A mathematical function is defined abstractly by

Function: A function is a relation which assigns to each element in the domain a single element in the range. A relation is a set of ordered pairs, $(x,y)$. The set of first coordinates is the domain, the set of second coordinates the range of the relation.

That is, a function gives a correspondence between values in its domain with values in its range.

This definition is abstract, as functions can be very general. With single-variable calculus, we generally specialize to real-valued functions of a single variable (univariate functions). These typically have the correspondence given by a rule, such as $f(x) = x^2$ or $f(x) = \sqrt{x}$. The function's domain may be implicit (as in all $x$ for which the rule is defined) or may be explicitly given as part of the rule. The function's range is then the image of its domain, or the set of all $f(x)$ for each $x$ in the domain ($\{f(x): x \in \text{ domain}\}$).

Some examples of mathematical functions are:

\[ ~ f(x) = \cos(x), \quad g(x) = x^2 - x, \quad h(x) = \sqrt{x}, \quad s(x) = \begin{cases} -1 & x < 0\\1&x>0\end{cases}. ~ \]

For these examples, the domain of both $f(x)$ and $g(x)$ is all real values of $x$, where as for $h(x)$ it is implicitly just the set of non-negative numbers, $[0, \infty)$. Finally, for $s(x)$, we can see that the domain is defined for every $x$ but $0$.

In general the range is harder to identify than the domain, and this is the case for these functions too. For $f(x)$ we know the $\cos$ function is trapped in $[-1,1]$ and it is intuitively clear than all values in that set are possible. The function $h(x)$ would have range $[0,\infty)$. The $s(x)$ function is either $-1$ or $1$, so only has two possible values in its range. What about $g(x)$? It is a parabola that opens upward, so any $y$ values below the $y$ value of its vertex will not appear in the range. In this case, the symmetry indicates that the vertex will be at $(1/2, -1/4)$, so the range is $[-1/4, \infty)$.

We will see that defining functions within Julia can be as simple a concept as Euler started with, but that the more abstract concept has a great advantage that is exploited in the design of the language.

Defining simple mathematical functions

The notation Julia uses to define simple mathematical functions could not be more closely related to how they are written mathematically. For example, the functions $f(x)$, $g(x)$, and $h(x)$ above may be defined by:

f(x) = cos(x)
g(x) = x^2 - x
h(x) = sqrt(x)
h (generic function with 1 method)

The left-hand sign of the equals sign is still an assignment, though in this case an assignment to a function object which has a name and a specification of an argument, $x$ in each case above, though other dummy variables could be used. The right hand side is simply Julia code to compute the rule corresponding to the function.

Calling the function also follows standard math notation:

f(pi), g(2), h(4)
(-1.0, 2, 2.0)

For typical cases like the three above, there isn't really much new to learn.

The domain of a function

Functions in Julia have an implicit domain, just as they do mathematically. In the case of $f(x)$ and $g(x)$, the right-hand side is defined for all real values of $x$, so the domain is all $x$. For $h(x)$ this isn't the case, of course. Trying to call $h(x)$ when $x < 0$ will give an error:

ERROR: DomainError with -1.0:
sqrt will only return a complex result if called with a complex argument. Try sqrt(Complex(x)).

The DomainError is one of many different error types Julia has, in this case it is quite apt: the value $-1$ is not in the domain of the function.

Equations, functions, calling a function

Mathematically we tend to blur the distinction between the equation

\[ ~ y = 5/9 \cdot (x - 32) ~ \]

and the function

\[ ~ f(x) = 5/9 \cdot (x - 32) ~ \]

In fact, the graph of a function $f(x)$ is simply defined as the graph of the equation $y=f(x)$. There is a distinction in Julia as a command such as

x = -40
y = 5/9 * (x - 32)

will evaluate the righthand side with the value of x bound at the time of assignment to y, whereas assignment to a function

f(x) = 5/9 * (x - 32)
f(72)				## room temperature

will create a function object which is called with a value of x at a later time - the time the function is called. So the value of x defined when the function is created is not important here (as the value of x used by f is passed in as an argument).

Within Julia, we make note of the distinction between a function object versus a function call. In the definition f(x)=cos(x), the variable f refers to a function object, whereas the expression f(pi) is a function call. This mirrors the math notation where an $f$ is used when properties of a function are being emphasized (such as $f \circ g$ for composition) and $f(x)$ is used when the values related to the function are being emphasized (such as saying "the plot of the equation $y=f(x)$).

Distinguishing these three related but different concepts (equations, function objects, and function calls) is important when modeling on the computer.


The definition of $s(x)$ above has two cases:

\[ ~ s(x) = \begin{cases} -1 & s < 0\\ 1 & s > 0. \end{cases} ~ \]

We learn to read this as "If $s$ is less than $0$, then the answer is $-1$. If $s$ is greater than $0$ the answer is $1$." Often - but not in this example - there is an "otherwise" case to catch those values of $x$ that are not explicitly mentioned. As there is no such "otherwise" case here, we can see that this function has no definition when $x=0$. This function is often called the "sign" function and is also defined by $\lvert x\rvert/x$. (Julia's sign function actually defines sign(0) to be 0.)

How do we create conditional statements in Julia? Programming languages generally have "if-then-else" constructs to handle conditional evaluation. In Julia, the following code will handle the above condition:

if x < 0
elseif x > 0

The "otherwise" case would be caught with an else addition. So, for example, this would implement Julia's definition of sign (which also assigns $0$ to $0$):

if x < 0
elseif x > 0

The conditions for the if statements are expressions that evaluate to either true or false, such as generated by the Boolean operators <, <=, ==, !-, >=, and >.

If familiar with if conditions, they are natural to use. However, for simpler cases of "if-else" Julia provides the more convenient ternary operator: cond ? if_true : if_false. (The name comes from the fact that there are three arguments specified.) The ternary operator checks the condition and if true returns the first expression, whereas if the condition is false the second condition is returned. Both expressions are evaluated. (The short-circuit operators can be used to avoid both evaluations.)

For example, here is one way to define an absolute value function:

f(x) = x >= 0 ? x : -x
f (generic function with 1 method)

The condition is x >= 0 - or is x non-negative? If so, the value x is used, otherwise -x is used.

Here is a means to implement a function which takes the larger of x or 10:

f(x) = x > 10 ? x : 10.0
f (generic function with 1 method)

(This could also utilize the max function: f(x) = max(x, 10.0).)

Or similarly, a function to represent a cell phone plan where the first 500 minutes are 20 dollars and every additional minute is 5 cents:

cellplan(x) = x < 500 ? 20.0 : 20.0 + 0.05 * (x-500)
cellplan (generic function with 1 method)

The ternary operator can be used to define an explicit domain. For example, a falling body might have height given by $h(t) = 10 - 16t^2$. This model only applies for non-negative $t$ and non-negative $h$ values. So, in particular $0 \leq t \leq \sqrt{10/16}$. To implement this function we might have:

h(t) = 0 <= t <= sqrt(10/16) ? 10.0 - 16t^2 : error("t is not in the domain")
h (generic function with 1 method)

We might also have used NaN instead of an error, or $0$, as the falling body would come to rest when it hits the ground.

Nesting ternary operators

The function s(x) isn't quite so easy to implement, as there isn't an "otherwise" case. We could use an if statement, but instead illustrate using a second, nested ternary operator:

s(x) = x < 0 ? -1 : (x > 0 ? 1 : error("0 is not in the domain"))
s (generic function with 1 method)

With nested ternary operators, the advantage over the if condition is not very compelling, but for simple cases the ternary operator is quite useful. (The extra parentheses around the expression when x<0 is not true are actually unnecessary, though added here for clarity.)

Functions defined with the "function" keyword

For more complicated functions, say one with a few steps to compute, an alternate form for defining a function can be used:

function function_name(function_arguments)

The last value computed is returned unless the function_body contains an explicit return statement.

For example, the following is a more verbose way to define $f(x) = x^2$:

function f(x)
  return x^2
f (generic function with 1 method)

The line return x^2, could have just been x^2 as it is the last (and) only line evaluated.


Imagine we have the following complicated function related to the trajectory of a projectile with wind resistance:

\[ ~ f(x) = \left(\frac{g}{k v_0\cos(\theta)} + \tan(\theta) \right) x + \frac{g}{k^2}\ln\left(1 - \frac{k}{v_0\cos(\theta)} x \right) ~ \]

Here $g$ is the gravitational constant $9.8$ and $v_0$, $\theta$ and $k$ parameters, which we take to be $200$, $45$ degrees and $1/2$ respectively. With these values, the above function can be computed when $x=100$ with:

function f(x)
  g, v0, theta, k = 9.8, 200, 45, 1/2
  a = v0 * cosd(theta)

  (g/(k*a) + tand(theta))* x + (g/k^2) * log(1 - k/a*x)

By using a multi-line function our work is much easier to look over for errors.

Parameters, function context (scope), keyword arguments

Consider two functions implementing the slope-intercept form and point-slope form of a line:

\[ ~ f(x) = m \cdot x + b, \quad g(x) = y_0 + m \cdot (x - x_0). ~ \]

Both functions use the variable $x$, but there is no confusion, as we learn that this is just a dummy variable to be substituted for and so could have any name. Both also share a variable $m$ for a slope. Where does that value come from? In practice, there is a context that gives an answer. Despite the same name, there is no expectation that the slope will be the same for each function if the context is different. So when parameters are involved, a function involves a rule and a context to give specific values to the parameters.

Something similar is also true with Julia. Consider the example of writing a function to model a linear equation with slope $m=2$ and $y$-intercept $3$. A typical means to do this would be to define constants, and then use the familiar formula:

m, b = 2, 3
f(x) = m*x + b
f (generic function with 1 method)

This will work as expected. For example, $f(0)$ will be $b$ and $f(2)$ will be $7$:

f(0), f(2)
(3, 7)

All fine, but what if somewhere later the values for $m$ and $b$ were redefined:

m, b = 3, 2
(3, 2)

Now what happens with $f(0)$? When $f$ was defined b was $3$, but now if we were to call f, b is 2. Which value will we get? More generally, when f is being evaluated in what context does Julia look up the bindings for the variables it encounters? It could be that the values are assigned when the function is defined, or it could be that the values for the parameters are resolved when the function is called. If the latter, what context will be used?

Before discussing this, let's just see in this case:


So the b is found from the currently stored value. This fact can be exploited. we can write template-like functions, such as f(x)=mx+b and reuse them just by updating the parameters separately.

How Julia resolves what a variable refers to is described in detail in the manual page Scope of Variables. In this case, the function definition finds variables in the context of where the function was defined, the main workspace. As seen, this context can be modified after the function definition and prior to the function call. It is only when b is needed, that the context is consulted, so the most recent binding is retrieved. Contexts (more formally known as environments) allow the user to repurpose variable names without there being name collision. For example, we typically use x as a function argument, and different contexts allow this x to refer to different values.

Mostly this works as expected, but at times it can be complicated to reason about. In our example, definitions of the parameters can be forgotten, or the same variable name may have been used for some other purpose. The potential issue is with the parameters, the value for x is straightforward, as it is passed into the function. However, we can also pass the parameters, such as $m$ and $b$, as arguments. For parameters, we suggest using keyword arguments. These allow the specification of parameters, but also give a default value. This can make usage explicit, yet still convenient. For example, here is an alternate way of defining a line with parameters m and b:

f(x; m=1, b=0) = m*x + b
f (generic function with 1 method)

The right-hand side is identical to before, but the left hand side is different. Arguments defined after a semicolon are keyword arguments. They are specified as var=value (or var::Type=value to restrict the type) where the value is used as the default, should a value not be specified when the function is called.

Calling a function with keyword arguments can be identical to before:


During this call, values for m and b are found from how the function is called, not the main workspace. In this case, nothing is specified so the defaults of $m=1$ and $b=0$ are used. Whereas, this call will use the user-specified values for m and b:

f(0, m=3, b=2)

Keywords are used to mark the parameters whose values are to be changed from the default. Though one can use positional arguments for parameters - and there are good reasons to do so - using keyword arguments is a good practice if performance isn't paramount, as their usage is more explicit yet the defaults mean that a minimum amount of typing needs to be done.


In the example for multi-line functions we hard coded many variables inside the body of the function. In practice it can be better to pass these in as parameters along the lines of:

function f(x; g = 9.8, v0 = 200, theta = 45, k = 1/2)
  a = v0 * cosd(theta)
  (g/(k*a) + tand(theta))* x + (g/k^2) * log(1 - k/a*x)
f (generic function with 1 method)

Multiple dispatch

The concept of a function is of much more general use than its restriction to mathematical functions of single real variable. A natural application comes from describing basic properties of geometric objects. The following function definitions likely will cause no great concern when skimmed over:

Area(w, h) = w * h		                   # of a rectangle
Volume(r, h) = pi * r^2 * h	                   # of a cylinder
SurfaceArea(r, h) = pi * r * (r + sqrt(h^2 + r^2)) # of a right circular cone, including the base
SurfaceArea (generic function with 1 method)

The right-hand sides may or may not be familiar, but it should be reasonable to believe that if push came to shove, the formulas could be looked up. However, the left-hand sides are subtly different - they have two arguments, not one. In Julia it is trivial to define functions with multiple arguments - we just did.

Earlier we saw the log function can use a second argument to express the base. This function is basically defined by log(b,x)=log(x)/log(b). The log(x) value is the natural log, and this definition just uses the change-of-base formula for logarithms.

But not so fast, on the left side is a function with two arguments and on the right side the functions have one argument - yet they share the same name. How does Julia know which to use? Julia uses the number, order, and type of the arguments passed to a function to determine which function definition to use. This is technically known as multiple dispatch or polymorphism. As a feature of the language, it can be used to greatly simplify the number of functions the user must learn. The basic idea is that many functions are "generic" in that they will work for many different scenarios.

Julia is similarly structured. Julia terminology would be to call the operation "+" a generic function and the different implementations methods of "+". This allows the user to just need to know a smaller collection of generic concepts yet still have the power of detail-specific implementations. To see how many different methods are defined in the base Julia language for the + operator, we can use the command methods(+). As there are so many ($\approx 200$) and that number is growing, we illustrate how many different logarithm methods are implemented for "numbers:"

methods(log, (Number,)) |> collect
17-element Array{Method,1}:

(The arguments have type annotations such as x::Float64 or x::BigFloat. Julia uses these to help resolve which method should be called for a given set of arguments. This allows for different operations depending on the variable type. For example, in this case, the log function for Float64 values uses a fast algorithm, whereas for BigFloat values an algorithm that can handle multiple precision is used.)

Example. An application of composition and multiple dispatch

As mentioned Julia's multiple dispatch allows multiple functions with the same name. The function that gets selected depends not just on the type of the arguments, but also on the number of arguments given to the function. We can exploit this to simplify our tasks. For example, consider this optimization problem:

For all rectangles of perimeter 20, what is the one with largest area?

The start of this problem is to represent the area in terms of one variable. We see next that composition can simplify this task, which when done by hand requires a certain amount of algebra.

Representing the area of a rectangle in terms of two variables is easy, as the familiar formula of width times height applies:

Area(w, h) = w * h
Area (generic function with 1 method)

But the other fact about this problem - that the perimeter is $20$ - means that height depends on width. For this question, we can see that $P=2w + 2h$ so that - as a function - h depends on w as follows:

h(w) = (20  - 2*w)/2
h (generic function with 1 method)

By hand we would substitute this last expression into that for the area and simplify (to get $A=w\cdot (20-2 \cdot w)/2 = -w^2 + 10$). However, within Julia we can let composition do the substitution and leave the algebraic simplification for Julia to do:

Area(w) = Area(w, h(w))
Area (generic function with 2 methods)

This might seem odd, just like with log, we now have two different but related functions named Area. Julia will decide which to use based on the number of arguments when the function is called. This setup allows both to be used on the same line, as above. This usage style is not common with computer languages, but is a feature of Julia which is built around the concept of generic functions with multiple dispatch rules to decide which rule to call.

For example, jumping ahead a bit, the plot function of Plots (loaded with the accompanying CalculusWithJulia package) expects functions of a single numeric variable. Behind the scenes, then the function A(w) will be used in this graph:

using CalculusWithJulia
using Plots
plot(Area, 0, 10)

From the graph, we can see that that width for maximum area is $w=5$ and so $h=5$ as well.

Anonymous functions

Simple mathematical functions have a domain and range which are a subset of the real numbers, and generally have a concrete mathematical rule. However, the definition of a function is much more abstract. We've seen that functions for computer languages can be more complicated too, with, for example, the possibility of multiple input values. Things can get more abstract still.

Take for example, the idea of the shift of a function. The following mathematical definition of a new function $g$ related to a function $f$:

\[ ~ g(x) = f(x-c) ~ \]

has an interpretation - the graph of $g$ will be the same as the graph of $f$ shifted to the right by $c$ units. That is $g$ is a transformation of $f$. From one perspective, the act of replacing $x$ with $x-c$ transforms a function into a new function. Mathematically, when we focus on transforming functions, the word operator is sometimes used. This concept of transforming a function can be viewed as a certain type of function, in an abstract enough way. The relation would be just pairs of functions $(f,g)$ where $g(x) = f(x-c)$.

With Julia we can represent such operations. The simplest thing would be to do something like:

f(x) = x^2 - 2x
g(x) = f(x -3)
g (generic function with 1 method)

Then $g$ has the graph of $f$ shifted by 3 units to the right. Now f above refers to something in the main workspace, in this example a specific function. Better would be to allow f to be an argument of a function. So we need to do something like:

function shift_right(f; c=0)
    f(x - c)
shift_right (generic function with 1 method)

That takes some parsing. In the body of the shift_right is the definition of a function. But this function has no name– it is anonymous. But what it does should be clear - it subtracts $c$ from $x$ and evaluates $f$ at this new value. Since the last expression creates a function, this function is returned by shift_right.

So we could have done something more complicated like:

f(x) = x^2 - 2x
l = shift_right(f, c=3)
#4 (generic function with 1 method)

Then l is a function that is derived from f.

Anonymous functions can be created with the function keyword, but we will use the "arrow" notation, arg->body to create them, The above, could have been defined as:

shift_right(f; c=0) = x -> f(x-c)
shift_right (generic function with 1 method)

When the -> is seen a function is being created.

Example: the secant line

A secant line is a line through two points on the graph of a function. If we have a function $f(x)$, and two $x$-values $x=a$ and $x=b$, then we can find the slope between the points $(a,f(a))$ and $(b, f(b))$ with:

\[ ~ m = \frac{f(b) - f(a)}{b - a}. ~ \]

The point-slope form a line then gives the equation of the tangent line as $y = f(a) + m \cdot (x - a)$.

To model this in Julia, we would want to turn the inputs f,a, b into a function that implements the secant line (functions are much easier to work with than equations). Here is how we can do it:

function secant(f, a, b)
   m = (f(b) - f(a)) / (b-a)
   x -> f(a) + m * (x - a)
secant (generic function with 1 method)

The body of the function nearly mirrors the mathematical treatment. The main difference is in place of $y = \dots$ we have a x -> ... to create an anonymous function.

To illustrate the use, suppose $f(x) = x^2 - 2$ and we have the secant line between $a=1$ and $b=2$. The value at $x=3/2$ is given by:

f(x) = x^2 - 2
a,b = 1, 2

The last line employs double parentheses. The first pair, secant(f,a,b), returns a function and the second pair, (3/2), are used to call the returned function.

Example: the secant method for finding a solution to $f(x) = 0$.

This last example, shows how using functions to collect a set of computations for simpler reuse can be very helpful.

An old method for finding a zero of an equation is the secant method. We illustrate the method with the function $f(x) = x^2 - 2$. In the last example we saw how to create a function to evaluate the secant line between $(a,f(a))$ and $(b, f(b))$ at any point. In this example, we define a function to compute the $x$ coordinate of where the secant line crosses the $x$ axis. This can be defined as follows:

function secant_intersection(f, a, b)
   # solve 0 = f(b) + m * (x-b) where m is the slope of the secant line
   # x = b - f(b) / m
   m = (f(b) - f(a)) / (b - a)
   b - f(b) / m
secant_intersection (generic function with 1 method)

We utilize this as follows. Suppose we wish to solve $f(x) = 0$ and we have two "rough" guesses for the answer. In our example, we wish to solve $f(x) = x^2 - 2$ and our "rough" guesses are $1$ and $2$. Call these values $a$ and $b$. We improve our rough guesses by finding a value $c$ which is the intersection point of the secant line.

f(x) = x^2 - 2
a, b = 1, 2
c = secant_intersection(f, a, b)

In our example, we see that in trying to find an answer to $f(x) = 0$ ( $\sqrt{2}\approx 1.414\dots$) our value found from the intersection point is a better guess than either $a=1$ or $b=2$:

Still, f(c) is not really close to $0$:


But it is much closer than either $f(a)$ or $f(b)$, so it is an improvement. This suggests renaming $a$ and $b$ with the old $b$ and $c$ values and trying again we might do better still:

a, b = b, c
c = secant_intersection(f, a, b)

Yes, now the function value at this new $c$ is even closer to $0$. Trying a few more times we see we just get closer and closer:

a, b = b, c
c = secant_intersection(f, a, b)
f(c)                 # like 1e-3
a, b = b, c
c = secant_intersection(f, a, b)
f(c)                 # like -6e-6
a, b = b, c
c = secant_intersection(f, a, b)
f(c)                 # like -8e-10
a, b = b, c
c = secant_intersection(f, a, b)
f(c)                 # pretty close now

Now our guess $c$ is basically the same as sqrt(2). Repeating the above leads to only a slight improvement in the guess, as we are about as close as floating point values will allow.

Here we see a visualization with all these points. As can be seen, it quickly converges at the scale of the visualization, as we can't see much closer than 1e-2.

In most cases, this method can fairly quickly find a zero provided two good starting points are used.



State the domain and range of $f(x) = |x + 2|$.


State the domain and range of $f(x) = 1/(x-2)$.


Which of these functions has a domain of all real $x$, but a range of $x > 0$?


Which of these commands will make a function for $f(x) = \sin(x + \pi/3)$?


Which of these commands will create a function for $f(x) = (1 + x^2)^{-1}$?


Will the following Julia commands create a function for

\[ ~ f(x) = \begin{cases} 30 & x < 500\\ 30 + 0.10 \cdot (x-500) & \text{otherwise.} \end{cases} ~ \]

f(x) = x < 500 ? 30.0 : 30 + 0.10 * (x-500)
f (generic function with 1 method)

The expression max(0, x) will be 0 if x is negative, but otherwise will take the value of x. Is this the same?

f(x) = x < 0 ? x : 0.0
f (generic function with 1 method)

In statistics, the normal distribution has two parameters $\mu$ and $\sigma$ appearing as:

\[ ~ f(x; \mu, \sigma) = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi\sigma}} e^{-\frac{1}{2}\frac{(x-\mu)^2}{\sigma}}. ~ \]

Does this function implement this with the default values of $\mu=0$ and $\sigma=1$?

f(x; mu=0, sigma=1) = 1/sqrt(2pi*sigma) * exp(-(1/2)*(x-mu)^2/sigma)
f (generic function with 1 method)

What value of $\mu$ is used if the function is called as f(x, sigma=2.7)?

What value of $\mu$ is used if the function is called as f(x, mu=70)?

What value of $\mu$ is used if the function is called as f(x, mu=70, sigma=2.7)?


Julia has keyword arguments (as just illustrated) but also positional arguments. These are matched by how the function is called. For example,

A(w, h) = w*h
A (generic function with 1 method)

when called as A(10, 5) will use 10 for w and 5 for h, as the order of w and h matches that of 10 and 5 in the call.

This is clear enough, but in fact positional arguments can have default values (then called optional) arguments). For example,

B(w, h=5) = w*h
B (generic function with 2 methods)

Actually creates two functions: B(w,h) for when the call is, say, B(10,5) and B(w) when the call is B(10).

Suppose a function C is defined by

C(x, mu=0, sigma=1) = 1/sqrt(2pi*sigma) * exp(-(1/2)*(x-mu)^2/sigma)
C (generic function with 3 methods)

This is nearly identical to the last question, save for a comma instead of a semicolon after the x.

What value of mu is used by the call C(1, 70, 2.7)?

What value of mu is used by the call C(1, 70)?

What value of mu is used by the call C(1)?

Will the call C(1, mu=70) use a value of 70 for mu?


This function mirrors that of the built-in clamp function:

klamp(x, a, b) = x < a ? a : (x > b ? b : x)
klamp (generic function with 1 method)

Can you tell what it does?


Julia has syntax for the composition of functions $f$ and $g$ using the Unicode operator entered as \circ[tab].

The notation to call a composition follows the math notation, where parentheses are necessary to separate the act of composition from the act of calling the function:

\[ ~ (f \circ g)(x) ~ \]

For example

(sin  cos)(pi/4)

What happens if you forget the extra parentheses and were to call sin ∘ cos(pi/4)?


The pipe notation ex |> f takes the output of ex and uses it as the input to the function f. That is composition. What is the value of this expression 1 |> sin |> cos?


Julia has implemented this limited set of algebraic operations on functions: for composition and ! for negation. (Read ! as "not.") The latter is useful for "predicate" functions (ones that return either true or false. What is output by this command?

fn = !iseven

Generic functions in Julia allow many algorithms to work without change for different number types. For example, 3000 years ago, floating point numbers wouldn't have been used to carry out the secant method computations, rather rational numbers would have been. We can see the results of using rational numbers with no change to our key function, just by starting with rational numbers for a and b:

secant_intersection(f, a, b) = b - f(b) * (b - a) / (f(b) - f(a))  # rewritten
f(x) = x^2 - 2
a, b = 1//1, 2//1
c = secant_intersection(f, a, b)

Now c is 4//3 and not 1.333.... This works as the key operations used: division, squaring, subtraction all have different implementations for rational numbers that preserve this type.

Repeat the secant method two more times to find a better approximation for $\sqrt{2}$. What is the value of c found?

How small is the value of $f(c)$ for this value?

How close is this answer to the true value of $\sqrt{2}$?

(Finding a good approximation to $\sqrt{2}$ would be helpful to builders, for example, as it could be used to verify the trueness of a square room, say.)


Julia does not have surface syntax for the difference of functions. This is a common thing to want when solving equations. The tools available solve $f(x)=0$, but problems may present as solving for $h(x) = g(x)$ or even $h(x) = c$, for some constant. Which of these solutions is not helpful if $h$ and $g$ are already defined?