Can an IEEE-754 floating point number < 1 (i.e. generated with a random number generator which generates a number >= 0.0 and < 1.0) ever be multiplied by some integer (in floating point form) to get a number equal to or larger than that integer due to rounding?


double r = random() ; // generates a floating point number in [0, 1)
double n = some_int ;
if (n * r >= n) {
    print 'Rounding Happened' ;

This might be equivalent to saying that does there exist an N and R such that if R is the largest number less than 1 which can be represented in IEEE-754 then N * R >= N (where * and >= are appropriate IEEE-754 operators)

This comes from this question based on this documentation and the postgresql random function

  • $\begingroup$ Can you say anything about the range of N, i.e. is it small enough to be represented exactly in IEEE-754 double-precision? $\endgroup$
    – Pedro
    Aug 14 '12 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Pedro In this particular case, yes, it would be a small integer - i.e. 10. I assume you are saying that if N is a very large integer with a very large number of significant digits it might not be able to be represented exactly? $\endgroup$
    – Cade Roux
    Aug 14 '12 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly, if $fl(N) > N$, then $fl(R\times fl(N))$ may be larger than $RN$. $\endgroup$
    – Pedro
    Aug 14 '12 at 21:46

Assuming round-to-nearest and that $N > 0$, then $N * R < N$ always. (Be careful not to convert an integer that's too large.)

Let $c 2^{-q} = N$, where $c \in [1, 2)$ is the significand and $q$ is the integer exponent. Let $1 - 2^{-s} = R$ and derive the bound

$$N R = c 2^{-q}(1 - 2^{-s}) \le c 2^{-q} - 2^{-q - s},$$

with equality if and only if $c = 1$. The right-hand side is less than $N$ and, since $2^{-q - s}$ is exactly $0.5$ units in the last place of $N$, either $c = 1$ and $2^{-q} - 2^{-q - s}$ is exactly representable (since $N$ is normal and not the smallest normal), or $c > 1$, and the nearest rounding is down. In both cases, $N * R$ is less than $N$.

Upward rounding can cause a problem, not that it should ever be selected in the presence of unsuspecting users. Here's some C99 that prints "0\n1\n" on my machine.

#include <fenv.h>
#include <math.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(void) {
    double n = 10;
    double r = nextafter(1, 0);
    printf("%d\n", n == (n * r));
    printf("%d\n", n == (n * r));
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, I'm a little slow these days - I'm having trouble getting the part of the inequality $$- c 2^{-q} 2^{-s} \le - 2^{-q s}$$ $\endgroup$
    – Cade Roux
    Aug 14 '12 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Cade Apparently I can't do algebra today. I meant $2^{-q - s}$. $\endgroup$
    – Tyrone
    Aug 14 '12 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I wasn't sure if there was another step I was missing. $\endgroup$
    – Cade Roux
    Aug 14 '12 at 23:18

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