Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

A few remarks on this stuff.

1. Very closely related is the pure-mathematical technique of generating functions, where you take a sequence (let's say the Fibonacci sequence 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,...) and use its elements as coefficients in a power series (0+1x+1x^2+2x^3+3x^4+5x^5+8x^6+13x^7+...) and then notice that (e.g.) shifting the sequence by 1 is the same as multiplying by x, so if F is the series for (f(n)) then x.F is the series for (f(n-1)) and x^2.F is the series for (f(n-2)) apart from some corrections for very small n, which gets you F=(x+x^2)F+x or F = x/(1-x-x^2), and now you can factorize that quadratic and write F in the form p/(1-ax)+q/(1-bx) which immediately gets you an explicit formula for the Fibonacci numbers (the one with all the sqrt(5)s in it).

So let's translate this into algebraic data types. We get

  F(x) = x + x F(x) + x^2 F(x)
  data FibTree a = Leaf a | Pair a (FibTree a) | Triple a a (FibTree a)
and the number of FibTrees with n "a"s in is exactly the nth Fibonacci number.

(There is a theoretically important data structure called a Fibonacci heap, but I don't believe there is any connection between these and these "Fibonacci trees" other than that in both cases there is something you can count with Fibonacci numbers.)

2. Suppose you consider a rather boring binary-tree type like this:

  data Tree = Leaf | Pair Tree Tree
whose corresponding identity is T = 1+T^2, or T^2-T+1=0. If you're a mathematician you will quickly see that the solutions (in the complex numbers!) of this are sixth roots of unity; that is, they have T^6=1. This clearly can't hold in terms of types (it would mean an equivalence between 6-tuples of trees and objects of the "unit type", there being only one such object), but it turns out that T^7=T is "true"; you can find an explicit construction for it on page 3 of http://arxiv.org/abs/math/9405205 if you like.

3. It doesn't appear that the author of the OP ever got round to writing about negative and fractional types, but other people have. For instance, this paper http://www.cs.indiana.edu/~sabry/papers/rational.pdf which I have only glanced at (it appears to do this in a more restrictive context where there aren't general ADTs with recursive definitions; negative types seem to involve running computations backwards somehow, and reciprocals are "constraints").

Apologies if I've got my Haskell syntax wrong anywhere.

Just as a breadcrumb for readers who are curious about the generating function stuff: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combinatorial_species (see also https://www.cis.upenn.edu/~byorgey/pub/species-pearl.pdf for a nice FP-flavoured tutorial)

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact