[Python-ideas] NAN handling in the statistics module

Tim Peters tim.peters at gmail.com
Sun Jan 6 23:46:14 EST 2019

[David Mertz <mertz at gnosis.cx>]
> OK, let me be more precise.  Obviously if the implementation in a class is:
> class Foo:
>     def __lt__(self, other):
>         return random.random() < 0.5
> Then we aren't going to rely on much.
> * If comparison of any two items in a list (under __lt__) is deterministic, is
> the resulting sort order deterministic? (Pretty sure this is a yes)

Yes, but not defined unless __lt__ also defines a total ordering.

> * If the pairwise comparisons are deterministic, is sorting idempotent?

Not necessarily.  For example, the 2-element list here swaps its
elements every time `.sort()` is
invoked, because the second element always claims it's "less than" the
first element, regardless of which order they're in:

    class RelentlesslyTiny:
        def __init__(self, name):
            self.name = name
        def __repr__(self):
            return self.name
        def __lt__(self, other):
            return self is not other

    a = RelentlesslyTiny("A")
    b = RelentlesslyTiny("B")
    xs = [a, b]
    print("after sorting once", xs)
    print("after sorting twice", xs)

[A, B]
after sorting once [B, A]
after sorting twice [A, B]

> This statement is certainly false:
> * If two items are equal, and pairwise inequality is deterministic, exchanging
> the items does not affect the sorting of other items in the list.

What I said at the start ;-)  The only thing .sort() always guarantees
regardless of how goofy __lt__ may be is that the result list will be
some permutation of the input list.  This is so even if __lt__ raises
an uncaught exception, killing the sort mid-stream.

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