Start of IEEE 754 support (Discussion)

I guess its not so easy to fully support IEEE-754 and the ECLiPSe proposal does also only do cursory. For example we have:

Welcome to SWI-Prolog (threaded, 64 bits, version 8.1.21-1-g58fb90ecb)

?- X is 0**0.
X = 1.
?- X is 0^0.
X = 1.

But 0**0 should return NaN. See also:

Edit 07.02.2020:
I get the same result in ECLiPSe Prolog. ECLiPSe Prolog has initially (**)/2 undefined, so I guess it could be moded. But when I start it with “-L iso_strict” command line options I get:

Version 7.0 #52 (x86_64_nt), Mon Feb  3 23:59 2020

[eclipse 1]: X is 0**0.

X = 1.0
Yes (0.00s cpu)
[eclipse 2]: X is 0^0.

X = 1
Yes (0.00s cpu)
[eclipse 3]:

I’ll leave all the hairy details to e.g., @ridgeworks who is interested in IEEE support or anyone else who cares enough to study the standards, write test cases and submit PRs to make it compliant. There are most likely a lot of cases where the wrong value or exception is raised. I merely provided the core infrastructure …

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Jan got a bit ahead of me; a good thing because I’m still stuck in rational exponents.

My main interest is in turning the multitude of exceptions that can happen in arithmetic evaluation into testable values, even if it isn’t the ISO Prolog way. Testing via unification is cheaper in many ways to wrapping every is in a catch just map the exceptions back to numeric values (like infinity). I think the new flags will permit this to be done.

I think it’s best to start with the IEEE standard as the guiding document for this. (They don’t make it easy by charging $$ for a copy.) And on top of that we’re limited by what C99 (and C11 I guess) allows us to do, but I have to assume they’re IEEE compliant. Mostly it’s about generating infinities (of the appropriate sign) from overflows. But there are some interesting corner cases like the one above 0**0 as well as 0/0, inf-inf, sqrt(-2), log(-2) etc. which generally mean nan. This may necessitate changes in the current functions and, if so, there will be backwards compatibility issues to be discussed. I think most generate exceptions now so it shouldn’t be a big issue but 0*0 might be such a case.

Regarding the arithmetic function nexttoward/2 I don’t think the Eclipse version is quite what I’m looking for, although it’s pretty close. The second argument is fine; it’s just an indicator of the rounding direction. I’d probably just use -inf, 0, inf for most cases, but there maybe situations where you want to round to a specific number. But based on the first argument (expression to “round”) I would suggest the following semantics which differ from Eclipse:

  1. If the first argument is a a rational (including integers), an infinity, or NaN, the result is that value, i.e., 1 is nexttoward(1,inf). The theory is that rational bounds of an interval are precise and shouldn’t be rounded outwards. Similarly the rounded value of infinity is infinity (same as infinity-1). (And NaN’s are just better left alone.)

  2. If If the first argument is a float, there are several cases depending on rounding direction and proximity to zero. E.g., 0.0 should round down to -DBL_MIN and round up to DBL_MIN. Similarly DBL_MIN should round down to 0.0 and -DBL_MIN should round up to 0,0. This avoids generating denormalized floats.
    If the the argument is already a denormalized float, the the result should be the next normalized value in the direction of rounding.
    Otherwise round the argument to the next floating point value in the indicated direction. Note that the result of rounding a finite float can be an infinity (just overflowed).

  3. If the argument is an expression (compound term):

  • save the current rounding mode
  • set the rounding mode to to_positive if the the second argument is positive and to_negative if negative.
  • evaluate the expression.
  • restore the saved rounding mode
  • return the result of the expression, no further rounding necessary. (IEEE floating point hardware should have done the job.)

I’m don’t think this is close enough to the Eclipse nexttoward/2 function to use the same name, so some decisions ahead. However, with this function the need for a separate float_rounding flag may be rare, although it probably doesn’t hurt to have it.

As the principle instigator, I’m prepared to take on the test suite for this unless someone else is desperately interested. In doing so I’ll flag any backward compatibility issues I find on this discussion.

All feedback and/or other participation welcome.

I know sometimes you can get official copies at reduced prices by looking around. At the ANSI site (ref) it is $100.

If others find it for less, please post.

We’ll see. ECLiPSe nexttoward/2 is however a simple direct wrapper around its C99 cousin. I think we should not touch that. Otherwise I agree with your observations and look forward to further input :slight_smile:

I agree we shouldn’t touch it if it’s C99 semantics.

In that case, I have two choices:

  1. Lobby for a new and different function with the semantics I described. (Most efficient, but maybe special purpose.)
  2. Implement these semantics in Prolog using nexttoward and the rounding_mode flag as building blocks. This may not be too bad; at some point I’ll assess what this entails.

Here’s an (obviously untested) Prolog implementation of what I tried to describe earlier:

:- op(700, xfx, 'isL').  % adjust result toward -Infinity
:- op(700, xfx, 'isH').  % adjust result toward +Infinity

R isL R :- rational(R), !.  % including integers
R isL F :- float(F), !,
	nextDown(F,R) -> true.  % remove choicepoints
3.141592653589793 isL pi :- !.  % atom irrational constant
2.718281828459045 isL e  :- !.  % atom irrational constant
R isL Exp :-
	set_prolog_flag(float_rounding, to_negative),
	R is Exp,  % ignoring exceptions
	set_prolog_flag(float_rounding, SaveRM).

% Note: clause order is significant
nextDown(P,0.0) :- 0.0 < P, pos_DBL_MIN(PDM), P =< PDM.  % avoid denormalized numbers
nextDown(N,NDM) :- N =< 0.0, neg_DBL_MIN(NDM), NDM < N.  %     ditto
nextDown(F,FL)  :- FL is nexttoward(F,-inf).             % round downward

pos_DBL_MIN( 2.22507385850720138e-308).

% isH/2 similar but "reversed".

Note that a C implementation of this limited use of nexttoward -INFINITY is just:

double d;
-- *(int64_t*) &d;

So not optimal, but not too bad either. It’s just that in a relational arithmetic context, a simple constraint like {Z==X*Y} requires 6 of these operations.

Interesting. Yes it’s pretty close to nextUp/Down other than the checking for corner cases, i.e., checking for infinities and nan’s, catching denormalized values, and not rounding precise values. ulp looks functionally equivalent to nexttoward.

I needed to do something similar using epsilon because I can’t actually add to the set of built-in arithmetic functions in SWIP:

roundDown(R,Z) :-  Z is R - abs(R)*epsilon.  % could overflow to -infinity

This is done after evaluation in my use-case, so R is always a number (as opposed to an expression). Seems to work OK but not a particularly efficient way of doing it.

The Java version also handles some border cases.
Its written in pure Java (from java.lang.Math, author Joseph D. Darcy):

public static double ulp(double d) {
    int exp = getExponent(d);
    switch(exp) {
    case DoubleConsts.MAX_EXPONENT+1:       // NaN or infinity
        return Math.abs(d);
    case DoubleConsts.MIN_EXPONENT-1:       // zero or subnormal
        return Double.MIN_VALUE;
        exp = exp - (DoubleConsts.SIGNIFICAND_WIDTH-1);
        if (exp >= DoubleConsts.MIN_EXPONENT) {
            return powerOfTwoD(exp);
        else {
            return Double.longBitsToDouble(1L <<
            (exp - (DoubleConsts.MIN_EXPONENT - 
               (DoubleConsts.SIGNIFICAND_WIDTH-1)) ));

You could also try to give Prolog a few new builtins, like getExponent(), and then bootrstrap things from this. Its even so that getExponent() itself is bootstraped:

public static int getExponent(double d) {
    return (int)(((Double.doubleToRawLongBits(d) & DoubleConsts.EXP_BIT_MASK) >>
                  (DoubleConsts.SIGNIFICAND_WIDTH - 1)) - DoubleConsts.EXP_BIAS);

I had some problems in the past where I used these things as well. Thats quite fun. For example powerOfTwoD can be also bootstrapped via float bit patterns.

Edit 08.02.2020:
It seems that since Java 1.6 resp. Java 1.8, they also home nextUp() and nextDown(). And interestingly its bootstrapped from some lowlevel ops, just as discussed above.

You can check the source of Its not that difficult to realize. You don’t need some flags and instruct the FPU. It could be even the case that the Java nextAfter() is the

binary nexttoward/2 from Joachim Schimpf. Not sure. But it all boils down to what you already wrote I guess. Having some primitive representation access:

I wonder is this mathematically sound:

What can Exp be? What do you get for such an expression:

?- R isL (-(X+Y))+Z.

The change sign would revert to_negative into to_positive.

Exp can be any expression that is/2 can evaluate. I think of it this way:

  1. Use is to evaluate the expression. Assume for now that it is correct to within 1 ulp.
  2. Calculate two bounds, one by rounding the value down 1 ulp and 1 by rounding it up.

Now the “real” value may not be the original calculated value due to floating point imprecision, but it will be somewhere between the two bounds. My unsound calculation just became sound by representing it as a bounded set of reals.

Back to the assumption that the calculation is accurate to within 1 ulp. One way that can be done is to restrict Exp to a single arithmetic operation. My understanding is that IEEE compliant hardware will make this guarantee. So that’s good but somewhat restrictive.

The other way is to relax this restriction by ensuring the calculated result is always lower than the real value for a lower bound calculation. That’s what the rounding mode is for. isH will use to_positive to achieve the same result for the upper bound. But the result is the same: the “real” answer is guaranteed to be between the bounds even if it isn’t representable as a floating point value.

I think you may be thinking the rounding mode flag (to_negative, to_positive) modifies the expression semantics somehow. It doesn’t; it only controls how the hardware maps an internal result (with guard bits) to a 64 bit float. Default is round to nearest, but the rounding mode flag can be used to change that.

A pair of bounds maps into an Eclipse breal (I think). But evaluating a expression of breal values is a totally new game.

Try this here with isL/2 and isR/2, or some data variation of it:

?- X = 0.05, Y = 0.049999999999999996, Z is -(X+Y).

Edit 09.02.2020:
ECLiPSe Prolog can also not make extended float visible through intervals.
I am interpreting your “guard bit” as extended float or something while evaluating
an expression. At least on Windows platform this doesn’t work. I get:

[eclipse 15]: X is 0.1, Y is 2^54, Z is breal(X+X/Y).

X = 0.1
Y = 18014398509481984
Z = 0.1__0.1

It only works when the arguments are already intervals:

[eclipse 18]: X is breal(0.1), Y is 2^54, Z is X+X/Y.

X = 0.1__0.1
Y = 18014398509481984
Z = 0.1__0.10000000000000002
Yes (0.00s cpu)

You don’t need the breal/1 around the expression, only the values need
to be breals, and then special interval operations are invoked. I don’t know
how you want to port this behaviour to SWI-Prolog through some rounding flags.

You possibly need a separate data type, similar like rational number, to
get the ECLiPSe Prolog behaviour.

Current implementation:

?- X = 0.05, Y = 0.049999999999999996, clpBNR:isL(Z,-(X+Y)).
X = 0.05,
Y = 0.049999999999999996,
Z = -0.10000000000000003.

?- X = 0.05, Y = 0.049999999999999996, clpBNR:isH(Z,-(X+Y)).
X = 0.05,
Y = 0.049999999999999996,
Z = -0.09999999999999998.

So the bounds are [-0.10000000000000003,-0.09999999999999998].

Lower bound is always less than the upper bound, which holds. It looks a bit odd because the magnitude of the LB is greater than the UB due to the negative sign.

No, the guard bits are the extended bits in the CPU hardware that are carried during the computation. It’s what is used to insure the 64 bit result is within 1 ulp. Extended (80 bit) floats are something different.

Yes, breal's. But as Jan indicated, that’s not currently an option for SWIP. But I don’t need them to be “built-in”. I can use attributed variables and build the arithmetic for them in Prolog. For your Eclipse example:

?- {Z is 0.1+0.1/2**54}.
Z = _55494{real(0.09999999999999998,0.10000000000000003)}.

Two things: interval (similar to breal) constraints are specified using {...} simillar to some other constraint systems, but unlike Eclipse and clp(fd). Z is a variable inside a constraint so it’s automatically converted to an interval.

The second point is that 0.1, or any float for that matter, cannot be guaranteed to be an exact real value. So they are rounded out before any calculation. (The Eclipse answer is a bit suspect IMO.)

The constant pi is just a floating point constant which is “fuzzed” like any other:

?- {Pi == pi}.
Pi = _56544{real(3.1415926535897922,3.141592653589794)}.

This is even coarser than Eclipse probably due to the outward rounding using
epsilon. nexttoward or your ulp would probably give a tighter answer. But that’s of secondary concern to me; the main thing is that the interval contains the real value of pi so all the math is sound, even if floating point arithmetic is used.

Also note that the answer that Eclipse gives for X is breal(pi). is incorrect in that the breal does not contain the real value of pi ( 3.141592653589793238463...) . The documentation looks correct to me so it’s an implementation bug. Of course pi is an irrational number so it has no finite machine representation.


?- {X is 4*atan(1)}.
    X = _57946{real(3.1415926535897922,3.141592653589794)}.

Same as Pi which is a good thing.

I think I finally (sorry about that) understand the point you’re making, and it’s valid. Each operation, e.g., + , must be properly rounded before proceeding. Internally:

?- [X,Y]::real(100.0,101.0),{T==X+Y,Z== -T}.
X = _62238{real(99.99999999999997,101.00000000000003)},
Y = _62400{real(99.99999999999997,101.00000000000003)},
T = _62906{real(199.9999999999999,202.0000000000001)},
Z = _63942{real(-202.0000000000001,-199.9999999999999)}.

So all is good if the rounding is done at each step. As you noted, some don’t require rounding at all, e.g., unary -. But all this is hidden from the user, he just writes:

?- [X,Y]::real(100.0,101.0),{Z== -(X+Y)}.
X = _67084{real(99.99999999999997,101.00000000000003)},
Y = _67246{real(99.99999999999997,101.00000000000003)},
Z = _67914{real(-202.0000000000001,-199.9999999999999)}.

Where the rounding mode is helpful is on each bounds calculation, e.g., for a Z==X+Y then lb(Z) isL lb(X)+lb(Y) and ub(Z) isH ub(X)+ub(Y).

For Z== -T then lb(Z) is -ub(T) and ub(Z) is -lb(T) (note no rounding).

It’s all in Prolog (SWI-Prolog to be precise), so no platform specific code (one of my original objectives). It’s a SWIP package, so it should install from the package manager (use pack_install/2). But you can download from github directly if that’s more convenient. Instructions are at ; let me know if they’re not clear.

Although it all seems to be fairly stable, it’s still an alpha release as far as I’m concerned and documentation is even more alpha.

Quite right, or the ic library in Eclipse. Interval arithmetic (i.e., breal's) is just the foundation. (In this world pi is like any other floating point constant which must be fuzzed when constructing a constraint.)

BTW, none of this is particularly new. Some 20-30 years ago I worked on the original CLP(BNR) which was a Unix based Prolog. Also CLIP (Hickey et. al) and Numerica (Van Hentenryck, a DSL focusing on global optimization problems using relational interval arithmetic. But none of these seem to be still available in working form.

And interval arithmetic goes back to the 60’s (R.E. Moore).

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Yes. I don’t really have much choice since I don’t know which way the hardware rounded the answer when it converted back to a 64 bit float. But I think it’s correct to say that if the rounding mode on the hardware was used, the bounds should be 1 ulp apart for any single operation, rather than 2 for the current scheme. And it should be faster.

Good question. But to be honest, I don’t care much. 64 bit floats provide lots of precision for most purposes so throwing some away is a good tradeoff for mathematical soundness. For me, a precise answer isn’t of much value if it’s wrong.

What about unums? This seems to be related to unums. Ulrich Neumerkel was once interested in unums and their introduction to Prolog. But this was already some years ago:

The intention is to use “Annex F IEC 60559 floating point arithmetic” of C11 ( as the core specification for IEEE floating point support in SWIP. (IEC 60559 is the international standard with content identical to IEEE 754-2008).

For the single new function under discussion nexttoward, the plot thickens:.

It is only defined for floating point arguments and returns a floating point value. If C11 compatibility is an objective, then the Eclipse implementation which supports:

Result is nexttoward(5, 9). % gives Result = 6

is incorrect IMO. I think this function should convert any numeric, non-float first argument value to a float before evaluation. The result is always a float. This works for any rational value and is consistent with C semantics (standard type coercion).

In any case, the Eclipse usage with integers is fairly easy to construct in Prolog:

nexttoward(X,Y,R) :- R is X+ sign(Y-X). %% X and Y are integers

The second issue is how to deal with denormalized (subnormal) results. It isn’t hard to find arguments pro and con for using subnormals. On the plus side they permit gradual underflow as values approach zero at the cost of precision. But historically they’ve been quite slow. (In some cases over 100 times slower; my fanless Macbook indicates a factor of 9 using the benchmark at Given there is no clear cut winning argument, the Prolog function should just transparently return whatever the underlying C function produces (share the blame). The application can map subnormals to normals if there’s a valid reason for doing so. (Perhaps an additional function to test/convert a subnormal to a normal could be justified in the future.)

It’s worth noting that this isn’t meant to be a mathematically sound function. For example, a nexttoward on infinity does not return infinity. Instead it’s a mapping of a floating point value to an adjacent value depending on the underlying physical representation.

Interesting, but we’re getting off-topic.

I’ve been doing some testing simulating the performance hit of using Prolog environment flags for controlling the rounding mode. A simple test predicate using the gc flag (roughly equivalent performance wise?) as a stand-in for rounding mode:

rounding_is(R,Exp) :- 
	R is Exp,

Adding the flag control pretty much triples the cost of the arithmetic evaluation for simple expressions, which pretty much is what you’d expect if all the built-ins cost about the same.

I think we should try to do better than this by building the rounding mode control into an enhanced is primitive. This could be done either by adding two new primitives, e.g., isL/2 (rounding mode towards -inf) and isH/2 (rounding mode towards +inf), or by introducing an is/3 with an options parameter, e.g., is(R,Exp,[rounding_mode(to_negative)]) or some such.

This is inline with recommended C usage which scopes the rounding mode change to a single evaluation or function, rather than treating the mode as global state.

If this was acceptable, I’m not sure you would need to have rounding mode flags at all. Or maybe keep them for a trial period for experimentation purposes.

A less effective improvement would be to have a get_set primitive for flags to at least reduce the total number of calls:

rounding_is(R,Exp) :- 
	R is Exp,

Ok. Doesn’t happen yet. I’m unsure here. Giving type-specific results can be done in a dynamically typed languages, but not in C. If you want float operations, just cast one of the arguments to float is the counter argument that also holds for division, etc. Unfortunately, I guess there is no sensible implementation for rationals as they can be arbitrary close to one another if large enough integers may be used and thus nextowards shall return the rational that in most cases uses the maximum amount of memory we can afford :slight_smile:

Prolog has historically made lot of as in C mistakes :frowning: We are a dynamically typed language that should in mos cases prefer correctness over performance. But then, IEEE 754 and C99 and similar standards probably did the right thing wrt floats.