Archive for exponentiation

dial e for Buffon

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on January 29, 2021 by xi'an

The use of Buffon’s needle to approximate π by a (slow) Monte Carlo estimate is a well-known Monte Carlo illustration. But that a similar experiment can be used for approximating e seems less known, if judging from the 08 January riddle from The Riddler. When considering a sequence of length n exchangeable random variables, the probability of a particuliar ordering of the sequence is 1/n!. Thus, counting how many darts need be thrown on a target until the distance to the centre increases produces a random number N≥2 with pmf 1/n!-1/(n+1)! and with expectation equal to e. Which can be checked as follows


which recycles simulations by using every one as starting point (codegolfers welcome!).

An earlier post on the ‘Og essentially covered the same notion, also linking it to Forsythe’s method and to Gnedenko. (Rényi could also be involved!) Paradoxically, the extra-credit given to the case when the target is divided into equal distance tori is much less exciting…

take those hats off [from R]!

Posted in Books, Kids, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on May 5, 2015 by xi'an

from my office, La Défense & Bois de Boulogne, Paris, May 15, 2012This is presumably obvious to most if not all R programmers, but I became aware today of a hugely (?) delaying tactic in my R codes. I was working with Jean-Michel and Natesh [who are visiting at the moment] and when coding an MCMC run I was telling them that I usually preferred to code Nsim=10000 as Nsim=10^3 for readability reasons. Suddenly, I became worried that this representation involved a computation, as opposed to Nsim=1e3 and ran a little experiment:

> system.time(for (t in 1:10^8) x=10^3)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
     30.704       0.032      30.717
> system.time(for (t in 1:1e8) x=10^3)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
     30.338       0.040      30.359
> system.time(for (t in 1:10^8) x=1000)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
      6.548       0.084       6.631
> system.time(for (t in 1:1e8) x=1000)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
      6.088       0.032       6.115
> system.time(for (t in 1:10^8) x=1e3)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
      6.134       0.029       6.157
> system.time(for (t in 1:1e8) x=1e3)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
      6.627       0.032       6.654
> system.time(for (t in 1:10^8) x=exp(3*log(10)))
utilisateur     système      écoulé
     60.571        0.000     57.103

 So using the usual scientific notation with powers is taking its toll! While the calculator notation with e is cost free… Weird!

I understand that the R notation 10^6 is an abbreviation for a power function that can be equally applied to pi^pi, say, but still feel aggrieved that a nice scientific notation like 10⁶ ends up as a computing trap! I thus asked the question to the Stack Overflow forum, getting the (predictable) answer that the R code 10^6 meant calling the R power function, while 1e6 was a constant. Since 10⁶ does not differ from ππ, there is no reason 10⁶ should be recognised by R as a million. Except that it makes my coding more coherent.

> system.time( for (t in 1:10^8) x=pi^pi)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
     44.518       0.000      43.179
> system.time( for (t in 1:10^8) x=10^6)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
     38.336       0.000      37.860

Another thing I discovered from this answer to my question is that negative integers are also requesting call to a function:

> system.time( for (t in 1:10^8) x=1)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
     10.561       0.801      11.062
> system.time( for (t in 1:10^8) x=-1)
utilisateur     système      écoulé
     22.711       0.860      23.098

This sounds even weirder.

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