[swift-evolution] [Proposal] Add Binary Search functions to SequenceType

Jeff Hajewski jeff.hajewski at gmail.com
Fri Mar 25 08:48:37 CDT 2016


I've been giving this approach a lot of thought (and have read everything
I've been able to find that you've written on the matter several times) and
am not convinced it will work. Implementing a lowerBound function is
trivial with a unary operator. However, implementing an upperBound or
binarySearch function is, at least in my mind, a bit more difficult. The
reason is because with the unary predicate we only know if an element is
strictly less than the search value or greater than or equal to the search
value, whereas in the standard approach we can determine strictly greater
than as well as equivalence by swapping the inputs to the comp function.

For example, consider the set [2, 1, 5, 4]. If we want to search the set
using a unary predicate for 3, we would pass in the closure { $0 < 3  }. I
don't see how we can test for equivalence when all we know is "<" or ">=".
With the standard approach using a binary predicate of `{ $0 < $1 }` we can
use `{ $0 < 3 }` to get the lower bound and then `!{ 3 < $0 }` to get us to
equivalence (or in this case, to return `false`).

Of course, an easy solution around this is to change the definition of the
unary predicate to return a triple of values less/equal/greater. However,
this would either require an additional datatype to the library (which I
don't think is appropriate) OR require the user to increase the complexity
of their predicate function to return -1/0/1. I don't think either of these
are ideal or necessarily better than the standard approach of a value and a
binary predicate.

I really like the idea of the unary predicate approach, I just can't seem
to understand how it will work in practice. What am I missing here?
(hopefully not something completely obvious!)


On Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 4:52 PM, Dave Abrahams via swift-evolution <
swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:

> on Tue Mar 15 2016, Nate Cook <swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> >> On Mar 15, 2016, at 1:58 PM, Lorenzo Racca via swift-evolution <
> swift-evolution at swift.org> wrote:
> >>
> >>> On Mar 15, 2016, at 6:49 PM, Haravikk
> >>> <swift-evolution at haravikk.me
> >>> <mailto:swift-evolution at haravikk.me>>
> >
> >>> wrote:
> >>>
> >>>> On 15 Mar 2016, at 15:48, Lorenzo Racca <lorenzo.racca at live.it
> <mailto:lorenzo.racca at live.it>> wrote:
> >>>>
> >>>> I already knew the impossibility of applying such a predicate as “$0
> == 3” and I actually couldn’t quite figure out a solution.
> >>>
> >>> I thought so, and I don’t think there is a way to do it, my point
> >>> was really just that your swift doc comments weren’t clear on that
> >>> point, then I went off at a bit of a tangent ;)
> >>>
> >> No problem! What I am trying to figure out here is how we should
> >> implement the lowerBound and upperBound functions. Should they
> >> exactly reflect their C++ counterparts?
> >> Anyway, it seems all of our implementations have the same problem,
> >> that they cannot be univocally called with any predicate whatsoever,
> >> (or at least it seemed to me during some tests with the
> >> implementations :) ), so I don’t really know how we should act. I am
> >> a little blocked.
> >> Does anyone have ideas on how that could work no matter what predicate
> is given? Especially, an upperBound() function, which is a little trickier.
> >
> > The key is to use a binary predicate (as used in sort and partition)
> > instead of a unary predicate. Then you can use the predicate as is for
> > lowerBound or with the arguments "reversed" for upperBound. The
> > methods would have a similar signature to indexOf—one that just takes
> > a value for comparable collections and one that takes a value and a
> > predicate.
> Having an overload that accepts a binary predicate is certainly a nice
> convenience, but the most general formulation takes a unary predicate
> that “partitions” the collection, i.e. returns false for the first N
> elements of the collection and returns true for the rest.
> IMO it's important to expose the unary predicate version.  Lots of
> times, the thing you want to compare against doesn't have the same type
> as the elements of the collection.  For example, you might have a
> collection of key-value pairs where you just want to compare against the
> keys, and you may not even be able to create an instance of the whole
> element.  For more on this, see
> http://www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg21/docs/papers/2001/n1313.html
> --
> Dave
> _______________________________________________
> swift-evolution mailing list
> swift-evolution at swift.org
> https://lists.swift.org/mailman/listinfo/swift-evolution
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