a[i] a[j] b[i] b[j]

As a newbie you will probably not like the following solution.

Times @@ F /@ Times @@@ MapThread[Cases[expr, _[#]] &, {{i, j}}]
F[a[i] b[i]] F[a[j] b[j]]

So I will take it apart. If we want all the factors in the term that contain
the index i we could use.

Cases[expr, _[i]]
{a[i], b[i]}

where _[i] is a pattern for an expression with any head and the single
argument i.

We want separate lists for each index. To obtain that we use MapThread that
evaluates a Cases statement for each of a list of indices. (With this
approach you have to know what the list of indices is.) The Cases statement
is turned into a pure function where # stands for the particular index that
will be used. Look up Function in Help.

MapThread[Cases[expr, _[#]] &, {{i, j}}]
{{a[i], b[i]}, {a[j], b[j]}}

Now copy and paste and then evaluate the following code in a Mathematica
notebook to see what each step in the expression does.

Print["Group factors with similar indices in following expression"]
expr = a[i] a[j] b[i] b[j]
Print["Generate lists of common index factors using Cases and MapThread"]
step1 = MapThread[Cases[expr, _[#]] &, {{i, j}}]
Print["Apply Times to each of the inner lists - 4th note in Apply Help"]
step2 = Times @@@ step1
Print["Map F onto the grouped factors - check Map Help"]
step3 = F /@ step2
Print["Convert the list to a product - check Apply again"]
Times @@ step3

I wouldn't be shocked if someone comes up with a much simpler method;
nevertheless, welcome to Mathematica's functional programming.

David Park
djmp at

From: David Sanders [mailto:dpsanders at]
To: mathgroup at


I am a newbie in Mathematica, and am trying to do the following.

I have terms which look like
a[i] a[j] b[i] b[j]

I need to apply a function F, for which I need to group the different
indices (by which I mean i, j) together as follows:

F(a[i] a[j] b[i] b[j]) = F(a[i] b[i]) F(a[j] b[j])

I do not in general know how many different indices there might be in a
term.  E.g. I might have
a[i] a[j] a[k] b[j]

Could somebody please give me a hint as to how to do this?


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