recursion in Mathematica

I have been playing with creating pseudotexts via markov chains recently, and may post some code soon. Creating random text via markov chains has two steps — first you analyze the source material and make a tree that describes the likelihood of different words following each other, and second you create a random walk through that tree, respecting the relative probability of the different paths.

The first step is easily done via many different methods, but if you want a tree of arbitrary depth, it becomes most elegant to use recursion. This is no harder in Mathematica than any other language, and for the sake of any novices googling around for examples of using Mathematica recursively, note the following example —

If you want to compute factorials, in practice you would probably use Mathematica’s postfix operator, !

In[1]:= 4!
Out[1]= 24

You could program your own version about a thousand different ways. I find this to be natural:

In[2]:= functionalFactorial[x_] := Apply[Times, Range[x]]
In[3]:= functionalFactorial[4]
Out[3]= 24

And if you wanted a recursive version, you could do

In[4]:= recursiveFactorial[x_] := If[x == 1, 1, x*recursiveFactorial[x - 1]]
In[5]:= recursiveFactorial[4]
Out[5]= 24

As in any recursive code, you need a test in the inner loop that defines at least one stopping point (in this case when we're multiplying by 1). Without that branch, all recursions would continue indefinitely.

Either of the user-defined functions above could be compiled for additional speed.

Jewish New Year Distribution

I was talking to somebody the other day who was pleased because his birthday (September 9) landed on the Jewish New Year. He made the dubious claim that this happened something like 17% of the time.

For a quick check, I used the JewishNewYear[] function built in to Mathematica’s Calendar package. It is good from 1900 through 2100.


In[]:= Length[Select[
Map[JewishNewYear[#] &,
Range[1900, 2100]], #[[2]] == 9 && #[[3]] == 9 &]]

Out[]= 7

7/Length[Range[1900, 2100]] == .0348, so over this 201 year time span, his birthday would have landed on Rosh Hashana a bit under 3.5% of the time.

Curious about how the holiday distributed, I generated a table of frequencies (all displayed as though they were 2010 dates so we can use the built-in DateListPlot[] function).

In[]:= dateFreq =
Map[{#[[1]], Length[#]} &,
Map[{2010, JewishNewYear[#][[2]], JewishNewYear[#][[3]]} &,
Range[1900, 2100]], AbsoluteTime[#1] <= AbsoluteTime[#2] &]]]; In[]:= DateListPlot[dateFreq, Filling -> Axis,
FillingStyle -> {Automatic, {Black, AbsoluteThickness[10]}},
GridLines -> None, Frame -> False, Axes -> True, AxesStyle -> Black,
AxesOrigin -> {Automatic, 0}, PlotRange -> All,
PlotLabel -> "Rosh Hashana Distribution"]

Note the nested use of Length[], Gather[], Sort[]. That is often a powerful combination when using Mathematica to analyze the frequencies of events or patterns in data.

In this case we do not have a uniform distribution — it clearly fades at the edges, but it’s not normally distributed either. Figuring out whether or not there is a meaningful pattern here is beyond my statistical skills.

A thoroughly unscientific study of computers in the New York City court system

I am on jury duty today. Civil court, as it turns out. I last served in 2003, when I sat on one of the “murder and mayhem” grand juries (grand juries in New York specialize in drugs, family, violent, or white collar crime). On the violent crime grand jury we heard about a dozen cases, none of which I am allowed to disclose, though I will say that one of the accused had tried to kill himself by pressing a running power drill against his head until, I think, he broke the bit, then slashed his wrists, jumped out of an eighth story window, and survived. I proposed that we waive any indictment in exchange for this superman’s agreeing to be dropped on Afghanistan, but that power is evidently not available to grand juries.

Anyway, since my last stint they have installed Wifi in the court building.

I’m seeing 47 unambiguous PCs on the network and 12 Macs, with another 56 I’m not sure about. All the official machines seem to be PCs. I’ve noticed one machine with a public directory featuring a bootleg collection of hiphop recordings.

The man two seats to my right has fallen asleep and is snoring. Everybody else is jealous.