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Negative zero

Gauche supports IEEE754 negative zero -0.0. It simply wraps an IEEE754 double as a scheme object, so mostly it just works as specified in IEEE754 (and as supported by the underlying math library). Or, so we thought.

Let's recap the behavior of -0.0. It's numerically indistinguishable from 0.0 (so, it is not "an infinitely small value less than zero"):

(= -0.0 0.0) ⇒ #t

(< -0.0 0.0) ⇒ #f

(zero? -0.0) ⇒ #t

But it can make a difference when there's a functon f(x) such that it is discontinuous at x = 0, and f(x) goes to different values when x approaches to zero from positive side or negative side.

(/ 0.0)  ⇒ +inf.0
(/ -0.0) ⇒ -inf.0

For arithmetic primitive procedures, we simply pass unboxed double to the underlying math functions, so we didn't think we need to handle -0.0 specially.

The first wakeup call was this article via HackerNews:

One does not simply calculate the absolute value

It talks about writing abs in Java, but every time I saw articles like this I just try it out on Gauche, and alas!

;; Gauche 0.9.10
(abs -0.0) ⇒ -0.0    ; Ouch!

Yeah, the culprit was the C implementation of abs, the gist of which was:

   if (x < 0.0) return -x;
   else return x;

-0.0 doesn't satisfy x < 0.0 so it was returned without negation.

The easy fix is to use signbit.

   if (signbit(x)) return -x;

I reported the fix on Twitter, then somebody raised an issue: What about (eqv? -0.0 0.0)?

My initial reaction was that it should be #t, since (= -0.0 0.0) is #t. In fact, R5RS states this:

The eqv? procedure returns #t if: ... obj1 and obj2 are both numbers, are numerically equal (see = ...), and are either both exact or both inexact.

However, I realized that R7RS has more subtle definition.

The eqv? procedure returns #f if: ... obj1 and obj2 are both inexact numbers such that either they are numerically unequal (in the sense of =), or they do not yield the same results (...) when passed as arguments to any other procedure that can be defined as a finite composition of Scheme's standard arithmetic procedures, ...

Clearly, -0.0 and 0.0 don't yield the same results when passed to /, so it should return #f. (It is also mentioned in 6.2.4 that -0.0 is distinct from 0.0 in a sense of eqv?.)

Fix for this is a bit involved. When I fixed eqv?, a bunch of tests started failing. It looks like some inexact integer division routines in the tests yield -0.0, and are compared to 0.0 with equal?, which should follow eqv? if arguments are numbers.

It turned out that the root cause was rounding primitives returning -0.0:

;; Gauche 0.9.10
(ceiling -0.5) ⇒ -0.0

Although this itself is plausible, in most of the cases when you're thinking of integers (exact or inexact), you want to treat zero as zero. Certainly you don't want to deal with two distint zeros in quotients or remainders. The choices would be either leave the rounding primitives as are and fix the integer divisions, or change the rounding primitives altogether. I choose the latter.

The fixes are in the HEAD now.

;; Gauche 0.9.11
(eqv? -0.0 0.0) ⇒ #f
(ceiling -0.5) ⇒ 0.0

Tags: 0.9.11, Flonums

Past comment(s)

Andreas (2021/08/27 22:19:10):

Shouldn't the ceiling be 0, the exact zero? We know it has to be an integer by definition, don't we?

shiro (2021/08/28 09:29:25):

Both 0 and 0.0 are integers. (integer? 0.0) ⇒ #t And the general rule of arithmetic procedures is that the arguments are inexact, the result is inexact. There are some exceptions of this rule, when you can say for sure the result is exact, but I think rounding is not one of them.

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