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Re: A riddle: Functions that return unevaluated when they cannot

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg82455] Re: A riddle: Functions that return unevaluated when they cannot
  • From: Jens-Peer Kuska <kuska at informatik.uni-leipzig.de>
  • Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2007 06:01:31 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <ff9sin$5vc$1@smc.vnet.net>

Hi,

you don't have to do anything

fact[0] = 1;
fact[n_ /; n > 0] := n*fact[n - 1]

will return fact[-4] because *no* rule matches.

Regards
   Jens

Szabolcs Horv=E1t wrote:
> There are certain functions in Mathematica which return unevaluated whe=
n
> they cannot solve the task they've been given.  Examples are
> Integrate[], Solve[], FindInstance[], etc.
>
> How are these functions implemented?  Mathematica should evaluate
> expressions for as long as there are definitions that apply to it.
> Obviously this behaviour cannot be achieved by something like
>
> fact[n_] := If[n >= 0, n!, fact[n]]
>
> because this leads to infinite evaluation for negative n.
>
> So I suppose that Integrate[] and similar functions cache their results=
,
> and can remember that a specific problem was unsolvable.  I imagined
> that they might be defined similarly to this:
>
> fun[a_] := (cachedUnsolvableQ[a] = True; fun[a]) /;
>    Not@cachedUnsolvableQ[a]
>
> cachedUnsolvableQ[_] = False (* default value *)
>
> But this is not true!  Consider the following input:
>
> In[1]:=
> FindInstance[
>      x^3+y^3==z^3 && x>0 && y>0 && z>0,
>      {x,y,z}, Integers] // Timing
>
> During evaluation of In[1]:= FindInstance::nsmet: The methods availab=
le
> to FindInstance are insufficient to find the requested instances or
> prove they do not exist. >>
>
> Out[1]=
> {1.156, FindInstance[x^3+y^3==z^3&&x>0&&y>0&&z>0,{x,y,z},Integers]}
>
> Evaluating this expression takes a relatively long time on my system (~=
1
> sec).  If FindInstance cached its result the way I described above, the=
n
> subsequent evaluations should be instantaneous.  But they aren't!
>
> In[2]:=
> FindInstance[x^3+y^3==z^3&&x>0&&y>0&&z>0,{x,y,z},Integers]//Timing
>
> During evaluation of In[2]:= FindInstance::nsmet: The methods availab=
le
> to FindInstance are insufficient to find the requested instances or
> prove they do not exist. >>
>
> Out[2]= {1.063,FindInstance[x^3+y^3==z^3&&x>0&&y>0&&z>0,{x,y,z},I=
ntegers]}
>
> The second calculation took as much time as the first one.  This means
> that FindInstance[] tried to solve the problem *again*, and it did not
> simply stay unevaluated.  But then why does the returned result (which
> is the same as the input) stay unevaluated?
>
> Could someone explain how this behaviour is implemented?
>
> Of course this does not prevent me from solving some practical problem
> in Mathematica, I'm just curious about it.
>


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