Tag Archives: F#

Project Euler in F#: Problem 8

I’ve been trying to teach myself F# using the Project Euler problems, and I’m starting to feel I’m getting somewhere with the language. The few Euler problems I’ve solved so far have had very straightforward and natural solutions.

Problem 8 is as follows: Find the subsequence of 5 consecutive digits that yield the greatest product when multiplied together, in the 1000-digit number:

73167176531330624919225119674426574742355349194934
96983520312774506326239578318016984801869478851843
85861560789112949495459501737958331952853208805511
12540698747158523863050715693290963295227443043557
66896648950445244523161731856403098711121722383113
62229893423380308135336276614282806444486645238749
30358907296290491560440772390713810515859307960866
70172427121883998797908792274921901699720888093776
65727333001053367881220235421809751254540594752243
52584907711670556013604839586446706324415722155397
53697817977846174064955149290862569321978468622482
83972241375657056057490261407972968652414535100474
82166370484403199890008895243450658541227588666881
16427171479924442928230863465674813919123162824586
17866458359124566529476545682848912883142607690042
24219022671055626321111109370544217506941658960408
07198403850962455444362981230987879927244284909188
84580156166097919133875499200524063689912560717606
05886116467109405077541002256983155200055935729725
71636269561882670428252483600823257530420752963450

I was able to come up with an F# solution that is one line, plus a helper line to convert the string into a sequence of digits:

let str = "731<...>"

let digits = Seq.map (fun x -> int (Char.GetNumericValue x)) str

let maxproduct num list =
 Seq.max (Seq.map (fun x -> Seq.reduce (*) x) (Seq.windowed num list))

The value digits is just a list of the digits in the string, converted into integers. The function maxproduct works the obvious way: take every subsequence of five digits (Seq.windowed), multiply them together (Seq.reduce, applied to each element of the sequence with Seq.map) and then find the maximum (Seq.max).

The only reason this needs quite so little work is the existence of Seq.windowed in the standard library, which does exactly the right thing in turning a 1000-element list into 996 arrays of subsequences of consecutive digits.

I’m not sure I like ramming all the functions into one line, and I’m sure there must be a way to combine map and reduce without the lambda, which adds a lot of clutter. If this was real code, it would need quite a lot of work to make it readable. However, the standard library is a big win, because the process of ‘windowing’ a sequence is nicely separated from the code. It’s also nice (for toy problems like this, at any rate) that the program is pretty much a definition of the problem, with little thought being necessary as to how to do the processing.

First impressions of F#

I’ve just read through Foundations of F# and written one or two trivial scripts in F#, so it’s too early to make a proper balanced assessment of it as a language. However, I wanted to record my immediate reactions to it so far while they are still fresh in my mind.

I don’t have a strong background in functional programming, but I’ve dabbled with Common Lisp, Haskell, Clojure and Scala. I’m excited by the new trend of functional languages targetting the JVM and .Net CLR, since this seems to solve the major problem with functional languages of the past in not having library code in sufficient quantity and quality.

Targetting either of the widely available virtual machines seems to be a double-edged sword, however. From what I can tell neither the JVM nor the CLR are well suited to functional languages. Clojure, Scala and F# all seem to have (and I’m being polite here) idiosyncracies forced upon them by the underlying runtime.

My immediate reaction to F# is that it seems to work hard to make it easy to interact with OO languages on the CLR, at the expense of being a great functional language in its own right. Haskell and Clojure both have strong (and different) concepts of lazy evaluation that permeate the language and let you program in a whole new way. If F# has this, it’s not been obvious to me in the first couple of hours using it.

Nor (as far as I can tell) does F# have particularly good support for parallelisation, which is one of the key advantages of functional programming for me. In my opinion Clojure has the strongest claim here, having been built from the ground up to be parallelised safely. Haskell apparently has very strong tool support in the form of ghc. What does F# offer in this direction? It’s not at all clear to me, but with the ability to create mutable fields with a single keyword, and no support for inferring immutability via the type system, it doesn’t fill me with confidence.