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Re: Interaction of Remove and Global variables in a Module

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg120101] Re: Interaction of Remove and Global variables in a Module
  • From: Leonid Shifrin <lshifr at>
  • Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 04:53:55 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <>


The problem you encountered is actually more subtle. Remember that when you
use Remove (as compared to Clear or ClearAll), the symbol is completely removed
from the system. This is a pretty disruptive operation. Now, what should the system do if the symbol you are removing is referenced by some other symbols?
 Keeping it there unchanged would mean that the symbol has not been really removed
from the system. The solution used in Mathematica is to change a reference to a
(say "a") to Removed[a]. In practice, this means that, even when you
the symbol, those definitions that were involving it are still "spoiled" and
can not
be used.  IMO, this is a very sensible design, but this is what leads to the
that puzzled you. Have a look:


f[b_]:=Module[{t},Removed[a][t_]=b t^2;]

What you have to do in your approach is to re-run the definition for "f", to
be able to
use it. This is however pretty error-prone. You can cure this by calling
Clear or ClearAll
instead of Remove, but even this approach I don't consider a good practice.
Even though
you use "a"  as a function, calling Clear or Remove on it means that in a
way, you use
it as a global variable. In this post:

there is a lengthy discussion why making implicit dependencies on global
variables is a
bad practice.

Here are a few ways out. What you seem to want is to generate a function
with embedded
parameters (a closure). One way is to generate a pure function and return

In[31]:= Clear[f];
a = f[3];
a = f[5];

Out[34]= 3 t^2
Out[36]= 4 t^2
Out[39]= 5 t^2

Another way is to explicitly pass to "f"  the symbol to which you want to
the definition:

In[40]:= Clear[ff,a];

Out[43]= 3 t^2
Out[45]= 4 t^2
Out[48]= 5 t^2

By making the function name an explicit parameter to "ff", you make the
situation above impossible to happen.



On Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 3:28 PM, blamm64 <blamm64 at> wrote:

> This is what I get for querying SetDelayed
> In[1]:= ?SetDelayed
> lhs:=rhs assigns rhs to be the delayed value of lhs. rhs is maintained
> in an unevaluated form. When lhs appears, it is replaced by rhs,
> evaluated afresh each time.  >>
> Note particularly the above reads AFRESH EACH time.  It appears then
> the following is inconsistent behavior based on the above description:
> In[2]:= f[b_]:=Module[{t},a[t_]=b*t^2;]
> In[3]:= a[t]
> Out[3]= a[t]
> In[4]:= f[3]
> In[5]:= a[t]//InputForm
> Out[5]//InputForm=
> 3*t^2
> In[6]:= f[5]
> In[7]:= a[t]//InputForm
> Out[7]//InputForm=
> 5*t^2
> In[8]:= Remove[a]
> In[9]:= f[4]
> In[10]:= a[t]//InputForm
> Out[10]//InputForm=
> a[t]
> Apparently AFRESH is not an accurate description of how SetDelayed
> operates in this case, or I am missing something about this particular
> interaction of Module, Remove, and global variables inside Modules.
> However, if I go back, after executing the last line above (<a> has
> been Removed), and place the cursor in the input line where <f> is
> defined and hit Enter, which I thought would be identical to just
> evaluating <f> AFRESH again, and then execute the <f[4]> line again,
> then the global <a> definition is re-constituted.
> The documentation for Remove reads the name is no longer recognized by
> Mathematica.  My understanding is that if the same name is defined
> AFRESH, it will once again be recognized.
> So if anyone would let me know what I am missing, regarding why the
> definition of <a> is not created AFRESH each time <f> is evaluated, I
> would appreciate it.
> Please don't construe the definition of <f> as my way of
> 'parameterizing' a function definition, I just use that definition to
> convey the apparent inconsistency.
> -Brian L.

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