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AW: Problem with Mathematica 6

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg77105] AW: [mg77065] Problem with Mathematica 6
  • From: "Michael Weyrauch" <michael.weyrauch at>
  • Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2007 03:42:26 -0400 (EDT)
  • Reply-to: <michael.weyrauch at>

Dear Andrzej,

  thanks very much for your answers.

In this particular case, I dare to disagree with you and David Withoff.

The reason is twofold:

1) NonCommutativeMultiply is a completely featureless function, just
   implemented with the Attributes Flat and OneIdentity. So by changing
   it, you cannot really interfere with anything. (At least this is my
opinion and
   experience. Of course, I do not really know the actual implementation.)

2) If you give a self-implemented function the attributes Flat and
   you run into the same issues I described in my post.

So the issue really is connected with the handling of the Attributes Flat
and OneIdentity, which obviously changed from Mathematica 5.2 to 6.0 as the post
by Carl Woll and your own investigations suggest.

At this moment, it is hard for me to judge, if the new behaviour is "better"
or not.
I just have little criteria how it should work.
I just realize that the code for Grassmann variables I use does not work
in Mathematica 6.0.

I need to investigate this further.


-----Ursprungliche Nachricht-----
Von: Andrzej Kozlowski [mailto:akoz at]
Gesendet: Sonntag, 3. Juni 2007 08:58
An: Michael Weyrauch; mathgroup
Cc: Andrzej Kozlowski
Betreff: Re: [mg77065] Problem with Mathematica 6

*This message was transferred with a trial version of CommuniGate(tm) Pro*
In my reply I omitted the question of possible reason for the new
behaviour. I did that because when I was replying I had not yet
investigated this problem and, given that this phenomenon involves
unprotecting a built-in function, I did not think the precise reason
was relevant. I have not changed my mind about that, but now I think
that what you have observed is a consequence of changes that have
been made in the pattern matcher, which do not seem to me to involve
any obvious bug and perhaps represent an improvement. To see what I
mean compare these two outputs:

First Mathematica 5.2:

a**b /. (NonCommutativeMultiply[x___] /; (Print[{x}];
      Length[{x}] <= 1)) :> f[x]



Now Mathematica 6:

In[7]:= a ** b /. NonCommutativeMultiply[x___] /; (Print[{x}];
          Length[{x}] <= 1) :> f[x]

  {a, b}

Out[7]= f[a] ** b

Note that Mathematica 6.0 actually went inside the expression a**b
and used the attribute Flat to find a match for
NonCommutativeMultiply[x___]/Length[{x}] <= 1), while Mathematica 5.2
looked only at the top level and did not find any match. This
suggests to me that the new behaviour is more likely an improvement
over the old rather than a bug. Anyway, whatever the reason, the
advice not to unprotect built-in functions still stands.

Andrzej Kozlowski

On 2 Jun 2007, at 21:49, Andrzej Kozlowski wrote:

> *This message was transferred with a trial version of CommuniGate
> (tm) Pro*
> On 2 Jun 2007, at 17:19, Michael Weyrauch wrote:
>> Hello,
>>   the following code fragment runs under Mathematica 5.2 but
>> produces an infinite recursion error in Mathematica 6.0 in certain
>> cases:
>> First I define a number of commands and slightly change the
>> built-in command "NonCommutativeMultiply":
>> Grading[_] = 0;
>> Fermion[a__] := ((Grading[#1] = 1) & ) /@ {a};
>> Fermion[a, b];
>> GetGradeds[a___] := GetGradeds[a] = Select[{a}, Grading[#1] != 0 & ];
>> Unprotect[NonCommutativeMultiply];
>> NonCommutativeMultiply[a___] /; (Length[GetGradeds[a]] <= 1) :=
>> Times[a];
>> Protect[NonCommutativeMultiply];
>> If you now e.g. evaluate
>> In[22]:= k ** l
>> Out[22]= k*l
>> or
>> In[23]:= a ** l
>> Out[23]= a*l
>> BUT in Mathematica 6.0:
>> In[24]:= a ** b
>> $IterationLimit::"itlim" : "Iteration limit of 4096 exceeded. \
>> \!\(\*ButtonBox["\[RightSkeleton]",
>> BaseStyle->"Link",
>> ButtonData:>"paclet:ref/message/$IterationLimit/itlim",
>> ButtonFrame->None,
>> ButtonNote->"$IterationLimit::itlim"]\)"
>> Out[24]= Hold[(Times[a]) ** b]
>> However in Mathematica 5.2 one gets
>> In[10]:= a ** b
>> Out[10]=a**b
>> which is what I expect and I want to have.
>> I.e., whenever I NonCommutativeMultiply two variables which are
>> explicitly declared as fermions by the command Fermion[], I get an
>> infinite recursion error in Mathematica 6.
>> This behaviour of Mathematica 6.0 is rather confusing to me, since
>> I believe that I just use very basic and elementary assignments
>> in my code. Why shouldn't it work  under Mathematica 6.0 if it
>> works under 5.2? It appears that the 6.0 kernel behaves
>> differently than the
>> 5.2 kernel in such basic situations. Very unpleasant!
>> (For anyone who wonders about the purpose of  this (strange) code:
>> It is a small fragment of a package  that implements the handling
>> of Grassmann variables. I just extracted that bit in order to show
>> the Mathematica 6.0 problem.)
>> Furthermore, beyond an explanation of this unexpected behaviour of
>> Mathematica 6, I would like to find a workaround in Mathematica 6
>> such that I get
>> the same result as in Mathematica 5.2.
>> Thanks for any suggestions.
>> Michael Weyrauch
> On of the most basic principles in Mathematica programming, stated,
> over the years, a number of times on this list by WRI employees,
> (particularly by David Withoff) is if you choose to Unprotect and
> modify any built-in functions you can only blame yourself for any
> unpleasantness that might occur. The workaround is: don't do it.
> One think you can do instead is to do essentially the same thing
> without modifying NonCompputativeMultiply. If you want to use a
> symbol that looks like multiplication you could choose SmallCircle.
> You could then do something like this:
> In[1]:= Grading[_] = 0;
> In[2]:= Fermion[a__] := ((Grading[#1] = 1) &) /@ {a};
> In[3]:= Fermion[a, b]
> Out[3]= {1, 1}
> In[4]:= GetGradeds[a___] := GetGradeds[a] = Select[{a}, Grading
> [#1] != 0 &];
> In[9]:= SmallCircle[z___] /; (Length[GetGradeds[z]] <= 1) := Times[z];
> In[10]:= SmallCircle[z___] := NonCommutativeMultiply[z]
> In[13]:= SmallCircle[a, l]
> Out[13]= a l
> SmallCircle[a,b]
> In[14]:= SmallCircle[a, b]
> Out[14]= a ** b
> In[17]:= SmallCircle[a, l, m]
> Out[17]= a l m
>  Of course instead of writing SmallCircle[a,l,m] you can use as
> input  a escape sc escape l escape sc escape m .
> Andrzej Kozlowski

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