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Frames and Bindings

Frames are represented as lists of bindings, which are variable-value pairs:

(define (make-binding variable value)
  (cons variable value))

(define (binding-variable binding)
  (car binding))

(define (binding-value binding)
  (cdr binding))

(define (binding-in-frame variable frame)
  (assoc variable frame))

(define (extend variable value frame)
  (cons (make-binding variable value) frame))

Exercise. Louis Reasoner wonders why the simple-query and disjoin procedures (section [*]) are implemented using explicit delay operations, rather than being defined as follows:

(define (simple-query query-pattern frame-stream)
  (stream-flatmap
   (lambda (frame)
     (stream-append (find-assertions query-pattern frame)
                    (apply-rules query-pattern frame)))
   frame-stream))

(define (disjoin disjuncts frame-stream)
  (if (empty-disjunction? disjuncts)
      the-empty-stream
      (interleave
       (qeval (first-disjunct disjuncts) frame-stream)
       (disjoin (rest-disjuncts disjuncts) frame-stream))))
Can you give examples of queries where these simpler definitions would lead to undesirable behavior?  

Exercise. Why do disjoin and stream-flatmap interleave the streams rather than simply append them? Give examples that illustrate why interleaving works better. (Hint: Why did we use interleave in section [*]?)  

Exercise. Why does flatten-stream use delay explicitly? What would be wrong with defining it as follows:

(define (flatten-stream stream)
  (if (stream-null? stream)
      the-empty-stream
      (interleave
       (stream-car stream)
       (flatten-stream (stream-cdr stream)))))

Exercise. Alyssa P. Hacker proposes to use a simpler version of stream-flatmap in negate, lisp-value, and find-assertions. She observes that the procedure that is mapped over the frame stream in these cases always produces either the empty stream or a singleton stream, so no interleaving is needed when combining these streams.


a. Fill in the missing expressions in Alyssa's program.

(define (simple-stream-flatmap proc s)
  (simple-flatten (stream-map proc s)))

(define (simple-flatten stream) (stream-map ?? (stream-filter ?? stream)))


b. Does the query system's behavior change if we change it in this way?

Exercise. Implement for the query language a new special form called unique. Unique should succeed if there is precisely one item in the data base satisfying a specified query. For example,

(unique (job ?x (computer wizard)))
should print the one-item stream

(unique (job (Bitdiddle Ben) (computer wizard)))
since Ben is the only computer wizard, and

(unique (job ?x (computer programmer)))
should print the empty stream, since there is more than one computer programmer. Moreover,

(and (job ?x ?j) (unique (job ?anyone ?j)))
should list all the jobs that are filled by only one person, and the people who fill them.

There are two parts to implementing unique. The first is to write a procedure that handles this special form, and the second is to make qeval dispatch to that procedure. The second part is trivial, since qeval does its dispatching in a data-directed way. If your procedure is called uniquely-asserted, all you need to do is

(put 'unique 'qeval uniquely-asserted)
and qeval will dispatch to this procedure for every query whose type (car) is the symbol unique.

The real problem is to write the procedure uniquely-asserted. This should take as input the contents (cdr) of the unique query, together with a stream of frames. For each frame in the stream, it should use qeval to find the stream of all extensions to the frame that satisfy the given query. Any stream that does not have exactly one item in it should be eliminated. The remaining streams should be passed back to be accumulated into one big stream that is the result of the unique query. This is similar to the implementation of the not special form.

Test your implementation by forming a query that lists all people who supervise precisely one person.

Exercise. Our implementation of and as a series combination of queries (figure [*]) is elegant, but it is inefficient because in processing the second query of the and we must scan the data base for each frame produced by the first query. If the data base has N elements, and a typical query produces a number of output frames proportional to N (say N/k), then scanning the data base for each frame produced by the first query will require N2/k calls to the pattern matcher. Another approach would be to process the two clauses of the and separately, then look for all pairs of output frames that are compatible. If each query produces N/k output frames, then this means that we must perform N2/k2 compatibility checks--a factor of k fewer than the number of matches required in our current method.

Devise an implementation of and that uses this strategy. You must implement a procedure that takes two frames as inputs, checks whether the bindings in the frames are compatible, and, if so, produces a frame that merges the two sets of bindings. This operation is similar to unification.  

Exercise. In section [*] we saw that not and lisp-value can cause the query language to give ``wrong'' answers if these filtering operations are applied to frames in which variables are unbound. Devise a way to fix this shortcoming. One idea is to perform the filtering in a ``delayed'' manner by appending to the frame a ``promise'' to filter that is fulfilled only when enough variables have been bound to make the operation possible. We could wait to perform filtering until all other operations have been performed. However, for efficiency's sake, we would like to perform filtering as soon as possible so as to cut down on the number of intermediate frames generated.  

Exercise. Redesign the query language as a nondeterministic program to be implemented using the evaluator of section [*], rather than as a stream process. In this approach, each query will produce a single answer (rather than the stream of all answers) and the user can type try-again to see more answers. You should find that much of the mechanism we built in this section is subsumed by nondeterministic search and backtracking. You will probably also find, however, that your new query language has subtle differences in behavior from the one implemented here. Can you find examples that illustrate this difference?  

Exercise. When we implemented the Lisp evaluator in section [*], we saw how to use local environments to avoid name conflicts between the parameters of procedures. For example, in evaluating

(define (square x)
  (* x x))

(define (sum-of-squares x y)
  (+ (square x) (square y)))

(sum-of-squares 3 4)
there is no confusion between the x in square and the x in sum-of-squares, because we evaluate the body of each procedure in an environment that is specially constructed to contain bindings for the local variables. In the query system, we used a different strategy to avoid name conflicts in applying rules. Each time we apply a rule we rename the variables with new names that are guaranteed to be unique. The analogous strategy for the Lisp evaluator would be to do away with local environments and simply rename the variables in the body of a procedure each time we apply the procedure.

Implement for the query language a rule-application method that uses environments rather than renaming. See if you can build on your environment structure to create constructs in the query language for dealing with large systems, such as the rule analog of block-structured procedures. Can you relate any of this to the problem of making deductions in a context (e.g., ``If I supposed that P were true, then I would be able to deduce A and B.'') as a method of problem solving? (This problem is open-ended. A good answer is probably worth a Ph.D.)  


next up previous contents
Next: Computing with Register Machines Up: Implementing the Query System Previous: Query Syntax Procedures
Ryan Bender
2000-04-17