I object to one component of Gareth's proposal - to make log2(0)=0. The problem lies not with what Gareth wants to do with it, but what other people will use it for once it becomes available.  log2(0) is undefined (and undefinable, as it is not a computable number), the appropriate choice for log2(0) is to make it Not-A-Number (NaN).

FLog2(0) = NaN = CLog2.

Such a choice would avoid the mess Gustavson got himself into when he mapped <www.johngustafson.net/pdfs/BeatingFloatingPoint.pdf> 0 and 1/0 onto the same number - a mapping that has many advantages for computing, but eventually destroys computability <https://arxiv.org/pdf/1701.00722>. To a lesser degree, this mess is already present in the IEEE 754 standard for floating-point arithmetic, and thus led to, to put it mildly, computing difficulties <www.itu.dk/%7Esestoft/bachelor/IEEE754_article.pdf>, difficulties that many programmers gloss over - or simply ignore.

I will have to say more about this when I am ready to file a bug report on floating point exceptions, since Gareth's proposal has deep links to how floating point numbers are defined - and why they were defined such.


On 13/06/2018 00:42, J. Gareth Moreton wrote:
Hi everyone,

Sorry to flood the mailing list again with more ideas and experiments.

I would like to propose introducing a new pair of in-built functions for the compiler.

function FLog2(X: Cardinal): Cardinal;
function CLog2(X: Cardinal): Cardinal;

FLog2 returns the base-2 logarithm of X, rounded down, while CLog2 returns the base-2 logarithm of X, rounded up.

To give examples where these functions could be useful, FLog2(X) + 1 indicates the minimum number of bits required to store X as an unsigned integer, while CLog2(X) is equal to the maximum number of iterations required for a binary search of an X-sized list.
Given the stated purpose, I could withdraw my objection if any reference to logarithm was removed from the function and its name. Then Gareth would be free to create his function any way he likes and assign to it the properties he chooses. The only requirement left then would be to state in the comments around the function what it is supposed to achieve, as a deterrence to mis-use and guidance to future maintainers, who may not think the same as Gareth does.
Why should they be in-built though? With the binary search example, the size of the list is sometimes known at compile time, hence is a constant - therefore, its logarithm is also a constant.  By pre-calculating the logarithm using the in-built function, it can be used to aid optimization such as loop unrolling.  It also makes them easier to inline, where FLog2(X) on x86_64-win64 translates to a single line of assembly language: BSR EAX, ECX (unless X is zero, in which case ZF is set and EAX is undefined).

If there had to be a slight nuance though, it's what happens if X = 0, since log(0) = -oo
This statement is false. log(0) is not infinity. To obtain a numerical value for log(0) by e.g. Taylor series expansion, at one stage you have to divide by zero since the differential
(d ln x )/ d x = 1/x.
 And since 1/0 is not an element of the set of computable numbers, log(0) is not either. The only valid assignment can be log(0):=NaN, for any base.
, which cannot be stored as an integer and may cause problems with the compiler.  I would propose it return 0 as a special case, as this will fix most problems when it comes to loops and storage, and also ensure that FLog2 and CLog2 are "entire functions".  To give an optimised example of FLog(2) in x86-64 assembly language:

BSR EAX, ECX // ZF is set if ECX is zero
CMOVZ EAX, EDX // Zero (EDX) written to result if ZF is set.

Some kind of deep optimization could be used if the input is known to be non-zero and remove the instructions either side of BSR.

(Alternative names: FILog2 and CILog2, to indicate they work on integers and to distinguish them from versions that work with floating-point numbers)


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