Re: accuracy problem in calculation

Discussion in 'Python' started by Dave Angel, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. Dave Angel

    Dave Angel Guest

    On 11/08/2012 12:05 PM, Debashish Saha wrote:
    > (1500000000+1.00067968)-(1500000000+1.00067961)
    > Out[102]: 2.384185791015625e-07
    > 1.00067968-(1.00067961)
    > Out[103]: 7.000000001866624e-08
    > above i am showing the two different results,though the two outputs
    > should be same if we do it in copy(the lass one is acceptable value).
    > so my question is how to increase the accuracy(windows7(32bit)
    > ,python2.7.2)

    To improve accuracy, do some algebra before coding brute force. If you
    know you'll be subtracting two values that are nearly equal, see if you
    can factor out the large part, and only subtract the small parts.

    If you have a processor with 16 digits of float accuracy, and you
    calculate an 18 digit sum, you're going to lose 3 digts at a minimum.
    Each sum has the same problem. So now you have lopped off all the
    digits that are different. So subtracting them is meaningless.

    Picture needing to know how thick a leaf is. So measure the distance
    from one side of it to the sun. Then measure the distance from the
    other side to the sun. Now just subtract the answers. Silly, isn't it?

    You have (a+b) - (a+c), where a is much larger than either b or c. So
    simplify it to b-c before programming it. Oh, yeah, that's your second

    More generally, if you have a sum of 3 or more values (which you can get
    by just stating the problem as a + b + -a + -c), you can usually
    minimize error by reordering the arithmetic, based on the sizes of the
    items. Fortunately Python has a library function that knows how to do that:

    If you want to postpone the problem so instead of hitting at 15 digits
    or so, it hits at a few hundred digits, you could use decimal.Decimal,
    which is a standard library in Python. It permits you to specify your
    own precision, instead of being what Intel (professor Kahn) decided on
    in about 1985. They constrained themselves to what could be encoded in
    8 bytes. Naturally, if you ask for much higher precision with Decimal,
    you'll pay for it with space and/or time. But apparently in 3.3, they
    did a very good job minimizing the time it takes, for reasonable precision.

    Interestingly, I got a similar question in about 1977, concerning a trig
    package I had microcoded. A man was measuring the flatness of a
    hypothetical level table (which must be curved, of course). And he did
    it with trig, and effectively by subtracting two measurements to the
    center of the earth. I was able to simplify his problem using some
    geometry (similar triangles) to get all the accuracy he needed. And
    strangely enough, the trig canceled out and was unnecessary.


    Dave Angel, Nov 8, 2012
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