# Infinity

Discussion in 'Ruby' started by hadley wickham, Jul 22, 2006.

irb(main):084:0> (-1.0/0.0)
=> -Infinity
irb(main):086:0> (1.0/0.0)
=> Infinity

but

irb(main):087:0> Infinity
NameError: uninitialized constant Infinity
from (irb):87
from :0

is it possible to directly access/create a float representing positive
or negative infinity?

Thanks,

2. ### Marcel Molina Jr.Guest

On Sun, Jul 23, 2006 at 04:22:37AM +0900, hadley wickham wrote:
> irb(main):084:0> (-1.0/0.0)
> => -Infinity
> irb(main):086:0> (1.0/0.0)
> => Infinity
>
> but
>
> irb(main):087:0> Infinity
> NameError: uninitialized constant Infinity
> from (irb):87
> from :0
>
> is it possible to directly access/create a float representing positive
> or negative infinity?

Infinity = 1.0/0

(N.B. Doesn't work on all platforms.)

marcel
--
Marcel Molina Jr. <>

Marcel Molina Jr., Jul 22, 2006

> Infinity = 1.0/0
>
> (N.B. Doesn't work on all platforms.)

But it will everywhere that supports the IEEE floating point standard?

Thanks,

4. ### Timothy GoddardGuest

Others have answered the main question here but it's worth noting for
the future that just because it says infinity doesn't mean a constant
exists with that name. Check this out:

irb(main):001:0> class A; end
=> nil
irb(main):002:0> class B; end
=> nil
irb(main):003:0> A, B = B, A
(irb):3: warning: already initialized constant A
(irb):3: warning: already initialized constant B
=> [B, A]
irb(main):004:0> A
=> B
irb(main):005:0> B
=> A

The name is independent of constants.

> irb(main):084:0> (-1.0/0.0)
> => -Infinity
> irb(main):086:0> (1.0/0.0)
> => Infinity
>
> but
>
> irb(main):087:0> Infinity
> NameError: uninitialized constant Infinity
> from (irb):87
> from :0
>
> is it possible to directly access/create a float representing positive
> or negative infinity?
>
> Thanks,
>

Timothy Goddard, Jul 22, 2006
5. ### Caleb ClausenGuest

On 7/22/06, Marcel Molina Jr. <> wrote:
> Infinity = 1.0/0
>
> (N.B. Doesn't work on all platforms.)

Does anyone know a definition for Infinity that does work on all
platforms? Here's what I use; I have no idea how robust it really is:

Infinity= begin
result= [ Float::MAX**Float::MAX, Float::MAX**2, Float::MAX*2].max
result.infinite? ? result : result=1.0/0
rescue: Float::MAX #maybe 1.0/0 doesn't work on some systems?
end unless defined? Infinity

#there's also this way:
999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999e99999999999999999
#but stuff like that sometimes returns zero, so it doesn't seem as reliable.
#(plus it generates a warning)

Caleb Clausen, Jul 23, 2006

> Others have answered the main question here but it's worth noting for
> the future that just because it says infinity doesn't mean a constant
> exists with that name. Check this out:

Yes, but a lot of languages provide some way of accessing the
"constants" that represent special floating point numbers: Inf, -Inf
and NaN

7. ### M. Edward (Ed) BoraskyGuest

>> Others have answered the main question here but it's worth noting for
>> the future that just because it says infinity doesn't mean a constant
>> exists with that name. Check this out:

>
> Yes, but a lot of languages provide some way of accessing the
> "constants" that represent special floating point numbers: Inf, -Inf
> and NaN

I think Matz vetoed anything that required IEEE floating point a little
while ago. So ... for Ruby code to use Inf, -Inf or NaN, there would
need to be special care taken to maintain portability.

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky, Jul 23, 2006

> > Yes, but a lot of languages provide some way of accessing the
> > "constants" that represent special floating point numbers: Inf, -Inf
> > and NaN

> I think Matz vetoed anything that required IEEE floating point a little
> while ago. So ... for Ruby code to use Inf, -Inf or NaN, there would
> need to be special care taken to maintain portability.

Thanks for that explanation, although it does worry me a little, I
understand that getting floating point working precisely correctly
across multiple platforms is very hard.

Regards,

9. ### TransGuest

Facets has Infinity (actaully it was deprecated for a while until I
fixed. Your post inspired me to fix it, so it's now back in the very

It uses the constant INFINITY. Is that cool? Or is there some sort of
general practice of using Inf?

Thanks,
T.

Trans, Jul 23, 2006

> Facets has Infinity (actaully it was deprecated for a while until I
> fixed. Your post inspired me to fix it, so it's now back in the very

That's great! Thanks.

> It uses the constant INFINITY. Is that cool? Or is there some sort of
> general practice of using Inf?

I think Inf is more common: R uses it, so does MATLAB
(http://www.mathworks.com/access/helpdesk/help/techdoc/ref/inf.html),
and there's a PEP for python that uses it
(http://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0754/, which also has a nice
discussion of these issues)

11. ### Guest

> > Facets has Infinity (actaully it was deprecated for a while until I
> > fixed. Your post inspired me to fix it, so it's now back in the very

>
> That's great! Thanks.
>
> > It uses the constant INFINITY. Is that cool? Or is there some sort of
> > general practice of using Inf?

>
> I think Inf is more common: R uses it, so does MATLAB
> (http://www.mathworks.com/access/helpdesk/help/techdoc/ref/inf.html),
> and there's a PEP for python that uses it
> (http://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-0754/, which also has a nice
> discussion of these issues)

Nice, that was helpful. I added some query methods to Numeric, eg.
finite?, infinite?, ... and did this:

UNDEFINED = InfinityClass.instance(0)
INFINITY = InfinityClass.instance(1)

NaN = UNDEFINED
Inf = INFINITY
PosInf = INFINITY
NegInf = -INFINITY

Thanks!
T.

, Jul 23, 2006
12. ### M. Edward (Ed) BoraskyGuest

>> > Yes, but a lot of languages provide some way of accessing the
>> > "constants" that represent special floating point numbers: Inf, -Inf
>> > and NaN

>> I think Matz vetoed anything that required IEEE floating point a little
>> while ago. So ... for Ruby code to use Inf, -Inf or NaN, there would
>> need to be special care taken to maintain portability.

>
> Thanks for that explanation, although it does worry me a little, I
> understand that getting floating point working precisely correctly
> across multiple platforms is very hard.

Which is *precisely* why dozens of hard core applied mathematicians and
computer scientists, the IEEE and SIAM (Society for Industrial and
Applied Mathematics), and nearly every vendor of equipment intended for
scientific computing, both large and small, developed and embraced the
IEEE standards! Note that there are actually *two* IEEE standards. The
one most of us think of is the 32-bit/64-bit one that's implemented in
Intel hardware. However, there was another looser standard which did not
specify bit for bit behavior but only the computational requirements.
The IEEE floating point standards are happy exceptions to the rule that
nothing good was ever designed by a committee.

Some important vendors of such equipment -- Cray, FPS and IBM -- adhered
to neither of these standards. Digital/Compaq/HP adopted it for the
Alphas but kept the Vax line at its historic format for compatibility.
But *new* architectures almost entirely adopted IEEE -- there is little
reason not to do so. At some point in the evolution of Ruby, the number
of actual users of non-IEEE platforms will be negligible. Just out of
curiosity, how many users of non-IEEE Ruby are there on this list, and
what fraction of the total list membership does that represent? Feel
free to decline to answer if you're in a classified shop.

M. Edward (Ed) Borasky, Jul 23, 2006

> Nice, that was helpful. I added some query methods to Numeric, eg.
> finite?, infinite?, ... and did this:
>
> UNDEFINED = InfinityClass.instance(0)
> INFINITY = InfinityClass.instance(1)
>
> NaN = UNDEFINED
> Inf = INFINITY
> PosInf = INFINITY
> NegInf = -INFINITY

Great. Note that (NaN == NaN) == False, but I think the rest of the
relations are straightforward.

14. ### Tanaka AkiraGuest

In article <>,
"M. Edward (Ed) Borasky" <> writes:

> Some important vendors of such equipment -- Cray, FPS and IBM -- adhered
> to neither of these standards. Digital/Compaq/HP adopted it for the
> Alphas but kept the Vax line at its historic format for compatibility.
> But *new* architectures almost entirely adopted IEEE -- there is little
> reason not to do so. At some point in the evolution of Ruby, the number
> of actual users of non-IEEE platforms will be negligible. Just out of
> curiosity, how many users of non-IEEE Ruby are there on this list, and
> what fraction of the total list membership does that represent? Feel
> free to decline to answer if you're in a classified shop.

Some time ago, I installed Ruby on NetBSD/vax on SIMH.
http://www.netbsd.org/Ports/vax/
http://simh.trailing-edge.com/

It is fine until make.
But make test fails because 0.0/0 fails.
I guess VAX has no NaN.

I think no one try to fix it.

Note that I also installed Ruby on Debian for S/390 on Hercules.
http://www.debian.org/ports/s390/
http://www.conmicro.cx/hercules/

Unexpectedly, Ruby works fine on S/390.

After some investigation, I found that newer models have
IEEE registers and Linux kernel emulates them for old
models.
http://www.linuxbase.org/spec/ELF/zSeries/lzsabi0_s390.html
--
Tanaka Akira

Tanaka Akira, Jul 23, 2006