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Checking policies

A checking policy controls how the interval class will deal with special cases like: empty intervals, infinite numbers, invalid values.

For example, let's consider operator+(interval, T). The second argument could be an invalid value (for a floating-point number, it is a NaN). What to do in such a case? First, we could say that the second argument can never be an invalid number. Second, we could also say such a situation can arise but is forbidden. Third, we could allow such values and generate an empty interval when encountered. And there is many other possibilities.

It is the reason why such a policy is used: there is a lot of interesting behaviors and it would be sad to arbitrarily select one of these.


The checking class should satisfy the following requirement (in the form of an interface):

/* requirements for checking policy */
struct checking
  static T pos_inf();
  static T neg_inf();
  static T nan();
  static bool is_nan(const T&);
  static T empty_lower();
  static T empty_upper();
  static bool is_empty(const T&, const T&);

The first two functions, pos_inf and neg_inf, are invoked each time the library has to create the infinite bound of an interval. For example, interval::whole computes interval(checking::neg_inf(), checking::pos_inf()). If infinite values are allowed and std::numeric_limits<T>::infinity() returns a correct value, such a value can be used.

Next comes nan. This function is used each time a function need to return a value of type T but is unable to compute it. It only happens when one of the arguments of the function is invalid. For example, if you ask what the median value of an empty interval is, nan will be used. But please remember: lower and upper directly return the value stocked in the interval; so, if the interval is empty, lower will not answer by a call to checking::nan (but will return the same value than checking::empty_lower could return).

empty_lower and empty_upper respectively return the lower and upper bound of the empty interval. There is no requirements for empty_lower and empty_upper to return the same value than checking::nan. For example, if the type T does not have any invalid value, the empty_ functions can return the [1;0] interval.

is_nan is used to test if a value of type T is invalid or not. is_empty tests if the interval formed by the two arguments is empty or not. Such tests will generally be at the beginning of each function which involves an argument of type T. If one of the inputs is declared invalid, the the function will try to produce an invalid value or an input interval.


namespace boost {
namespace numeric {
namespace interval_lib {

template<class T>
struct checking_base;
template<class T, class Checking = checking_base<T>, class Exception = exception_create_empty<T> >
struct checking_no_empty;
template<class T, class Checking = checking_base<T> >
struct checking_no_nan;
template<class T, class Checking = checking_base<T>, class Exception = exception_invalid_number<T> >
struct checking_catch_nan;

template<class T> struct exception_create_empty { T operator()(); };
template<class T> struct exception_invalid_number { void operator()(); };

} // namespace numeric
} // namespace interval_lib
} // namespace boost

Predefined classes

In order to simplify the customization of the policy, some templates are already defined in the library.

First of all, there is checking_base. Thanks to the information provided by std::numeric_limits<T>, this class is able to generate a base for the policy. If T has quiet NaNs (as said by numeric_limits::has_quiet_NaN), then the value is used for nan, empty_lower, empty_upper; and a basic test is used for is_nan (it is x!=x). If T does not have quiet NaNs, then nan is an assert(false), the empty interval is [1,0], and is_nan always return false. As for nan, pos_inf returns numeric_limits::infinity() if possible, or is an assert(false) otherwise. neg_inf returns the opposite. Finally, is_empty(T l,T u) is always defined by !(l<=u).

Next comes checking_no_empty. Using it means that each time an empty interval should be produced (by empty_lower and empty_upper), the function object given by the Exception argument of the template is invoked and the value it returns is propagated. So, if Exception is appropriately defined (for example it could throw an exception, hence the name of the argument), you can be sure no empty interval will ever be created. So is_empty will always return false (since there is no need to test for an empty interval). And as explained before, in that case we can also replace nan by an assert(false); you will be sure no invalid number will ever be produced. If this template is not used, it implicitly means that all the functions can produce empty intervals and they correctly deal with empty interval arguments.

Finally there are checking_no_nan and checking_catch_nan. The first one expresses the functions of the library will never get an invalid number as argument. So is_nan will only return false. The other one means the arguments can be an invalid number but in that case, is_nan will call the function object Exception and return false. Indeed, this template means invalid numbers should never make their way through to the body of the function. If none of this two templates is used, it implicitly means that all the functions can get invalid number arguments and they will correctly deal with them.

exception_create_empty throws std::runtime_error with the message "boost::interval: empty interval created" and exception_invalid_number throws std::invalid_argument with the message "boost::interval: invalid number".

Customizing your own checking policy

In order to define a suitable policy, you need to correctly say what you expect from your interval class. First of all, are you interested in getting empty intervals at the end of a calculus? If you do not want to obtain empty intervals, empty_lower and empty_upper have to fail when invoked (they can throw an exception, set a flag, etc). However, if no function is able to produce an empty interval, it is no more necessary to do the test, so is_empty may always return false. In this case, a good compiler will do a lot of optimizations.

You could also be interested in getting empty intervals at the end of the calculus. For example, if you need to transform an array of unsure values (or intervals) in a new array of intervals, you may not want to stop the conversion at the first encountered problem. So empty_lower and empty_upper need to return suitable values in order to define an empty interval (you can use an upper bound which is not greater or equal than the lower bound for example); and is_empty must be able to distinguish empty intervals from the valid intervals.

Another important question is: is it possible that some base numbers (objects of type T) are invalid? And if it is possible, are they allowed or not ? If it is not possible, no test is necessary; is_nan may always return false. In this case too, a good compiler will do a lot of optimizations. If function arguments can hold invalid numbers, two cases must be considered according to whether they are allowed or not. If they are allowed, is_nan just has to test if they are invalid or not. If they are forbidden, is_nan should fail (exception, assert, etc.) when invoked on an invalid argument and return false otherwise. The value returned by nan does not have any interest since the interval functions are guaranteed not to produce invalid interval bounds unless the user passes invalid numbers to the constructors. So you can put an assert inside if you do not trust the library. :-)

And finally, you need to decide what to do with nan if it has not already been decided at the beginning, and with pos_inf and neg_inf. These functions should return a value or start an exceptional behavior (especially if the base type does not have corresponding values).

Some examples

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Revised 2006-12-24

Copyright © 2002 Guillaume Melquiond, Sylvain Pion, Hervé Brönnimann, Polytechnic University
Copyright © 2003-2004 Guillaume Melquiond

Distributed under the Boost Software License, Version 1.0. (See accompanying file LICENSE_1_0.txt or copy at