Extended Exercise: Interval Arithmetic
Alyssa P. Hacker is designing a system to help people solve engineering problems. One feature she wants to provide in her system is the ability to manipulate inexact quantities (such as measured parameters of physical devices) with known precision, so that when computations are done with such approximate quantities the results will be numbers of known precision.
Electrical engineers will be using Alyssa's system to compute electrical quantities. It is sometimes necessary for them to compute the value of a parallel equivalent resistance R_p of two resistors R_1 and R_2 using the formula
Resistance values are usually known only up to some tolerance guaranteed by the manufacturer of the resistor. For example, if you buy a resistor labeled "6.8 ohms with 10% tolerance" you can only be sure that the resistor has a resistance between 6.8 - 0.68 = 6.12 and 6.8 + 0.68 = 7.48 ohms. Thus, if you have a 6.8-ohm 10% resistor in parallel with a 4.7-ohm 5% resistor, the resistance of the combination can range from about 2.58 ohms (if the two resistors are at the lower bounds) to about 2.97 ohms (if the two resistors are at the upper bounds).
Alyssa's idea is to implement "interval arithmetic" as a set of arithmetic operations for combining "intervals" (objects that represent the range of possible values of an inexact quantity). The result of adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing two intervals is itself an interval, representing the range of the result.
Alyssa postulates the existence of an abstract object called an "interval" that has two endpoints: a lower bound and an upper bound. She also presumes that, given the endpoints of an interval, she can construct the interval using the data constructor
make-interval. Alyssa first writes a function for adding two intervals. She reasons that the minimum value the sum could be is the sum of the two lower bounds and the maximum value it could be is the sum of the two upper bounds:
(defun add-interval (x y) (make-interval (+ (lower-bound x) (lower-bound y)) (+ (upper-bound x) (upper-bound y))))
Alyssa also works out the product of two intervals by finding the minimum and the maximum of the products of the bounds and using them as the bounds of the resulting interval.
(defun mul-interval (x y) (let ((p1 (* (lower-bound x) (lower-bound y))) (p2 (* (lower-bound x) (upper-bound y))) (p3 (* (upper-bound x) (lower-bound y))) (p4 (* (upper-bound x) (upper-bound y)))) (make-interval (min p1 p2 p3 p4) (max p1 p2 p3 p4))))
To divide two intervals, Alyssa multiplies the first by the reciprocal of the second. Note that the bounds of the reciprocal interval are the reciprocal of the upper bound and the reciprocal of the lower bound, in that order.
(defun div-interval (x y) (mul-interval x (make-interval (/ 1.0 (upper-bound y)) (/ 1.0 (lower-bound y)))))