list processing: mathematica vs lisp

in lisp lang, often there's pure exercise posted about manipulating lists.

here's a old Mathematica post that Google recently dig'd up and notified me (apparantly, it means people's been reading that post)


i hope that in this post, if anything, it gives lispers some idea about how Mathematica is similar to lisp, and if i may say so, how Mathematica is some order of magnitude easier to do complex list manipulation problems than lisps.

(me, being a Mathematica fan, like to say this. Of course, this does not mean Mathematica is “better” for everything. But take what you will.)

for list manipulation, i think langs that might be comparable to Mathematica's capabilities are those so-called array programing langs. (e.g. APL. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Array_programming )

when i first ventured into lisp in ~1999 (or any lang other than Mathematica), i was naive and was rather surprised that in lisp, list structure programing is not much done at all (in comparison to my experiences with Mathematica) Then in around 2004, i was naively surprised that even in Haskell, there's even no default data type of nested list. (i was naive because i thought every functional lang relies on arbitrarily nested list as its main data structure. But with about 10 years of industrial programing experience now, i think hardly any programing or lang relies on nested list as its main data structure. At most, there's just 2 or 3 levels of nesting as in matrices.)

the post is pasted in the following:

From: Xah Y Lee
Date: Apr 7 1995, 11:00 pm
Subject: Summary:Ways to get Odd Columns&Rows of Matrix
To: comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica

This is a summary of Ways to get only odd rows and columns of a matrix.

Problem: Suppose we have a mxn matrix. We want to cross out the even rows
and columns, and get the remaining matrix. How to do that?

This is built-in in mma. The simplest way to do it is
Part[myMatrix,{1,3,5...},{1,3,5...}]. See section 3.7.2, p.651 of the mma

Below is a collection of various ways to write this program. Some of them
are general that can work on matrices with more than 2 dimensions, and
user can choose odd only, even only, or generalized such as every third
member in the tensor. Most others are included not as a practical solution but
as programming examples.

These pieces of codes are contributed by various members of mathgroup.
I've taken the liberty to modify some of them to make this a coherent

myList = Array[a,{10,18}];
(*Using Part*)
(*From: Robert Villegas *)
(*From: Count Dracula *)
In my opinion this is the best solution.
Use Map[Select[Range[#], OddQ] &, Dimensions[myMatrix]] to generate a
list {{1,3,5,..}, {1,3,5,7...}}, then feed it to Part to extract, like
Part[myMatrix, {1,3,5}, {1,3,5,7}].*)

MatrixSieve1a[myMatrix_] :=
      Sequence@@ Map[ Range[1, #, 2]&, Dimensions[myMatrix]]

MatrixSieve1b[myMatrix_, sel_:OddQ] :=
      Sequence@@ Map[(Select[Range[#], sel] &) , Dimensions[myMatrix]]

(*Using Table.*)
(*From: Lou Talman *)
(*easiest to understand.*)

MatrixSieve2[myMatrix_] :=
      Table[ myMatrix[[i, j]],
         {i, 1, Length[myMatrix], 2},
         {j, 1, Length[First@myMatrix], 2}
(*using Partition. *)
(*From: Xah Lee <74631....@compuserve.com>*)
This one is hard to understand. It's not easy to generalize as well. It
will not work if the matrix contain odd number of row or column, but it's
got the potential to become the most elegant solution. It's the fastest
among all.
MatrixSieve3[myMatrix_] := Map[ First, Partition[myMatrix,{2,2}],{2,3}]

(*Recursively elimate the second term.*)
(*From: Tyler Perkins *)
Define OddOnly[], that will get rid of the second element in a list.
This is repeated recursively in a nested way so that at the end only the
odd terms of the list is left.
Map OddOnly to every level of myList.

OddOnly[{first_, second_, rest___}] := Join[{first}, OddOnly[{rest}]];
OddOnly[singleExpr_] := singleExpr;
MatrixSieve4[myMatrix_] := MapAll[ OddOnly, myMatrix]

(*using Array and Part*)
(*From: "L. Hannibal" *)

      myMatrix[[2 #1 -1,2 #2-1]]&,
         {Ceiling[Length[myMatrix]/2], Ceiling[Length@First@myMatrix/2]}
(*using Pattern and ReplaceRepeated*)
(*From: Robert Zimmerman *)
(*This is not a general method, but included here as a extra example of
programming techniques. It only works on matrices whos elements have the
form head[x,y]. It works by first flatten myList, then replace elements
with even index with 0, then eliminate the zeros in the list. Lastly,
Partition them into the correct form.
   (Flatten@myList)//.{a[x_  ,y_?EvenQ ] ->0, a[x_?EvenQ  ,y_ ] ->0}//.
   { head___ ,0, tail___ } :> {head, tail}
(* using Fold and Drop *)
(*From: bob Hanlon *)
(*works on matrices with even number of terms.
Not a good example of coding.
The use of Fold, Transpose and Drop are too complex.
Slow as well.

   Fold[ Drop,
         Fold[ Drop, myList,

 Xah Lee

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